The Man Behind The Mask: Guy Fawkes, The Gunpowder Plot and the Mask that Sparked Revolutions
The Man Behind The Mask: Guy Fawkes, The Gunpowder Plot and the Mask that Sparked Revolutions

The Man Behind The Mask: Guy Fawkes, The Gunpowder Plot and the Mask that Sparked Revolutions

John killerlane - December 13, 2017

The Man Behind The Mask: Guy Fawkes, The Gunpowder Plot and the Mask that Sparked Revolutions
Depiction of Guy Fawke’s arrest. commons.wikimedia.org

Guy Fawkes’s arrest

As the deadline nears, more people are gaining knowledge of the plot and some are joining forces with Catesby and Fawkes. In the summer of 1605, Catesby shares the details of the plot with his friend and spiritual guide, a Jesuit priest called Fr. Oswald Tesimond. Tesimond then relays this information to Fr. Henry Garnett, thus implicating them both in the treasonous conspiracy. Also, Catesby’s cousin, Francis Tresham becomes the thirteenth member of the conspiracy.

On October 26, 1605, a letter is delivered by a stranger to Tresham’s brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle. The letter is anonymous and cryptic, but it conveys a warning to Monteagle to stay away from parliament at the state opening. Monteagle takes the letter to the Secretary of State, and the king’s chief spymaster, Robert Cecil who in turn informs the king. Although the details of the plot are not clear from the letter, King James discovers that Percy had leased the vault, and after a second search, his guards find Fawkes there. He is promptly arrested but under interrogation remains silent.

Although torture was illegal in England, its use was permitted under exceptional circumstances, such as conspiracy to commit treason. King James writes a letter authorizing the use of torture against Fawkes. It states, “If he will not otherwise confess, the gentler tortures are to be first used unto him and so by degrees until the ultimate… and so God speed you’re good work.” All the evidence suggests that Fawkes was tortured on the rack in the Tower of London. Fawkes eventually broke and revealed his true identity. Two days later he revealed the names of his accomplices and the details of the gunpowder plot. Fawkes scribbled signature following his torture indicate that he was a broken man at this point.

The Man Behind The Mask: Guy Fawkes, The Gunpowder Plot and the Mask that Sparked Revolutions
Guy “Guido” Fawkes’s scribbled signature following his torture. historylearningsite.com

All the while, Catesby is trying to secure support for a larger rebellion. On the evening of November 5, 1605, Catesby and his men address a large gathering of Catholics. Catesby informs them of the plot to kill King James I and their aspirations to replace him with a Catholic monarch, namely the king’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Catesby fails to win the support of the Catholics in attendance, who want no part in a treasonous rebellion. Princess Elizabeth later said that she would “rather have died with her father in parliament than wear the crown on such condition.”

Catesby then travels to the Midlands to try and garner support from Catholics there but to no avail. On November 6, 1605, Fr. Henry Garnett and his fellow priests were anxiously awaiting news of the outcome of the plot when Catesby’s servant rode into the courtyard with a letter from Catesby, revealing that the plot had failed. When Catesby desperately tries to persuade Fr. Garnett to raise a Catholic rebellion, Garnett replies, “we are all utterly undone.”

Catesby and his men then seek refuge in Holbeach House but a day later are surrounded by the sheriff and two hundred men. Catesby and Thomas Percy are both shot and killed while Tom Wintour is shot in the shoulder while crossing the courtyard. Over the next few weeks, all of the men involved in the conspiracy are rounded up and taken to the Tower of London to be interrogated under torture. All are tried at Westminster Hall and convicted of high treason and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered.

Jesuit priests are also accused of being directly involved in the conspiracy. Fr. Tesimond manages to escape to Rome and lived for a further 30 years but Fr. Henry Garnett was not so fortunate. In May 1606, he is tried for high treason before being hung, drawn and quartered. Fawkes is sentenced to the same fate. He is to be disemboweled, his genitals are to be cut off before he is to be hung, drawn and quartered. It is widely believed that Fawkes lept to his death which spared him the excruciating death which he was facing. An effigy of Fawkes is still burned on November 5 in England every year. The Guy Fawkes mask has become a symbol of protest and is widely worn by those protesting against perceived injustices.

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