ANST - FW: Musing on November 5 -- Penny for Old Guy?

j'lynn yeates jyeates at
Sun Dec 3 11:53:32 PST 2000

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- -----Original Message-----
From: Ellsworth Weaver [mailto:astroweaver at]
Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2000 17:54
To: 2thpix at
Subject: Musing on November 5 -- Penny for Old Guy?

Dear Folk,

On November 4, 1605 a man was found in the basement of the English
Parliament building. Under examination on November 5, he gave his
as John Johnson. He had some excuse or another to be down there if he
could just remember it. From a confused account grew an even more
confusing trial and execution. November 5 traditionally marks the
anniversary of “The Gunpowder Plot.”

The Roman Catholics had been through quite a bit in merry old England
from the reign of Henry VIII onward.  Understand that Henry had not
really started out to found his own religion: he had been made
of the Faith by the Pope and had really dissed Protestants. Then came
that unpleasantness about the Pope not granting Henry an annulment or
divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Catherine had been unable to give
Henry a son – I know, it is the daddy who determines the sex of the
child – and Henry brought up the fact Catherine had been betrothed to
his brother earlier. Anyway, Henry started up the Church of England
dissolved the monasteries.

After Henry went off to whatever reward, England swang like a
do between Edward VI, a definite Anglican, his half-sister “Bloody
Mary” who was Catholic, her half-sister Elizabeth who brought back
Protestantism. Elizabeth had some nasty folks like Phillip II of
who were intent on restoring Catholicism to that “green and pleasant
land.”  Heck, there was even a move to make Mary Queen of Scots, a
Catholic, Queen of England. Mary's claim to the English throne came
through her grandmother Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's eldest sister,
had married James IV of Scotland. Of course that claim led to Mary
going to the headsman.

Some nitpickers claimed that Elizabeth was illegitimate since Henry
not really been able to divorce Catherine of Aragon before he married
Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mom. When Anne was likewise shortened by ax,
Elizabeth was declared a bastard and then removed from succession by
the Privy Council. Henry later decided that she should be in the line
of succession but he never declared her legitimate.

When Elizabeth was getting up in years, the Catholics suddenly took
hope. Elizabeth had been a teensy harsh with anyone talking about the
succession or Catholicism. You could be assured that you might be
severely questioned and lightly but organically killed for such
treason. James VI of Scotland looked pretty good as the next ruler.
was Mary Queen of Scots son and connected to Henry VIII.  James
promised the Catholics that he would be an okay guy and not mash on

Unfortunately James VI of Scotland when he became James I of England
was not the tolerant ruler he had promised. He published harsh laws
against any Catholic who refused to attend Anglican services.

Within a few weeks of this, the five core members of the Gunpowder
- -- Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, Thomas Wintour, John Wright and Guy
Fawkes -- met together and swore an oath on the Holy Sacrament to
up James and the Houses of Parliament when next the Parliament sat.
That sounds dreadful but they were really peeved Catholics.

Catesby was the wild and willful son of Sir William Catesby, a
prominent leader in the Catholic community who had been busted in
for harboring Father Edmund Campion, the English Superior of the
Jesuits. Thomas Percy was descended from the Earls of Northumberland,
who had come to note in earlier Catholic uprisings involving Mary
of Scots, and he now worked for his kinsman Henry Percy, the 9th Earl
of Northumberland. Wintour and Wright, also members of the well-born,
had both been targets of the anti-Catholic government. Guy Fawkes was
soldier who had spent more than ten years fighting in the Low
under the flag of Spain in the regiment of English exiles led by Sir
William Stanley, himself a self-imposed Catholic exile.

The boys first rented some rooms in a building close to Parliament
House and started digging. There is some dispute about that tunnel
what the heck it was a plan. Those who believe in the tunnel say that
they hit water or the thick walls of Parliament. No matter why,
tunneling was right out. So, the next plan was to rent a cellar in
Parliament building. Not bad. They soon had 36 barrels of gunpowder
hidden under wood and iron scrap down in the cellar.

Unfortunately, all this carting started getting excessive. Some of
powder got wet and was useless. That meant more carting and more
buying.  Others were brought into the plan. Fawkes took advantage of
some delays in Parliament sitting to get over to Flanders to purchase
more powder. Catesby’s cousin, Sir Thomas Tresham, one of the leading
Catholics in the later Elizabethan period, was roped into the plot
also. More about him in a second.

