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10 thoughts on “The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605

  1. says:

    For much of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the repression meted out against Catholics increased almost annually You can understand why the Queen might have been a bit annoyed with the Catholics she might well have won the Spanish Armada, but even the joy of winning would have to have been tempered by the fact that these guys literally wanted her dead and were prepared to go to quite an extreme to assure that A Pope had even named her in what we would probably call today a fatwa making it virtually the religious responsibility of Catholics to try to kill her She was considered a devil, not only for being a woman ruler clearly considered a job that could only be done with the right set of genitalia intact a view that was so wide spread that even Elizabeth thought of herself as an honorary man , but also a bastard and therefore out of contention for what was basically a holy office from birth she had even been excommunicated from the Church You know, the Catholic Church had not exactly done all that much to endear itself to her Given her near absolute power, all this was hardly likely to be good news for the Catholics living in England And it didn t prove to be On a near endless list of jobs with appalling OHS standards in Elizabethan England, Catholic Priest surely was in the top ten list of most dangerous.James is perhaps my favourite Royal of all time a king with numbers than your average king being both James I and James VI, he also spoke with so broad Scottish accent that the English struggled to understand what he was saying They found it just as hard to understand why he spent so much time chasing male Courtesans around his various palaces.When the old virgin finally died and was replaced by James I there was a general view among the Catholics, at least that life for England s Catholics was likely to improve And let s face it, there was plenty of scope for improvement Life for Catholics in England was pretty well intolerable But their hopes for better days were based on the facts that James was both the son of Mary, who had died a Catholic, and also that he was married to a Catholic There was even talk that he was just waiting to become King so he could do a Blair and convert to Catholicism Things were looking up and James himself was helping to spread these rumours.And then Well, then if anything things just got worse for Catholics The repression didn t slacken, it intensified For the most part the Catholic Church called on its members to do the sorts of things that Churches in such situations often call on their members to do stay calm, have patience and pray And also typically, a group of youngish men decided that direct action was called for Of these young men Guy Fawkes who had started calling himself Guido was actually one of the least interesting In one of those twists that history likes to play he become the symbol and supposed ring leader of the plot where in fact as he was always somewhat less than this What seems to be obvious is that the plot had been discovered by the authorities a long time before it was set to go off , so to speak It seems also clear that the gunpowder had actually deteriorated, something I didn t know gunpowder could do, back into its constituent components and would never have blown up anyway but importantly, it seems clear that those responsible for making sure parliament did not blow up knew this was the case and knew it for a while before they chose to act In fact, the only injuries caused by gunpowder by this plot both figuratively and literally was to some of the plotters themselves who spread their gunpowder out to dry as they were being hunted by the authorities and found it caught alight and effectively incinerated them It also seems clear that the authorities dragged their feet in discovering the plot and that they probably did this because they knew there was nothing to fear in any case It seems those in charge had decided that there was a psychologically impressive moment for such a discovery and announcement and that everything was arranged so as to discover the plot at that best of all moments As I ve said, the plot was actually carried out by a small group of radical young Catholic men It did not have the support of the majority of Catholics in England, nor was it supported by Catholic powers abroad, nor by Catholic doctrine, nor by the Jesuit priests working in England at the time Yet all of these groups, particularly the Jesuits, would be blamed and punished for their involvement in this treason and outrage There is an interesting point made here about the Porter s scene in MacBeth and its constant talk of equivocators which is a direct reference and one I d never known before to this plot The whole question of equivocation is fascinating.Ms Fraser wrote this book in 1996 as it turns out, five years too early for us to be able to play that most satisfying of games, the we learn nothing from history game The government s attempts to tarnish the adherents of an entire religion on the basis of the actions of a few radical extremists, the efforts made to contort the doctrine of equivocation a necessity in a land where you could be put to death for admitting to being Catholic so as to make it seem like all Catholics were essentially liars and the disproportionate punishment of civilian populations so as to make them pay for the excesses of a small number of extremists have so many parallels with today it seems pointless listing them.This really is a story of our times played out long enough ago for most of us to be able to see past the petty loyalties of religious nutters to the equally horrifying games played in the name of politics well, by most of us I obviously don t include the crazies of Northern Ireland, say, who are still fighting the same wars Oh, did I say crazies, I meant family and fellow countrymen, but then, that is much the same thing This is a story of our times because it shows how easy it is to manipulate people on the basis of fear of an out group and how those in power love to play precisely these games so as to enhance their power Unlike September 11, however, the only people hurt by the Gunpowder Plot were Catholics, whereas with September 11 merely most people hurt by it have proven to be Muslim The gleefulness with which authorities of the day set about persecuting those suspected of being involved in this plot obviously not unlike the gleefulness with which we invaded Iraq was likewise inversely proportional to the level of responsibility these Catholics had for the plot.I m not arguing that there was no plot though, it appears that this is something that has been argued by historians since the days of the plot itself but rather that it seems clear the Jesuits were not involved in the plot and yet those priests captured were tortured and put to death in the most unimaginably cruel ways They suffered just as those who did plan the plot suffered The authorities knew all along they had bigger fish to fry than those directly responsible and if the truth had to be somewhat manipulated to make the noose fit, well, there was plenty of rope Colin Powell s legacy destroying speech to the UN comes to mind.This is my first book by Antonia Fraser and I must seek out I ve only just discovered that she not only writes history, but also fiction crime novels, no less and was married until his death to Harold Pinter This book is subtitled, Terror and Faith in 1605, but as I ve said really ought to have been written following 911 all the same it makes for fascinating, disturbing and depressing reading.


