In 1605, a group of Catholic conspirators, including the now infamous Guy Fawkes, devised a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Their aim was to overthrow the government, kill King James I, and make James’ daughter a Catholic head of state.
This is a letter from the Earl of Salisbury to Sir Thomas Edmondes, ambassador to the Archduke Albert in Brussels, enclosing a copy of 'The Examination of Guy Fawkes taken on 8th November 1605'. Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, states that Fawkes has directly accused Owen – an exiled Welsh spy – of complicity, and that the Archduke will be required to deliver him up.
Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Catholics suffered terrible persecution, but they had high hopes for better treatment after James came to the throne in 1603. In reality, the situation failed to improve.
In March 1605 the group of conspirators rented a ground floor cellar directly beneath the House of Lords, filling it with 36 barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes, who had years of munitions experience after serving in the Spanish Army, was chosen 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 rest 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.
Sir Thomas Edmonds, I have written unto you yesterday at large, of the circumstances of that horrible conspiracy, intended here against the state, and of the manner of discovery thereof, by wich, as you may see, on the one syde, the monstrous wickednes of the undertakers, so on the other syde, wee have cause to geve thanks unto Almighty God, for his extraordinary goodness in preserving his Maj and this state from their violent hands; And forasmuch as by dayly examinations, it doth appeare, that there is great cause to suspect, that Owen hath ben made privy to this horrible conspiracy, I thinke it very expedient now, for his Maj,'s service, that you doe informe the Archduc of it, and putt him to the tryall of the syncerity of his extraordinary professions towards his Maj., by shewing the horriblenes of the fact, and requiring at his hands, whether he would not geve order, to make staye of the said Owen, in some place of safety, untyll it may further appeare, what cause wee shall have to charge him in this action; and then to leave it to the Archdukes owne jugement, upon the proofes thereof, what course he shall think fitt to hold with him: This you may press something earnestly with the Archdukes, and putt him to the wall, that when hereafter wee shall have cause to charge Owen (as wee have very probable suspition already) the Archdukes shall not excuse themselfs, by alleadging that he is fledd, and not in their power. The managing hereof leaving to your discretion. I [count?] you to God.[side] You shall doe well to keepe Hoboques packuett [?] [hands?] untyll you have spoken with the Archdukes of this matter: to make all things sure.Whitehall, 10 November 1605.
Your loving friend
- Full title:
- EDMONDES PAPERS. VOL. III. (ff. 385). 21 Feb. 1605-22 Mar. 1606, N.S. Edmondes started for Brussels on 19 April, 1605, and his first letter here is dated 3 May, containing an account of the Marquis Ambrosio Spinola, the newly-appointed Spanish Genera
- 10 November 1605, London
- Letter / Ephemera
- Robert Cecil
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