The Guy Fawkes Night, Bonfire Night or even the Firework Night – the events on the 5th of November have many names. The annual commemoration of the night is one of Britain’s most beloved holidays.
Bonfire Night is such an appealing story for its quirkiness and its attitude. The plot to blow up the House of Lords and the celebrations afterwards for King James I’s survival has captured the imagination of Brits. To this day, we gather to burn effigies, set off fireworks and celebrate with our friends.
If you want to refresh your memory and perhaps learn a few unexpected things about this historic event, check out our two part series into Guy Fawkes Night.
The Key Characters Behind the Gunpowder Plot
We all remember Guy Fawkes, but there were plenty of others involved in the massive plot. It was quite a fascinating combination of secret meetings and clever planning, even though it didn’t quite turn out as hoped for the conspirators in the end.
The key characters of the Gunpowder Plot included:
- Robert Catesby – Mr Catesby was the main architect behind the plot. He was quite the hunk, according to his contemporaries, but began plotting against the English ruling class from an early on. At one point, he tried to persuade the king of Spain, Philip III, to invade England.Catesby wanted to restore Catholicism in England and in February 1604 began to plot how to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of the Parliament.
- Thomas Wintour–Mr Wintour was Catesby’s close ally and an emissary in the mission to get Philip III to invade England. Wintour’s ability to speak different languages was a bonus and he had plenty of connections to get stuff sorted for the big plot.
- Thomas Percy – Mr Percy was the group’s key to getting access to the House of Lords. He had converted to the Catholic faith and shared the group’s passion to get the faith back to power.Percy’s connection with the Earl of Northumberland helped him to have direct meetings with King James I. He was also able to establish a ‘base’ in London for scheming.
- John Wright–Mr Wright was a devout Catholic and a handy swordsman – the perfect person for the group.He also was the link to get Percy on board, as he was his brother-in-law.
- Guy Fawkes – Mr Fawkes is one of the most well known members of the plot, not least for his role of actually setting off the explosives. He was also part of the delegation to get King of Spain to invade England and he was the master of explosives.
What Got the Men Plotting Against the King?
The five men were brought together by their strong Catholic faith and the belief the country could do better if it went back to the teachings of the Roman church. Catholics were being persecuted for their faith and even forced to worship the Anglican faith.
When King James I, a practicing Catholic, tookto the throne, many believed better times would be ahead. But King James I wasn’t a very strong leader and he ended up demanding Catholics, even the Pope, need to take an oath denying the Catholic Church authority over the King of England.
He claimed things would be fine if only people would show an outward support for the Monarchy and the Church of England. In reality, he ended up being quite a brutal king for the faithful.
All five men were distraught by the treatment of Catholics and took upon themselves to do something about it.
The Plotting Began
When the original plan to get King of Spain to invade England didn’t come to fruition, Mr Catesby decided on another plan of action. In February 1604, he met up with Mr Wintour and Mr Wright to discuss the plan to blow up the House of Lords.
Wintour was the most sceptical about the plan, but eventually was persuaded the course of action would be the best way to restore Catholicism. Wintour headed out to Spain to seek out Guy Fawkes, as he knew him to be a great soldier.
While they weren’t able to convince the Spanish to support their little plot, they later got Wright’s brother-in-law, Mr Percy, involved. With Percy’s help and his powerful connections the five men started to conspire.
They had to endure plenty of problems from digging a tunnel to spoilt gunpowder in the run up to the big day. How did it all go wrong for the five men? You can find out about the elaborate plans in the second part of our series!