In 1604 England was a protestant nation, tough laws were in place to ensure this – A Catholic person had to practice Catholicism in secret, if caught they faced severe punishment, sometimes even death. A group of Catholics led by Robert Catesby wanted to end this Protestant rule. Catesby’s group consisted of Guy Fawkes, Thomas Percy, Thomas Wintour and Jack Wright. Catesby wanted to kill the King and all his followers, the perfect opportunity was the State Opening of Parliament, here the King along with his heirs and the government would be together in the Palace of Westminster, Catesby planned to blow the Palace up, and then he hoped all the Catholics would unite and take over the country.
Catesby had lodgings in Lambeth, which was on the opposite side of the river Thames, the group stored the gunpowder here, until a coal merchant decided to sell his cellar, which was directly below the Palace. Thomas Percy secured the cellar, and the group began transporting their stockpile of gunpowder over the Thames. Nobody really noticed them as the river was filled with boats, due to the lack of bridges. Catesby needed more money, so he recruited Francis Tresham. Tresham was concerned about the safety of his relative, Lord Monteagle, who would be present in the Palace on the day of the bombing. Soon enough Monteagle received a letter from an anonymous source, which warned him to stay away from the Palace during the State Opening of Parliament. Monteagle gave the letter to the Kings spy – Sir Robert Cecil, who ordered that the whole Palace be searched. While searching the palace, guards found Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder barrels. Fawkes was immediately arrested and sent to the Tower of London for interrogation. Fawkes refused to say anything, so the guards began to torture him until he told them everything.
Catesby was riding north to raise a catholic army when he heard the news, but it was too late for him to stop, if he returned to London, he’d be executed, so he continued, but his attempts failed as most Catholics went into hiding as they feared for their lives. Catesby and Percy were eventually killed at Holbeach House in Nov 1605. In January 1606 the remaining plotters were sent to Westminster Hall to be tried for high treason, all were found guilty and all of them were sentenced to be hanged drawn and quartered. On the 31st January 1606 Guy Fawkes and Thomas Wintour were executed in the Palace yard.
Source – National Geographic – The Gunpowder Plot – link
Confession of Guy Fawkes photograph – The National Archives – link
The Plotters and The Execution pictures are from the book Criminal London by Mark Herber