The Gunpowder Plot: Parliament & Treason 1605
Divided Europe
Political Violence and Persecution
Peacemaker - the new King
Conspiracy and deception
Discovery and flight
Torture, trial and execution
Aftermath: From Retribution to Toleration
Aftermath: Commemoration
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The Gunpowder Plot: Parliament & Treason 1605
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Conspiracy and deception

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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 next.

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.

Shows an engraving of Guy Fawkes in hat and cape holding a lantern approaching the open cellar of a building. Barrels can be seen inside the cellar and in the sky is a beam of light pointing towards Fawkes with 'Video Rideo I see and smile' written into it.
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.

The scene was set... what would happen next?

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