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 illustration shows Guy Fawkes being halted at the Houses of Parliament, before he was able to carry out the plot – with a later illustration showing the severed head of Guy Fawkes after his execution. These images were first 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, 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.
- Full title:
- [Mischeefes mysterie ... London 1617.] [Another edition.] November the 5, 1605. The Quintessence of Cruelty, or master-piece of treachery, the Popish Pouder-Plot ... [In verse.] Truly related, and from the Latine of ... Dr Herring translated and very much dilated. By John Vicars. (An Epigram to Jesuites, etc.)
- 1641, London
- G M for R Harford
- Book / Illustration / Image
- Francis Herring, John Vicars
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Carole Levin
- Tragedies, Shakespeare’s life and world, Magic, illusion and the supernatural
Did Shakespeare’s contemporaries believe in witches? Carole Levin looks at witchcraft trials in the 16th century and considers their relation to the ‘weird sisters’ of Macbeth.
- Article by:
- Diane Purkiss
- Tragedies, Magic, illusion and the supernatural
Diane Purkiss discusses Renaissance beliefs about witches and shows how, in Macbeth, Shakespeare blurs the line between the witches and Lady Macbeth.