November 25, 2013

Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot foiled thanks to tip-off



David Ellis


EVEN though its over 400 years since Guy (Guido) Fawkes and his mates tried to blow up England's Parliament House in 1605, the Brits still celebrate what's become known as Guy Fawkes Day (or Bonfire Night) every November 5 with great bonfires and letting off of fireworks across the country.


Certainly with more fervour than we do here, and even though many of we wrinklies of Anglo-Saxon descent can still remember looking forward to Bonfire Night in our childhoods, with today's tighter fireworks laws, our Night no longer goes off with quite the bang it once did.


Guy Fawkes was one of a group of Catholics who'd hoped to blow-up Parliament and everyone inside it during its official Opening by the Protestant King James I on November 5 1605, in protest at James' anti-Catholicism including banishing Catholic priests from Britain.


Of the dozen or so members of the so-called Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes was the first caught – discovered guarding a cellar under Parliament's House of Lords the plotters had leased and filled with 36 barrels (2 tonnes) of gunpowder.


Although baptised a Protestant, Fawkes had converted in adult life to Catholicism, joining a group that wanted to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne in place of James. He was caught when Parliament House guards raided the cellar in the wee hours of the morning of November 5, after an anonymous note tipped-off a Member of Parliament not to attend the Opening because of the Plot.


After extensive torturing, Fawkes revealed the names of several of his co-conspirators. They were quickly rounded-up, and with himself put on trial in January 1606: their resultant fate was to be a gruesome one.


The judge ordered they be hanged, drawn and quartered on January 31, which meant each would be tied to two planks and hauled along the ground by horses from the Tower of London where they had been held, to the gallows ironically located in the Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament House – locals gathering in their thousands along the way to hurl stones and rotten fruit at them.


At the gallows they would then be individually hanged by the neck – but not until dead: instead the executioner would judge from his victims' kicks how close he was to death, then cut him loose… and with the same knife first slice off his genitals, and then cut out his heart, theatrically holding it to the throng with the exhortation: "Witness this – the heart of a traitor!"


For finality the now-deceased would be beheaded, and their body hacked into several parts that would be taken away for public display around the city. Such was "justice" in 17th century England.


Guy Fawkes was the last of the three to die that day – but his ending was not as expected: as he was climbing the ladder to the gallows, he suddenly jumped off, turning head-down, and dying instantly from a broken neck as he hit the ground.


And another escaped the gallows as well: Francis Tresham died of natural causes in the Tower while awaiting his punishment. Tresham's hatred of the Protestants stemmed from the imprisonment of his father, Sir Thomas who had spent 15 years in gaol or under house arrest for harbouring a Catholic priest, escaping harsher punishment as a Catholic only because he had once been the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and fortuitously still had usefully-placed connections.


And interestingly Sir Thomas' devoutness can still be seen today in a building he built in 1593 called the Triangular Lodge near Rushton in Northamptonshire, and which pays homage to the three points of the Holy Trinity… Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


The Lodge is comprised of three levels, each with three walls exactly 33-feet (10m) wide and with three windows in each wall. On top of each wall are three gargoyles surmounted by three pinnacled gables, and in the centre of the building a 3-sided triangular chimney.


And a Latin religious text of 33 letters runs around the inside of each of the three walls of the building... which in two corners has small closets believed to be 'priest's holes' for hiding Catholic clergy from the Protestants. The third corner houses the connecting staircase.


The British Heritage-listed Triangular Lodge is open April to November.






[] CAPTURE of Guy Fawkes; contemporary artists depiction.

[] THE Gunpowder conspirators who plotted to blow up England's House of Parliament.

[] CONSPIRATORS are dragged to gallows from Tower of London.

[] BRITAIN's House of Parliament that the Gunpowder Plotters planned to blow-up with King James I inside.

[] PLAQUE in London commemorating tip-off to the Gunpowder Plot.

[] UNIQUE Triangular Lodge designed by devout catholic Sir Thomas Tresham in 1593.

(Images: Wikipedia and British Tourist Authority)  



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