  2. says:

    Remember, remember the fifth of November is a little ditty that even those not living in England are familiar with Guy Fawkes Day always stood out to me personally as it is the birthday of my estranged half sister However one relates to it it is accepted as the Catholic conspiracy to blow up King James I of England Antonia Fraser portraits this undeniable act of terrorism and those involved with it in, Faith and Treason The Story of the Gunpowder Plot Fraser is a master at depicting historical events and thus continues to work her magic in Faith and Treason Dividing the text into five parts Fraser rehashes the inner workings of the Gunpowder Plot into a sort of detective court case by exploring both the environmental background of the conspirators and the actual plot Fraser uses an authoritative and scholarly voice and yet isn t dry The pace therefore moves in a steady and narrative way It is undeniable that Fraser conducted deep and intricate research while avoiding speculation In the first section of Faith and Treason , Fraser sets the scene of England as James enters the realm and reveals the religious unrest circulating during this time period For those readers hoping to immediately dive into the conspiracy this may be a little sidetracking and bland not to mention, overwhelming as a lot of detail is involved However, in doing so, Fraser sets the case and offers a well rounded view into what actually played a role in the creation of the plot to begin with Fraser moves on in the second section by introducing the conspirators and revealing the formation of the plot in the third Faith and Treason certainly picks up momentum at these points and reads almost like an exciting novel but still in an academic way Fraser has strong sleuth and debunking skills which offers new view points and angles to the reader The only issue is that sometimes Fraser delves too much into detail and seems to stray on tangents Some readers may, as a result, do some skimming Fraser s explaining of the actual plot, movements of the conspirators, and the look at evidence is absolutely remarkable Faith and Treason has an eye for historical detail and accuracy Fraser is clear and concise leaving no stone being left unturned The striking issue with Faith and Treason is the constant references to plays, dramas, and Shakespeare This is irrelevant and really has no place in an academic, scholarly writing Playwrights were not historians and shouldn t be references or alluded to yet historians continue to do use them as such The concluding chapters of Faith and Treason are particularly strong as Fraser does well wrapping up the subject as a whole by updating on what happened to friends and family of the conspirators post plot and also examining the reactions of England, other nations, dignitaries, etc immediately afterwards and throughout history since This certainly leaves Faith and Treason on a memorable note Fraser provides notes although not annotated , a list of sources, and not one but three sections of color plates plus genealogical charts to help strengthen the text Faith and Treason is an overall well written, unbiased, thorough look at the Gunpowder Plot that combines scholarly text with a readable accessibility There are some tangents and dull moments but the reader is left with a plethora of knowledge on the topic plus an interest to seek out information regarding the key figures If one plans to read only one text regarding the Gunpowder Plot then Faith and Treason should be the choice book.


