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Guy Fawkes was not the leader

November 11, 2019 November 2019 No Comments

Once again a non event which happened  over four hundred years ago has been marked by the letting off of fireworks. Not only that but the person we associate with this date was actually only a minor player.

The first idea of a gunpowder plot came up over a few beers on the 20th May 1604 at the Duck and Drake Inn. Normally on waking the next day it is realised what a load of  rubbish was talked the night before. However in this case the mistake made was on sobering up the men decided to stick with the plan.  

The conspirators were Catholic lads  who had been bemoaning the hard time English Anglican Kings had given Catholics for many years. They had hopes that the succession of James the 1st, a Scottish King and not an Anglican, would be more sympathetic to the plight, would bring and end to their problem.  However this did not happen and hence the desperate measure hatched of blowing up the king and his advisers when the gathered in parliament.

They had learned that the parliament coal cellar was directly under  the House of Lords and a trusted coal merchant John Johnson started sneaking in gunpowder along with his coal deliveries  eventually amassing thirty six barrels. Actually half the amount would have done the trick. 

Unfortunately for the conspirators one had a pang of conscience and sent a letter to his uncle by marriage, Lord Monteagle, advising him not to attend the state opening of parliament.  The letter prompted a search of Westminster and there in the coal cellar was a man who said his name was John Johnson and that he was simply guarding the coal cellar. However closer inspection revealed that he was standing ready to fire the gunpowder sacrificing his life to the cause. 

So where does Guy Fawkes come into it? Well, this John Johnson turned out to actually be Guy Fawkes a former soldier who had gained  experience with gunpowder during fighting against the Spanish. However although his gunpowder knowledge was a key to the plot he was not the leader who rather was one Robert Catesby. 

The plotters were all rounded up and ended very unpleasantly indeed. Even as far back as 1604 conspiracy theories did the rounds. The one in this case was that the letter to Lord Monteagle was actually a forgery produced by the security service who knew about the plot for some time but wanted the ‘discovery’ of the plot to be exposed at the last minute to get maximum impact and give themselves the widest rein to act against the conspirators and any Catholic they didn’t like the look of.  

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