On the 26th of October 1605, ten days before Parliament was due to
an unknown messenger delivered a letter to William Parker, Lord
Monteagle at his house in Hoxton, just outside London. Monteagle had
been a true-blue Catholic but lately he had been getting along pretty
well under James I. This letter warned Monteagle to stay out of the
opening of Parliament lest he get a severe headache or something
similar. Monteagle gave the letter to Robert Cecil who was James’
Secretary of State. Whoops! Who wrote the letter? The conspirators
heard of it pretty quickly thought it was Tom Tresham but he was
convincing that he did not.

It was sit and wait. Did the King believe the letter or not? It
such a waste to not shoot off the gunpowder after all that work. On
night of the 4th of November 1605, the day before Parliament was
scheduled to open, that fellow, who was actually Fawkes, was caught
the cellar beneath the Parliament buildings with the powder. On his
person were found the tools necessary to fire the powder train. He
immediately arrested and brought before the king. Over the next few
days, Fawkes was tortured, until gradually he began to reveal details
of the plot. At first he maintained the facade of John Johnson,
to Thomas Percy, but in time he revealed his true identity and the
names of his fellow conspirators. Torture will do that to you.

In the early hours of 5 November 1605, news spread of Fawkes’
The remaining plotters saddled and skeedaddled for the midlands in
and threes, except for Tresham who had decided to remain in London.
conspirators arrived in Dunchurch in Warwickshire and met with a
of followers who had been gathered by Digby supposedly as a hunting
party. This group -- which numbered about 60, okay, they were hunting
elephants! -- arrived at Holbeche House on the Staffordshire border
the evening hours of the 7th of November. Holbeche was owned by the
recusant Littleton family who had been involved in many of the
uprisings, as well as the Essex Rebellion, and it was to be the last
stand of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators.

The evening of the 7th of November saw further bungling. The boys had
some wet gunpowder on hand that might be useful if it were dried.
just spread it out here by the nice crackling fire. Boom! How
demoralizing! The next day more of the boys decided to leave the
enterprise. Some bravely tried to get some other Catholics to seize
day but failed. By midday of November 8th, the local sheriff arrived
and surrounded the house. Negotiations failed and a battle ensued.
Catesby, the Wrights and Thomas Percy were all done to death. The
of the boys (except Robert Wintour and Stephen Littleton who had
trucked earlier) were busted and taken to London. On November 12th
Tresham was arrested and sent to the Tower. Wintour and Littleton
caught two months later.

Tresham died of a “urinary tract infection” in the Tower. Was he
poisoned? Did he really escape? Some Jesuits were apprehended by the
police due to Littleton trying to turn state’s evidence. Littleton
executed anyway. Tom Wintour confessed as did Guy Fawkes.

On the 27th of January 1606, the trial of the eight surviving
conspirators began. None denied the charge of treason, and all were
condemned to be executed. On Thursday the 30th of January, Digby,
Robert Wintour, John Grant and Thomas Bates were executed in St.
Churchyard. The following day, Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood,
Keyes and Guy Fawkes were executed in the Old Palace Yard at
Westminster. All eight men were hanged, drawn and quartered as was
customary for traitors. Those who died at Holbeche were dug up, and
their heads removed to be displayed on pikes. Father Henry Garnet was
executed on the 3rd of May 1606.

What have we learned? Keep your powder dry? Do not dry powder by a
crackling fire? Do not put your trust in anyone remotely related to
Henry Tudor? The more folks in on a conspiracy the infinitely more
chance you have of being discovered? Make sure you have a darned good
alternate yarn as to why you are where you are? How about if you
the plan has been tipped, don’t go back? Trust me on this.

Thanks to those kind folk who have sent me supportive letters and
checks. I have been ill and a bit down of late. As Sir Elton John
“I’m still standing.” If you are out there hiding priests, blowing up
Parliament, being tortured for your faith, or just drawing and
quartering traitors and you want to forward this missive, please do.
remember to leave my name and sig attached.

Drying my powder in the sunshine naturally,
Ellsworth Weaver

SCA – Sir Balthazar of Endor
AS – Polyphemus Theognis
TRV – Sebastian Yeats

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