Disappointed by the failure of treaty negotiations to improve
their position a handful of young Catholic gentlemen from
the Midlands, some of who had been involved in previous plotting,
decided to take action.
At their centre was the charismatic Warwickshire gentleman
Robert Catesby. In May 1604 he proposed a plan to blow up
the King, together with the House of Lords and the House of
Commons during the ceremonial opening of Parliament. The family
links of fellow plotter Thomas Percy to the powerful Earl
of Northumberland, for whom he worked as steward, would help
the conspirators gain access to Parliament.
Explore the picture
to discover more about the plotters
How might the plotters have sounded whilst hatching their plan? Click to listen.
After the explosion the plotters hoped to gather together
the Catholic gentry of the Midlands and seize Princess Elizabeth,
the only one of King James' children who would not be at the
ceremony; but they never properly worked out what should happen
A small group of Catholic priests, including Henry Garnett,
the head of the Jesuit mission to England, did have some knowledge
of what was being discussed, and tried to discourage it. They
did not, however, pass on what they knew to the Government.
This Victorian version of a print from 1621 shows how Protestants
believed that God helped to protect England from Catholic
plots. As Guy Fawkes goes to set fire to the gunpowder fuse,
the eye of God is on him; the message of the print is that
it is God who will shortly reveal the conspiracy and save
the Protestant religion. V&A images/Victoria & Albert
Museum.The plotters initially rented a house to the
side of the House of Lords and tried to dig a tunnel underneath
the building to hold the gunpowder; however this proved too
difficult a task.
In March 1605 they managed instead to rent a basement storeroom
- often referred to as a cellar - directly underneath the
House of Lords. After a series of postponements Parliament's
opening was finally set for 5 November 1605. By then 36 barrels
of gunpowder were in place in the storeroom.