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The Gunpowder Plot in a nutshell

Following the death of Elizabeth I in March 1603 English Roman Catholics, and the Pope, were expecting James I to be more tolerant with them than Elizabeth. Celebration of the Roman Catholic mass increased greatly, to the consternation of the Privy Council. The Pope tried to ensure that James's heir to the throne was brought up Catholic. This pushed James and the Privy Council too far. On 22 Feb 1604 the King issued a proclamation banning all Roman Catholic priests from the kingdom, their departure to be completed by 22 Mar 1604. On the same day the recusancy fines against practicing Catholics were reactivated.


Robert Catesby persuaded four close Catholic friends that if they could blow up Parliament at the formal opening of the new session, killing the King, Queen, heir, Privy Council, Lords and all the Commons, and kidnap the young Prince Charles and/or Princess Elizabeth, then they could form their own government.


The Gunpowder Plot steadily progressed from the germ of the idea, involving tunnelling under parliament, until Guy Fawkes was arrested the night before the (delayed) new parliamentary session on 5 Nov 1605. On 26 Oct 1605 Lord Monteagle, who was closely related to some of the plotters, received an anonymous letter advising him not to attend the opening of Parliament. He alerted the Privy Council to the existence of the Plot -- if they did not know already.


Guy Fawkes was caught with the gunpowder; Catesby and several others were shot in the Midlands, having failed to raise a rebellion and capture Princess Elizabeth; the rest of the Plotters were hung, drawn and quartered. Repression of Catholics became even greater. Lord Monteagle was granted a pension by a grateful nation, which some say he never received.


England has celebrated the 5th November with bonfires and fireworkd ever since.


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