sábado, novembro 05, 2005

O porquê de se queimarem espantalhos e se lançar tanto fogo de artifício "mixuruca" neste Reino a 5 de Novembro 

The Gunpowder Plot
By Bruce Robinson

The failed plot to assassinate James I and the ruling Protestant
elite would, however unfairly, taint all English Catholics with
treason for centuries to come. Who were the conspirators and
what did they hope to achieve?

Robert Catesby, leader of the gunpowder plotters


Spying and shoot-outs, treachery and torture, not to mention
gruesome deaths. The Gunpowder Plot has it all. Why were
Catholics so bitter, and what did they hope to achieve?

The year 1603 marked the end of an era. After 45 years on the
English throne, Elizabeth I was dying. All signs suggested her
successor would be James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen
of Scots - the queen who had been executed in 1587 on
Elizabeth's orders.

English Catholics were very excited. They had suffered severe
persecution since 1570, when the Pope had excommunicated
Elizabeth, releasing her subjects from their allegiance to her.
The Spanish Armada of 1588 had made matters worse. To the Tudor
State, all Catholics were potential traitors. They were
forbidden to hear Mass, forced instead to attend Anglican
services, with steep fines for those recusants who persistently

Yet rumours suggested James was more warmly disposed to Catholics
than the dying Queen Elizabeth. His wife, Queen Anne of Denmark,
was a Catholic, and James himself was making sympathetic noises.
The crypto-Catholic Earl of Northumberland sent one of his
staff, Thomas Percy, to act as his agent in Scotland. Percy's
reports back optimistically suggested that Catholics might enjoy
protection in James' England.

The early signs were encouraging. Upon his accession as James I
of England (VI of Scotland), the new king ended recusancy fines
and awarded important posts to the Earl of Northumberland and
Henry Howard, another Catholic sympathiser. This relaxation led
to considerable growth in the number of visible Catholics.

Trying to juggle different religious demands, James was
displeased at their increasing strength. The discovery in July
1603 of two small Catholic plots did not help. Although most
Catholics were horrified, all were tainted by the threat of

'Yet rumours suggested James was more warmly disposed to
Catholics than the dying Queen Elizabeth.'

The situation deteriorated further at the Hampton Court
Conference of January 1604. Trying to accommodate as many views
as possible, James I expressed hostility against the Catholics
in order to satisfy the Puritans, whose demands he could not
wholly satisfy. In February he publicly announced his 'utter
detestation' of Catholicism; within days all priests and Jesuits
had been expelled and recusancy fines reintroduced.

Although bitterly disappointed, most English Catholics prepared
to swallow the imposition of the fines, and live their double
lives as best they could. But this passive approach did not suit

Robert Catesby was a devout Catholic and familiar with the price
of faith. His father had been imprisoned for harbouring a
priest, and he himself had had to leave university without a
degree, to avoid taking the Protestant Oath of Supremacy. Yet he
possessed immense personal magnetism, crucial in recruiting and
leading his small band of conspirators.

The plotters

The lower ground floor vault of the House of Lords where the
gunpowder was stored
Their first meeting was on 20 May 1604. Catesby was joined by his
friends Thomas Wintour, Jack Wright and Thomas Percy at the Duck
and Drake, in the Strand. The fifth person was Guy Fawkes.
Originally from York, he had been recruited in Flanders, where
he had been serving in the Spanish Army. They discussed their
plan to blow up Parliament House, and shortly afterwards leased
a small house in the heart of Westminster, installing Fawkes as
caretaker, under the alias of John Johnson.

With Parliament successively postponed to 5 November 1605, over
the following year the number of plotters gradually increased to
ten. Robert Keyes, Robert Wintour, John Grant and Kit Wright
were all relatives, by blood or marriage, to one or more of the
original five conspirators. As one of Catesby's servants, Thomas
Bates' loyalty was equally firm.

'Fawkes was to light the fuse and escape to continental Europe.'

In March 1605 the group took out a lease on a ground-floor cellar
close by the house they had rented from John Whynniard. The
cellar lay directly underneath the House of Lords, and over the
following months 36 barrels of gunpowder were moved in, enough
to blow everything and everyone in the vicinity sky high, if

Still hoping for foreign support, Fawkes travelled back to
Flanders. Unsuccessful, he was also spotted by English spies.
They reported back to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, James'
first minister, and made the link between Fawkes and Catesby.

Over the next two months Catesby recruited Ambrose Rookwood, as
well as Francis Tresham and Sir Everard Digby. Both Rookwood and
Digby were wealthy and owned large numbers of horses, essential
for the planned uprising. Tresham was Catesby's cousin through
marriage, and was brother-in-law to two Catholic peers, Lords
Stourton and Monteagle.

Back in London in October, with only weeks to go, the final
details were planned. Fawkes was to light the fuse and escape to
continental Europe. To coincide with the explosion, Digby would
lead a rising in the Midlands and kidnap King James's daughter,
Princess Elizabeth, ready to install her as a puppet queen. In
Europe, Fawkes would be arguing the plotters' case to
continental governments, to secure their passive acceptance,
even support.