  3. says:

    I m giving this four and half stars.It takes you on a definite journey into the immediate past of 1605 and 1605 itself.It covers the mood of the country,the plotters lives, connections,intended victims and right into the very heart of the court and to the king himself.The war between the Catholics and Protestants in Europe has always led to casualties and this story is no different.Told in a compelling,detailed,well researched manner the author covers her topic throughly.Loved the timeline aspect,the interesting descriptions of those involved and their possible motives,the escape attempt recreation and the topic of torture and its methods during this period.This was very well written and kept me on the edge of my seat even though i knew the outcome.By the end of this I very much count myself a new fan of this author.


  4. says:

    Remember, remember, the 5th of November Gunpowder, treason and plotAt first glance, it might seem a little odd that I am reading a book so closely connected with November and Bonfire Night at the beginning of August But although Fraser manages to untangle much of the still confused circumstances and events which made up the Powder Treason, this book is a lot than a simple recounting of the events of 1606 She places them in the context of a continuum of events dating back to the reign of Elizabeth I, and traces their impact and influence all the way down to the modern day, looking at the struggles associated with being part of a minority a Catholic in a country where that had been the majority religion not a hundred years before The terrors and vagaries of life as a recusant, and the tangled webs of recusant gentry society, are also examined.The most important and most intriguing part of the book, to my mind, though, was when Fraser looked at the question of what kind of faith, what kind of beliefs are they, that would drive a group of men to commit mass murder That s been a question for a long time where I live, and has rarely been relevant in the rest of the western world It s not an easy question, either to ask or to answer and Fraser does not, in fairness, really try to answer it She displays the evidence to the best of her ability, and leaves it up to the reader to make up his or her own mind and that s the best kind of history writing.


  5. says:

    ENGLISH At the beginning there are a few things I did not like, such as some improper comparisons of the plotters with hippies, the suggestion that James I VI was homosexual, or an unwarranted attack against Saint Augustin whom Fraser calls fanatic , but soon the book becomes a good historical study of the Gunpowder Plot, full of learning and plentiful references There is a quite good description of the barbarous way of executing traitors used in England hanged, drawn and quartered , almost as good as that in Robert Hugh Benson s novel Come rack, come rope Compared with this way of execution, those sponsored by the Spanish Inquisition are mild and moderate.The book presents a good treatment of questions such as equivocation meaning mental restriction whether it is lawful to murder a tyrant king the polemics around the confession seal and the confrontation between Appellants and Jesuits.The two main hypotheses suggested by Fraser, that Catesby was the mind behind the plot, and that the denouncing letter was forged by Cecil Salisbury and Monteagle, must be taken as mere hypotheses, for most historians do not agree with them, and anyway we ll probably never know ESPA OL Al principio hay algunas cosas que no me gustaron, como ciertas comparaciones inadecuadas de los conspiradores con los hippies, la sugerencia de que James I VI fue homosexual, o un ataque injustificado contra San Agust n a quien Fraser llama fan tico , pero pronto el libro se convierte en un buen estudio hist rico de la Conspiraci n de la P lvora, lleno de erudici n y de referencias abundantes.Hay una buena descripci n de la manera b rbara de ejecutar a los traidores que empleaban en Inglaterra ahorcados, arrastrados y descuartizados , casi tan buena como en la novela de Robert Hugh Benson Come rack, come rope A la horca Comparadas con esta forma de ejecuci n, las decididas por la Inquisici n espa ola parecen leves y moderadas.El libro trata bien cuestiones como la equivocaci n es decir, la restricci n mental si es l cito asesinar a un rey tirano la pol mica sobre la inviolabilidad del secreto de confesi n y el enfrentamiento entre apelantes y jesuitas.Las dos hip tesis principales sugeridas por Fraser, que Catesby era el cerebro de la conspiraci n, y que la carta de denuncia fue falsificada por Cecil Salisbury y Monteagle, deben tomarse como meras hip tesis, ya que la mayor a de los historiadores no est n de acuerdo, y probablemente nunca lo sabremos.


