Case Study: The Gunpowder Plot

What was the Gunpowder Plot of 1605?
In 1605 a group of Catholics plotted, but failed, to blow up King James I and his ministers at the opening of Parliament.
Why did Catholics plot against the government in the Gunpowder Plot?
Catholics plotted against the government in the Gunpowder Plot for 4 important reasons:
  • The Gunpowder Plot was a result of Catholic disappointment in the actions of James I.
  • When James I became king in 1603, many Catholics were hopeful they would be allowed to worship more freely.
  • However, many powerful members of James's council were strongly anti-Catholic.
  • Laws against Catholics were tightened and more harshly enforced.
What was the plan of the Gunpowder Plot?
There were 4 important facts to note about the Gunpowder Plot:
  • The Gunpowder Plotters wanted to take advantage of new explosive technology by using gunpowder.
  • The plan was hatched by Robert Catesby.
  • He wanted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and, in the ensuing confusion, lead a Catholic rebellion and place James's daughter, Elizabeth, on the throne.
  • One of the 13 plotters, Guy Fawkes, filled a vault beneath Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder, enough to destroy the building and everyone in it.
How were those involved in the Gunpowder Plot discovered?
There were 4 important reason the plotters of Gunpowder Plot were discovered:
  • A leak in the rebel group led to the discovery of the plot.
  • An anonymous letter warned Lord Monteagle not to attend the opening of Parliament as it would 'receive a mighty blow'.
  • He took the letter straight to Robert Cecil - the king's chief minister.
  • The vaults beneath Parliament were then searched and Fawkes was caught and arrested.
What happened to the plotters in the Gunpowder Plot?
The Gunpowder Plotters came to a violent end in 3 main ways:
  • Fawkes was tortured until he revealed the names of the other plotters and signed a confession.
  • The rest of the plotters had escaped. However, government soldiers tracked them down, and Catesby and a number of the other plotters were killed.
  • The rest were returned to London, where they were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
What were the long-term consequences of the Gunpowder Plot?
There were 6 main long-term consequences of the plot:
  • In 1605, the Thanksgiving Act ordered that the events of 5th November should be commemorated each year.
  • Catholics were banned from working in the legal profession or becoming officers in the armed forces.
  • Catholics would be restricted from voting, becoming MPs, or owning land.
  • They were also banned from voting in any elections until 1829.
  • In 1606, a law called the Popish Recusants Act forced Catholics to take an oath of allegiance to the English crown.
  • They were also forced to take part in Church of England services and rituals, or pay fines.
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