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Gunpowder Plot

The Gunpowder Plot was a desperate attempt by upper class provincial Catholics to kill King James I of England, his family and most of the Protestant aristocracy in one fell swoop and take power themselves.

The plotters, Robert Catesby, Thomas Wintour, Guido Fawkes, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, Thomas Percy, John Grant, Ambrose Rokewood, Robert Keyes, Sir Everard Digby, Francis Tresham and Catesby's servant, Thomas Bates, were able to rent a cellar underneath the House of Lords (where the State Opening of Parliament takes place).

By March 1605 they had filled the cellar with 36 barrels of Gunpowder, concealed under a store of winter fuel. Yet a fear for the Catholic lords who would inevitably be killed led to someone (possibly Francis Tresham) writing a letter of warning to a prominent Catholic, Lord Monteagle. Monteagle showed the letter to Robert Cecil, the secretary of state, and the cellar was raided on 4th November. All the conspirators were executed or died during interrogation. Yet many people today think that Cecil's agents had infiltrated the plot early on in its gestation but allowed it to continue for dramatic effect; certainly the propaganda value of a 'Popish plot' was not underplayed during the next few hundred years.

The event is celebrated on November 5th each year in the UK as Bonfire night[?] (also known as Guy Fawkes night, after the alleged leader of the conspiracy). Communities have a fireworks display and a bonfire on which they burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes known as a Guy. It has beome traditional around this time to point out that it might not have been such a bad thing if the plot had succeeded.

In the dysptopic science fiction graphic novel, V for Vendetta, V, a mysterious anarchist who disguises and models himself as a latter Guy Fawkes, finally explodes the abandoned parliament buildings on a future November 5 as his first move to bring down the nation's fascist tyranny.

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