An Assassin Dies

Guy Fawkes Mask

We finish our three day detour through the lives of Tragic Monarchs with the death of a king’s would-be assassin, which happened on this day in 1606.

Guy Fawkes was an English Catholic and part of a group who sought to restore the English throne to (in their view) its rightful, Catholic monarch.  They also objected to the British Recusancy Acts, imposed under Elizabeth I, by which Catholics who refused to participate in Protestant Church of England services could face fines, have their property confiscated, or be imprisoned.

In the so-called “Gunpowder Plot,” Fawkes and his fellow conspirators planned to assassinate the Protestant king, James I, and replace him with his daughter, Princess Elizabeth.  The group obtained access to a small room under Parliament’s House of Lords and began to stockpile gunpowder there.  They intended to blow-up the building.  A tip lead the authorities to search the building where they found Guy Fawkes guarding the stash. Fawkes was tortured for several days, after which he is said to have confessed.  He was convicted and sentenced to death.

On this day in 1606, Fawkes mounted the scaffolding upon which he was meant to be hanged.  Refusing to submit, he jumped from the structure, thus breaking his neck.

The failed Gunpowder Plot is still vigorously commemorated in England to this day.  It is the occasion  for bonfires, parades, and anti-Catholic night rallies by torchlight.