On November 5, 1605, King James I of England learns that a plot to blow-up Parliament has been foiled. Only hours before he was scheduled to attend a general parliamentary session. At about midnight on the night of November 4-5, Guy Fawkes was found lurking in a cellar under the Parliament building and after a search of the building 20 barrels of gunpowder was located. Fawkes was taken into custody and after being tortured revealed that he was a participant in an English Catholic conspiracy to annihilate England's Protestant government and replace it with Catholic leadership. What became known as the Gunpowder Plot was organized by Robert Catesby, an English Catholic whose father had been persecuted by Queen Elizabeth I for refusing to conform to the Church of England. Guy Fawkes had converted to Catholicism, and his religious zeal led him to fight in the Spanish army in the Netherlands. Catesby and the handful of other plotters rented a cellar that extended under Parliament, and Fawkes planted the gunpowder there, hiding the barrels under coal and wood. By torturing Fawkes, King James' government learned of the identities of his co-conspirators. During the next few weeks, English authorities killed or captured all of the plotters and put the survivors on trial. Guy Fawkes was sentenced, along with the other surviving chief conspirators, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in London. Moments before the start of his gruesome execution, on January 31, 1606, he jumped from a ladder while climbing to the hanging platform, breaking his neck and dying instantly. In 1606, Parliament established November 5th as a day of public thanksgiving. Today, Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated across Great Britain in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot.
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and is the author of Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: