Remember, remember the 5th of November
To conspire against the Monarch, Lords and Commons is treason. To attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, as Guy Fawkes did in 1605, is the act of a traitor. To foment civil strive and incite a religious rising is an attack upon the peace and security of the Realm.
Five conspirators, including Catesby, Percy and Guy Fawkes plotted their evil for at least a year, meeting in an isolated house behind St Clement's, London. They all swore an oath of secrecy, and were given privates masses by two Jesuit priests.
They weren't short of supporters or financial means - they needed to rent a number of houses and cellars to store some 30 barrels of gunpowder for almost a year. Two wealthy Roman Catholics were particularly helpful - Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham, the latter of whom tried to warn his co-religionists in Parliament. He wrote:
My lord, out of the love I beare to some of youere frends I have a caer of youer preservation therefor I would advyse yowe as yowe tender youer lyf to devys some excuse to shift of youer attendance at this parleament... for thowghe theare be no apparance of anni stir yet I say e they shall receyve a terrible blowe this parleament and yet they shall not seie who hurts them.This letter led to the exposure of the conspirators and to the ultimate foiling of the plot. An order was given for the cellars beneath the Palace of Westminster to be searched on the night before Parliament was to sit. The gunpowder was discovered, along with Guy Fawkes.
There was no act of terrorism, no assassination and no Roman Catholic insurrection. Catesby was killed by the sheriff's men, Percy was fatally wounded, Digby was imprisoned, and Winter and Lyttleton were eventually betrayed by their servant. The Jesuit priests were also caught hiding.
Fawkes was tortured, and so was one of the priests. All were eventually executed, except Tresham, who died in prison before his trial.
The effect of this conspiracy against the King and the Protestant Faith was to increase hostility against Roman Catholics. Penal laws were enforced, and recusants were prosecuted. Roman Catholics were expelled from London, and forbidden to practise law or medicine. They could not be executors of a will or the guardians of children. They were, to all intents and purposes, excluded from public life: the Gunpowder Plot had sealed their fate.
Today we celebrate our national freedom, and remember the many innocent observers who were caught in the fray. Never again must a foreign prince have authority in this Realm, and never again must religion be a tool of hatred, oppression and persecution.