Discovery and flight
Although the government had inklings about a plot, the first
clear intelligence came with the anonymous warning given to
a Catholic nobleman, Lord Monteagle, not to attend the opening
of Parliament on 5 November.
The National Archives (UK).
This print is taken from a popular account of the Plot, originally
published in Latin in 1606, but translated into English in
1610 and republished in 1617 and 1641. It shows, in an emblematic
way, the delivery of the Monteagle letter to Cecil. Francis
Herring, The Quintessence of Cruelty (1641).By permission
of the British Library.
Monteagle received the letter
at his house in Hoxton, north London, on 26 October, 1605,
and immediately passed it to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury,
the King's most important minister. It is not known who wrote
the letter, but the most likely candidate is Francis Tresham,
Another conspirator, Thomas Winter, was well known in Monteagle's
household, but it has been claimed that it was sent by someone
in, or linked, to the government. It may even have been Salisbury
himself, and the Plotters had been set up to provide a spectacular
propaganda coup for the government.
The conspirators soon found out about the letter through
one of Monteagle's servants, and suspicion quickly fell on
Tresham - though he managed to convince them he had not sent
it. They discussed whether to abandon the Plot, but decided
to go ahead.
Fawkes scuffles with guards in this dramatic nineteenth century
painting depicting the moment of discovery. The Discovery
of the Gunpowder Plot , Henry Perronet Briggs c.1823 Laing
Art Gallery (Tyne and Wear Museums)
The government appeared sceptical about the letter and Salisbury
seemed to treat it very coolly. However, it is likely he was
careful not to scare the plotters into premature flight and
On the evening of 4 November a royal official, Sir Thomas
Knyvett, and Edward Doubleday found Guy Fawkes and his gunpowder.
The picture below showing an entry from the journal of the
House of Commons records what happened when the House briefly
assembled on the morning following the arrest of Guy Fawkes.
The Clerk of the time, Ralph Ewens, has added a note about
Journal of the House of Commons, 5 November
Realising on the morning of 5 November that the Plot had
been discovered, most of the conspirators fled to the Midlands.
As details emerged, the government issued a series of proclamations
ordering their arrest.
Catesby persuaded his companions to continue with the second
part of the plan: to try to rally Catholics in England and
Wales to join in an uprising against the government. They
stole horses from Warwick Castle but no more than fifty people
joined them and these soon melted away.
The authorities caught up with the conspirators on the morning
of Friday 8 November at Holbeach House near Kingswinford,
in Staffordshire. Several, including Catesby, had already
been injured in an accident trying to dry out their water-soaked
gunpowder. There was a brief shoot-out: Catesby, Thomas Percy,
Christopher and Jack Wright were killed. Thomas Winter and
Ambrose Rookwood were captured and brought to London.
Sir Everard Digby, Thomas Bates, Robert Keyes and Francis
Tresham were captured over the following days, whilst many
others were taken under suspicion of involvement. Robert Winter
evaded arrest until January 1606.
On Saturday 9 November Parliament assembled to hear a speech
from the King describing what was then known about the Plot.
The speech was later published as a pamphlet at the end of
November as 'The King's Book'.
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