Little Bits of History

Guy Fawkes’s Trial

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 27, 2013
Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes

January 27, 1606: The conspirators in the assassination plot against King James I are brought to trial. Robert Catesby had hoped for leniency and toleration toward Catholics. By May 1604, it was obvious they would remain a persecuted sect. James I became King of Scotland in 1567 and became King of England and Ireland in 1603 after Elizabeth I died. When the Catholics realized the Protestant monarch would continue to persecute them, they plotted to bring about a revolution in the hopes of seating James’s daughter, a Catholic, on the throne.

Several men conceived of a plan in the hope of religious freedom – at least for themselves. Even some titled men were involved in the plot. They employed Guy Fawkes, an expert with explosives and with years of military experience. In May 1604, they leased rooms adjacent to the House of Lords and began to bring in gunpowder. The plan was to assassinate the King and disrupt the governmental process by also killing other important figures.

The Black Plague came to London and was particularly virulent. Parliament was suspended until 1605. Instead of opening sessions early in the new year, sessions were postponed until October 3. During this lull, the plotters found a vacant coal merchant’s cellar under the House of Lords and began to fill it with gunpowder. They eventually concealed 36 barrels (1,775 pounds) of the substance under the building. If they had been successful, they would have reduced many of the near buildings to rubble, including Westminster Abbey.

The plotters tipped off Catholics, warning them not to be present when the Gunpowder Plot was scheduled. Loyal Catholics tipped off the authorities and at midnight on November 5, 1605 Guy Fawkes was arrested near 20 kegs of gunpowder. Under torture, he finally gave names of co-conspirators but only those men already dead or already known to the King. The men were brought to Westminster Hall. The sensational trial lasted one day and spectators paid up to 10 shillings to watch the proceedings. On January 31, Fawkes and several co-conspirators were taken to Old Palace Yard where they were drawn and quartered. Fawkes jumped as he was hanged, breaking his neck and dying instantly, thus eluding the torture of disembowelment and quartering.

“A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.” – Guy Fawkes

“Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot to surrender,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

“Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up King and Parli’ment.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

“Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 into a Protestant family. His mother’s family consisted of recusant Catholics, or those who refused to attend Anglican services. As such, they were subject to punishments under the laws of the Church of England. Guy’s cousin became a Jesuit priest ministering to Catholics. When Guy was 8, his father died. His mother remarried, this time to a Catholic. He received a Catholic education and associated with many who were avoiding the Recusancy Acts punishments. His childhood associates would also be co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. There is mention that Guy married and had a son, but there is a lack of confirmation amid the extant records.

Also on this day: Globetrotters – In 1927, the Harlem Globetrotters played their first game.
Apollo I Fire – In 1967, during a test flight the capsule of Apollo 1 burns, killing three.
It’s All Greek – In 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was formed.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on January 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Fawkes did not elude anything- the drawing and quartering had been commuted to hanging until dead. As in the United States today, hired killers such as Fawkes are usually given lesser sentences than those paying for the killing.

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