31st January 1606.
James VI of Scotland (I of England), the day after the discovery of the gunpowder plot, wrote: ‘The gentler tortours (sic) are to be first used : et sic per gradus ad mia tenditur’.(1)
Even though torture was against English Common Law, it was granted by permission of the King or Privy Council.(2)
Thus was Guy Fawkes, ‘a gentleman of York’, alias John Johnson, broken before his trial resulting in his execution Today in 1606 for his complicity in the plot to blow up the King along with his family, whilst in Parliament.
Catholicism was now the enemy within the state, which resulted in recusants (dissenters) being debarred from public office and the universities for over two centuries.(3)
Guy had been converted to Catholicism, when his widowed mother married a Dionis Bainbrigge, a Catholic.(4)
Later serving in the Spanish army fawkes fought in the Netherlands where he learned siege warfare. He thus knew much about gunpowder and where to place it, and was particularly helped by the glut of the explosive after the peace with Spain.
Thirty-six barrels were to be secreted in the Parliament cellars ready for the State Opening, which having been delayed, was due on the 5th November.
An attempt was made to recruit Francis Tresham who had friends in the Lords and whether it was he who sent the anonymous letter to Lord Mounteagle, a leading Protestant, is not known. Whatever, the letter was soon despatched to Robert Cecil, The Queen’s Intelligencer or spymaster.
Fawkes was literally the ‘Fall Guy’ for the plot, which was in fact led by Robert Catesby, supported by the Percy Family who were related to the catholic, Earls of Northumberland.
The abortive attack resonated down the centuries, and catholics didn’t have their civil rights restored until the 19th century. And not until 1859 did Queen Victoria order the removal from the Church of England Prayer Book, of Prayers for Thanksgiving for the ‘Happy Deliverance’ of King James I and the ‘Three Estates of England from the most traitorous and bloody intended massacre by Gunpowder’.
(1) Translated: And so by degrees bended. Letter dated November 6th, 1605.
(2) Fawkes’ two confessions with the King’s order for his torture are detailed in documents. A contemporary woodcut shows conspirators, including Guy who had only joined the conspiracy in November 1604.
(3) The geographical distribution of recusancy between the years 1715-20 showed the greatest concentration in the northern shires of England, which resulted from the lukewarm attempts by a previous Earl of Derby to stamp out Catholicism in the area. There was much intermarriage between the Catholic Stourtons, Vauxes, Throckmortons and Giffards.
(4) Bainbrigge took his family to Scotton Hall, now a farmhouse, near York.
In 2000 among Public Record Office Papers displayed, were two signatures of Fawkes, the second hardly decipherable, which some have attributed to torture. The lantern Fawkes used to light his way is now at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Ref: Antonia Fraser, Faith and Treason, Story of Gunpowder Plotters, 1996.
Ref: wikipedia.org/guy_Fawkes. Also Picture ref.