When May Queen of Scots fled to England in 1567, her thirteen-month-old son James was crowned king of Scotland. With his Catholic mother in England, James was brought up as a Protestant.
When Elizabeth I died in 1603 without children, Mary's son, was next in line to the throne, and as James was a Protestant, Parliament was also in favour of him becoming king. The Roman Catholics in England were upset that there was going to be another Protestant monarch. They also became very angry when James passed a law that imposed heavy fines on people who did not attend Protestant church services.
Robert Catesby, who had joined the Earl of Essex when he attempted a coup four years earlier against James' predecessor, Elizabeth I, was thought to be the ringleader in the Gunpowder Plot - a scheme to kill James and as many Members of Parliament as possible. At a meeting at the Duck and Drake Inn Catesby explained his plan to Guy Fawkes, Thomas Percy, John Wright and Thomas Wintour who all agreed under oath to join the conspiracy. Over the next few months Francus Tresham, Everard Digby, Robert Wintour, Thomas Bates and Christopher Wright also agreed to take part in the overthrow of the king.
After the death of James in the explosion, Robert Catesby planned to make the King's young daughter, Elizabeth, Queen. In time, Catesby hoped to arrange Elizabeth's marriage to a Catholic nobleman. It was Everard Digby's task to kidnap Princess Elizabeth from Coombe Abbey.
Catesby's plan involved blowing up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November. This date was chosen because the King was due to open Parliament on that day. At first the group tried to tunnel under Parliament. This plan changed when Thomas Percy was able to hire a cellar under the House of Lords. The plotters then filled the cellar with barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes, because of his munitions experience in the Netherlands, was given the task of creating the explosion.
Francis Tresham was worried that the explosion would kill his friend and brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle. On 26th October, Tresham sent Lord Monteagle a letter warning him not to attend Parliament on 5th November.
Lord Monteagle became suspicious and passed the letter to Robert Cecil, the King's chief minister. Cecil quickly organised a thorough search of the Houses of Parliament. While searching the cellars below the House of Lords they found the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes. He was tortured and he eventually gave the names of his fellow conspirators.
The conspirators left London and agreed to meet at Holbeche House in Staffordshire. News of their hiding place reached the Sheriff of Worcester and on 8th November the house was surrounded by troops. The men refused to surrender and gunfire broke out. Over the next few minutes, Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, Christopher Wright and John Wright were killed.
Francis Tresham was arrested on 12th November. In the Tower of L0ndon he wrote a full confession about his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. However, many people believed he was working as a double agent for Robert Cecil.
Everard Digby, Robert Wintour and Thomas Bates, were executed on 30th January, 1606. Digby was hanged for only a short period and was still alive when he was disembowelled. The following day Guy Fawkes andThomas Wintour were hanged, drawn and quartered.
For more detailed information concerning the history surrounding the Gunpowder Plot, please visit: www.gunpowder-plot.org