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Bonfire Night: A Celebration of Guy Fawkes and the Failed Gunpowder Plot
Who was Guy Fawkes?
Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York. Born as the second of four children to Edward Fawkes and Edith Fawkes. Both his parents were regular communicants of the Church of England as were his paternal grandparents. Guy’s mother’s family were recusant Catholics and his cousin, Richard Cowling, became a Jesuit Priest.
Although Guy Fawkes is by far and away the most famous of the group, he was not the instigator or leader of the Gunpowder Plot and that place belonged to Robert Catesby. Catesby was a charismatic Catholic figure who had reputation for speaking out against the crown. After the protestant James I was crowned king in 1603, Catesby planned to kill him by blowing up the House of Lords with gunpowder during the State Opening of Parliament. Since James I was much less tolerant that his predecessors of Catholicism the act of blowing up parliament would cause a popular revolt during which a Catholic monarch would be restored to the English throne. In total there were 13 conspirators, following the development of his plan Catesby recruited fellow Catholics and sympathisers to his cause. These plotters were: John Wright, Christopher Wright, Thomas Wintour, Robert Wintour, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham. Fawkes was given charge of the explosives because he had 10 years military experience fighting in the Spanish Netherlands in suppression of the Dutch Revolt.
The Gunpowder Plot
Generally the plot was very simple, to sneak gunpowder through the ducts and cellar underneath Parliament and light the explosives during the State Opening of Parliament and therefore killing James I. Of course the plot was famously foiled, but how would anyone know or even suspect the plot in the first place? The answer is an anonymous letter that was received by William Parker, 4th Baron of Monteagle (Tresham’s brother-in-law).
The letter is as follows:
My Lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament; for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm; for the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter. And I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.
Antonia, Fraser. (2005) The Gunpowder Plot, Phoenix.
Execution of Charles I: English Regicide
This day in 1649, Charles I met his bloody fate, being executed on Tuesday, January 30 1649. This was a result of the English Civil War, and the decision made by the High Court of Justice which was a court established by the Rump Parliament to try Charles I, this court was specifically created for the Trial of Charles I but the name was used for subsequent courts.
The regicide was a major result from the conflicts of the English Civil War, Charles I had angered much of the population by establishing a Prayer Book which against much of the religious traits which was associated with much of the Kingdom. This caused major upset in Scotland which initiated the Bishop Wars and England was faced with a divide since the monarchy, through lack of finance decided to use parliament for his own personal gain. However, many resisted which begun the war between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians.
The Second Civil War however could have been avoided, Charles I was defeated and held in captivity but provoked the Second phase of the Civil War. Charles was held responsible for unjustifiable bloodshed, negotiations between Charles and Oliver Cromwell were made possible but discussions broke down. In making war against Parliament, Charles was held responsible for the deaths of thousands, predicted deaths were around the 180,000 mark for the first and second English Civil Wars, the population of England at around this time was only about 5 million, therefore around 3.6% of the population met their end due to conflicts. These penalties and accusations helped Parliament justify the creation of the Court to try Charles I.
Trial of Charles I
When given the opportunity to speak in court, Charles refused to enter a plea because he still believed the monarch was above the court and did not consider it just to trial an individual of his position, therefore believing the authority of the monarch can not be challenged under any circumstances.He believed that his own authority to rule had been Divine right of kings given to him by God and by the traditions and laws of England when he was crowned and anointed, and that the power wielded by those trying him was simply that of force of arms. The King was declared guilty at a public session on Saturday 27 January 1649 and sentenced to death. To show their agreement with the sentence, all of the 67 Commissioners who were present rose to their feet. During the rest of that day and on the following day, signatures were collected for his death warrant.
January 30, 1649 – Charles I Execution
Charles I was beheaded in front the Banqueting House of the Palace of Whitehall. Interestingly, he declared that he had desired the liberty and freedom of the people as much as any.
‘but I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consists in having government…. It is not their having a share in the government; that is nothing appertaining unto them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things’
Following the death of Charles I, the war continued for another two years which led to the Interregnum period, where the United Kingdom was temporarily a republic, Oliver Cromwell was made Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. This prompted changes in the Commonwealth, laws which restricted the consumption of alcohol and late nights, the banning of festival of Christmas since it clashed with the Protestant ethic.
A separate article may be made on the period of Cromwell’s rule, including the reinstatement of the monarch, Charles II in 1660, the article would contain further details of the laws and the reactions of the population and population opinion. This article may also endure some changes since this is a rough post, thank you.