  6. says:

    I ve always been fascinated by Catholics as persecuted minority How would they behave How would they cope What would they do if they found themselves in the position they so often place other groups in I m from a predominantly Catholic country Well, it turns out they would react in the same way as others their religion is no deterrent to violence and terrorism in other words, where you stand depends on where you sit.The book is well researched, competently written, and difficult to put down The background and reasons behind the Gunpowder Plot are presented with clarity and flair And yet there is something I have to admit that I didn t know much about the author apart from that she is a British historian Then as I read this book, I found myself wondering whether she wasn t a Catholic herself I went online and voila she had converted to Catholicism The sympathy towards Catholicism is perceptible in the book, to the point where it could be seen as a slight bias I read it some time ago, so I don t remember the exact places which made me scratch my head, but I thought that there was a bit too much readiness to accept certain things about the Catholic way of treating their ideological opponents Yes, it was unfortunate that they were persecuted and oppressed in England until the 19th century but the Reformation and the emergence of the Church of England were the whirlwind the Catholic Church had sown the wind for.Guy Fawkes who was NOT the leader of the Plot, by the way and his co conspirators were very much deluded, and they paid for it horribly but f ck that, their families and friends and SERVANTS paid too, without becoming Catholic martyrs and heroes, for the most part I felt very bad for those deemed collateral damage I always do I also did feel sorry for Saint Nicolas Owen, and for the priests who tried to stop Catesby and the other dumbasses.Highly recommended.


  7. says:

    I enjoy the way Antonia Fraser writes Though she mentions tons of names, places and events, it is done in a way that I find easy to follow She gives a very comprehensive description of the times in which the Gunpowder Plot was hatched the situation of Catholics under Elizabeth I in particular, of the parents and grandparents of the plotters , their hopes in the new king James, the political situation of neighboring countries, even what Shakespeare was writing at the time We get to know the main characters well as they plan and put the plot into effect It keeps the interest all along, including the last chapter, about the consequences of the plot in subsequent centuries, all the way till our days.


  8. says:

