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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Torture, trial and execution

Home > Plot > Torture, trial and execution

The conspirators were interrogated for three months in the Tower of London. Evidence suggests that Fawkes, who had given his name as John Johnson, was tortured.

The King sent orders to the Tower of London on 6 November 1605 authorising the use of torture on Fawkes, who had initially refused to divulge the names of his co-conspirators. Although it is not known whether any of the other main conspirators were tortured, torture was authorised against some of the more minor figures involved.

Read King James' orders to torture
   

The National Archives (UK).

In the document above the King authorised that should Fawkes not confess during his interrogation 'the gentler tortures' were at first to be used on him. He added, 'God speed your good work'.

Shows a detail of a hand written manuscript with the name Guido Fawkes written on it.
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Fawkes' signature on his confession of 8 November. This confession did not name all his accomplices. The National Archives (UK).
The effect of torture upon Guy Fawkes can be seen from his signatures on these two confession documents, amongst the most powerful surviving relics of the Gunpowder Plot.

Fawkes' signature is barely legible on the more detailed confession of 9 November. It seems likely that the difference in the two signatures is the result of torture.

Shows a detail of a hand written manuscript with a barely legible name scrawled at the bottom of it.
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On 9 November Fawkes signed a more detailed confession with the names of others involved in the plot. The National Archives (UK).
Francis Tresham died of natural causes while in the Tower on 23 December 1605 and the eight surviving conspirators were tried in Westminster Hall on 27 January 1606. All of them were condemned to death for treason.

Four men - Sir Everard Digby, Robert Winter, John Grant and Thomas Bates - were executed on 30 January 1606 in St Paul's Churchyard. The other four - Guy Fawkes, Thomas Winter, Ambrose Rookwood and Robert Keyes - were executed just outside Westminster Hall, in Old Palace Yard, on the next day.

The heads of the two ringleaders, Percy and Catesby, who had been killed at Holbeach, were set up on the ' Parliament House'.

Shows an engraving of an execution with platform and scaffold in the centre. Several men including two executioners are on the platform, a man hangs from a set of gallows whilst another man lays naked and prostrate in the corner. A crowd is gathered around the platform, a fire burns in one corner.
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Executions in Old Palace Yard. By permission of the British Library.

In January 1606 the government also turned its attention to the Catholic priests whom it thought were involved in the Plot. On 15 January a proclamation calling for the arrest of three Jesuits, Henry Garnett, John Gerard and Oswald Tesimond was issued.

Tesimond and Gerard managed to escape to the continent, but Garnett was caught on 27 January, the day of the main trial of the conspirators.

He was captured with another priest, Edward Oldcorne, at Hindlip House close to Worcester, a well-known refuge for Catholic priests. They were brought to London.

Garnett's trial took place on 28 March 1606 at London's Guildhall. He was found guilty and condemned to death, though he was not executed until 3 May, in St Paul's Churchyard. Many Catholics regarded him as a martyr.

A few more minor figures, including Oldcorne, were tried and executed outside London over the next few months. Some Catholic Lords - relatives of or connected to the plotters - were accused of having known something about the plot. They suffered lesser penalties, though they included long stretches of imprisonment. The most famous of them was the Earl of Northumberland.

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