The head of Guy Fawkes

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    In 1605, a group of Catholic conspirators, including the now infamous Guy Fawkes, hatched a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The intention was to depose the government, kill King James I, and install James’s daughter as a Catholic head of state. This is an illustration showing the severed head of Guy Fawkes after his execution. The image was published in 'Mischeefes mysterie London' several years after the Gunpowder Plot in 1617.

     

    Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Catholics had been fiercely persecuted, but they had high hopes for better treatment after the accession of James in 1603. However, it soon became clear that their situation would be no better under the rule of the new king. On 20 May 1604, the conspirators met and decided on their plan. In March 1605 they rented a ground floor cellar, which was directly beneath the House of Lords. Over the coming months, they filled this with 36 barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes, who had years of munitions experience after serving in the Spanish Army, stayed behind to light the fuse. However, Westminster was searched and the gunpowder was discovered before it could be ignited by Fawkes. He was arrested and tortured, before he and seven other conspirators were hung, drawn and quartered for high treason. The others fled to the Midlands, where they were either captured or died fighting. The repercussions for Catholics were felt for centuries, in a series of repressive laws introduced against them.

     

     

     

    Shelfmark: G.11429

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