Guy Fawkes and The Gunpowder Plot


In 1605, 13 conspirators planned to kill King James I & VI, his family, and most of the aristocracy by blowing up the House of Lords. It was known as the Gunpowder Plot. The idea was masterminded by Robert Catesby. Guy Fawkes was placed in charge due to his military and explosives experience. After realizing that they could not dig a tunnel under the building, the plotters rented the cellar beneath the House of Lords. By March of 1605, they had hidden 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar.

Some grew concerned that fellow Catholics might be at Parliament the day of the planned attack. An anonymous letter was send to Lord Monteagle warning him not to go to Parliament that day. Monteagle grew suspicious and forwarded the letter to the Secretary of State who initiated a search of the vaults on the early morning of November 5th. They were careful not to move anything as to alert the plotters.

Although they had heard about the letter, the conspirators continued with their plans. Fawkes was seized just as he tried to ignite the powder. He was arrested and tortured for days. He refused to give up the names of his co-conspirators. After hearing that others had been killed or captured, Fawkes gave up the names of the dead and those in positions of authority. They were tried on January 31st in Westminster Hall and then taken to Old Palace Yard where they were hanged, drawn, and quartered.

A celebration is thrown on November 5th to celebrate the deliverance of the King. It was compulsory by Royal Decree until 1859, but is still celebrated in the UK and in Canada, New Zealand, and some Caribbean islands. In many places, it is referred to as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night instead of Guy Fawkes Night.

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