    Whatever Lady Antonia Fraser wrote about I m sure I could read her shopping lists and be entertained would be worth reading The lady is perhaps my favourite mistress of this genre Not simply erudite, eloquent and formidably well educated, she s genuinely talented Such is the key to her success and longevity.It came as no surprise, therefore, that what has to me been one of the most excruciatingly boring episodes in history to glean facts from, was here made gripping material that refused to be put down Why couldn t we have had such reading at school People can t help learning when drinking up such words.It s unnecessary to outline here what the failed Gunpowder Plot was, with Guy Fawkes night such a culturally ingrained institution What makes Fraser s history of its advent so coherent is, as always, her elaboration of the characters, their background, their motives, etc.Just her broader insight into James I VI s kingship was enough for this reader His was never a time that resonated for me in other reading, yet here he is given life I had previously begged for in other works to gain just basic insight.Callously indifferent to his mother s cruel fate, displaying not an ounce of filial loyalty, this maternally disdainful overly precious selfserving brat spent his Scottish days awaiting Elizabeth I s death Baring a nauseatingly acquiescent grin from afar he anchored her favour as heir.As if dancing, satin shoed, on Gloriana s grave, he then minced brashly around her crumbling English palaces whose days of pomp and finery were gone before she lay cold Ostentatiously bejewelled, in dusty ermine, swirling velvet, fluttering cloth of gold and ermine, he flirted audaciously with male favourites, in an unfathomable Scottish brogue He stank Behind him trailed a grubby, uncouth imported entourage that echoed his foreign tongue, stank just as badly and collectively got up everyone s nose Yet James was impervious to the resulting courtly consternation Not entirely facile, he was icily shrewd, calculating like his great great grandfather Henry VII He also sponsored translation of the Bible named after him the Authorised King James Version.I still didn t warm to him though, but didn t need to.It s astonishing that any son of so fascinating a legend as my favourite tragedienne, the martyred Mary, Queen of Scots, could have turned out so drab to eek out depth or meaning from He would surely have been so reviled for his boringness alone that in itself would justify the hatching of any plot In fact this plot targeted the House of Lords rather than the king specifically James s rule and its incidentals personified that target though Contrasting with his predecessor Elizabeth I, her sister Bloody Mary I and father Henry VIII, slithery James I lacked fire, conviction, had a spinelessness, a wateriness I find hard to get my teeth into Yet Lady Fraser overrides this obstacle with all of her usual panache.Guy Fawkes himself was little interesting than King James, yet here we have all we need on him, fleshed out via that satisfying Fraseresque treatment she is renowned and revered for.The politics around the plot are, by any other account I ve read, dry, monotonous and interminably convoluted, particularly for those not instinctively drawn to the Jacobean era Not a patch on all things Tudor despite being immediately adjoined to its timeframe Yet these politics, too, are here given context, explained patiently and meticulously On this I knew I would be able to rely, having relished other such Fraser books Like a child in a hearth I sat, glued, welcoming the magic of this storyteller s voice.Like I said at the start, it wouldn t have mattered what it was about, it was always going to be special It was, it is I was finally able to learn things I didn t know about this fiasco, minus that dreaded textbook tedium that creeps into other accounts oh woe, oh woe Recommended especially to those who, like this reader, need than a dry old listing of dates and names to get through this done to death tale to broaden their knowledge Would have given it 5 stars but knocked off a half for my undying dislike of all things James I VI give me his neurotic mother any day, or even his sleazy grandson Charles II and another half for whoever chose that ludicrous e cover art.


  9. says:

    This is obviously a well researched book which I found to be a bit anti climactic I suppose the response to me should be that I need to go find a historical novel, which is true But I was expecting events surrounding the actual discovery of the gunpowder, etc and less exhaustive background about the minor personages of which there are many The actual apprehension of Guy Fawkes took about a paragraph, and the word gunpowder wasn t even referred to until later It was kind of a what happened moment for me almost as if the discovery was much less important than the religious fervor surrounding the plot We do get a very thorough explanation of the complicated situation the Catholics had to deal with concealing priests in carefully constructed hiding places secret masses obeying the government s insistence on attending Protestant services or not and especially the infamous equivocation when being questioned If you want a primer on the religious situation in Jacobean England, this will do the job If you want a page turner, this is not it I found myself rereading paragraphs several times Nonetheless, there is a wealth of information here and you certainly do get plenty of background before and after November 5.


  10. says:

    There is so much right about this book Her comparisons to the similarities between how today s peoples react to similar movements and plots that cause disruption and turn people s thinking into being wary and wanting protection were very relevant Catholics were not that accepted at this time, but it could have been alot worse and many just out of wanting safety and loose attitude from others about their own practice of their own faith If there was anything that people didn t wantit was to be felt as a threat or to be moved to worry about Catholicism as a threat And that is exactly what happened The plot people were a bit off the deep end of radical as to where they fit with the general Catholic population, and help from Spain in that way was supremely unwelcome It s well written, well researched, and Ms Fraser knows what she is talking about And she has a good bit of salt in writing style, similar to Barbara Tuchman And when she passes a conclusion, it s really worth considering I m giving it 3 stars because I got bogged down and it became slow reading for me I guess I m looking right now for a bit of fast movement like fiction But it is an excellent book It s a book I may reread later on.