Copy of the 'anonymous' letter delivered to Lord Monteagle
Everything seemed ready. But on the night of 26 October, an
anonymous letter was delivered to Lord Monteagle, warning him to
avoid the opening of Parliament. He took the letter - generally
thought to have come from Tresham - to Salisbury, who decided
the best results would be achieved by striking at the last

Thomas Ward, one of Monteagle's servants, had warned the plotters
of the letter. Undaunted, they returned to London, and on 4
November Percy visited his patron, Northumberland, to sniff out
any potential danger. Smelling nothing, they pressed on with the
plan, and Catesby, Wright and Bates set off for the Midlands.
All seemed well.

It wasn't. The waiting over, Salisbury ordered Westminster to be
searched. The first search spotted a suspiciously large amount
of firewood in a certain cellar. The second, at around midnight,
found Fawkes. Immediately arrested, he gave only his alias, but
Percy's name had already been linked with the cellar and house,
and a warrant for his arrest was immediately issued.

The plotters escaped from London for the Midlands. Rookwood was
the fastest, covering 30 miles in two hours on a single horse, a
considerable achievement that enabled him to catch up with, and
warn, his co-conspirators.

'...his silence had prompted James I to give permission to use
torture, gradually 'proceeding to the worst'.'

These six plotters - Catesby, Rookwood, the Wright brothers,
Percy and Bates - rode on towards Warwickshire. As the first
bonfires of thanksgiving for the discovery of the plot were
being lit in London, 'John Johnson' was being interrogated.

By 6 November his silence had prompted James I to give permission
to use torture, gradually 'proceeding to the worst'. Even this,
however, failed to extract any useful information for two more

In the Midlands, the plotters raided Warwick Castle. By now they
were wanted men and, with their stolen horses, they rode to
Holbeche House in Staffordshire, which they thought would be
more easily defended. On arrival, they discovered that their
gunpowder was soaked, and laid it in front of the fire to dry.
They should have known better: the ensuing explosion blinded
John Grant, rendering him useless for the inevitable

This came quickly, in the form of 200 men led by Sir Richard
Walsh, the High Sheriff of Worcestershire. They arrived at
Holbeche House in the morning of 8 November. The battle was
short. Catesby, the Wrights and Percy died from their wounds;
Thomas Wintour, Rookwood and Grant were captured. Five others
remained at large.

High treason

Guy Fawkes being interrogated by King James VI of Scotland and I
of England
Not for long, however. By December, only Robert Wintour was still
free. Furthermore, under interrogation Bates had admitted
confessing the details of the plot to the Jesuit priest Father
Tesimond. With the Jesuits now implicated in the 'Powder
Treason', the government set about finding them, ransacking
scores of Catholic homes in the process.

To further capitalise on the widespread sense of shock, the
'King's Book' - containing James's own account of what had
happened, as well as the confessions of Fawkes and Thomas
Wintour - was rushed through, appearing in late November.

Francis Tresham died of illness in the Tower in December, and
Robert Wintour was captured in the New Year. On 27 January 1606
the trials began. Westminster Hall was crowded as spectators
listened to Sir Edward Coke's speech. Under instructions from
Salisbury, the Attorney General lay principal responsibility on
the Jesuits, before describing the traditional punishment for
traitors: hanging, drawing and quartering. They would be hanged
until half-dead, upon which their genitals would be cut off and
burned in front of them. Still alive, their bowels and heart
would be removed. Finally they would be decapitated and
dismembered; their body parts would be publicly displayed, eaten
by the birds as they decomposed.

'...before describing the traditional punishment for traitors:
hanging, drawing and quartering.'

Only Digby pleaded guilty, and his trial followed that of the
other seven. All were found guilty of high treason. Digby,
Robert Wintour, Bates and Grant were executed on 30 January,
with Thomas Wintour, Rookwood, Keyes and Fawkes dying the next

Yet the repercussions rumbled on. Some small fry were tortured in
the Tower and, tainted by Percy, the Earl of Northumberland was
imprisoned there until 1621. However, Monteagle's letter - now
kept in the Public Records Office - rewarded him with an annuity
of around £700 per year.

It was ordinary Catholics, however, who suffered the longest as a
result of the Gunpowder Plot. New laws were passed preventing
them from practising law, serving as officers in the Army or
Navy, or voting in local or Parliamentary elections.
Furthermore, as a community they would be blackened for the rest
of the century, blamed for the Great Fire of London and unfairly
fingered in the Popish Plot of 1678. Thirteen plotters certainly
proved an unlucky number for British Catholics: stigmatised for
centuries, it was not until 1829 that they were again allowed to

Find out more:


Guy Fawkes: The Real Story of the Gunpowder Plot? by Fr Francis
Edwards, SJ (1969)

The Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Fraser (1996)

English Reformations by Christopher Haigh (1993)

Investigating the Gunpowder Plot by Mark Nicholls (1991)

About the author:

Bruce Robinson graduated with a first class degree in History,
specialising in English Social, Political and Economic History
from 1300 to 1600, from Cambridge University. He is a
professional journalist, and has recently carried out research
for the charity, Shelter.

3 comentários

Comentários Blogger(3):

Este texto todo para ocupar o verdadeiro motivo dos foguetes? Este ano atrasei-me ;)

Por Anonymous T., Ã s 10:00 da tarde  

E ainda me engano: "ocultar"

Por Anonymous T., Ã s 10:01 da tarde  

Vens sempre a tempo. ;) Obrigado e beijinhos.

Por Blogger Nuno, Ã s 11:13 da tarde  

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