Plot by David Macfie
For a little over four centuries, my ghost has wandered aimlessly through the Houses of Parliament and the tower of London where I spent most of my final days as a living breathing human being. Convicted of treason and executed, my shade can find no rest in Heaven. And, as a good Roman Catholic, I am loath to descend into Hell.
And since confession was denied me at my death, I have increasingly felt the need to unburden myself of the truth.
So it is that on the 411th birthday of my demise, I have decided to tell my tale. I hope that someone, somewhere will see it, read it and understand why I did what I did. And why, in the name of my God and my religion, I cannot repent.
I was born in York and spent my early years there with two of my three siblings. The third died early. My father’s family were Protestants and I was raised as such. My mother was widowed when I was eight and subsequently re-married. This was the start of my road to ruin. My mother’s family were Catholics. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, my new father was a Catholic. One of the ever dwindling number since King Henry VIII proclaimed that England would be free of Popery and formed the Church of England. Such was the influence of the new head of our house that I became a devoted Catholic.
I fought in the Eighty Years’ War on the side of the Catholic Spanish against the Dutch Protestant reformers. While in Spain I tried, unsuccessfully, to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England against the heretic King James I. This idea gradually formed in my mind as I watched the persecution of my fellow believers. They also rejected being forced out of one religion into another. Henry was a King, crazed by greed and power, who had very little faith within himself. And now James wanted to finish what Henry had started and intended ‘to have all of the Papist sect driven out of England’.”
During this time in Spain, I met and became friends with Thomas Wintour, a man of like mind to myself.
Eventually, in early 1604, we returned to England together. There Thomas introduced me to Robert Catesby, the leader of a small group of English Catholics. The group planned to assassinate King James and put his daughter Elizabeth on the throne. Believing this was the only way to protect the English Catholics, I agreed to join the group.
Our plan was to kill the King by blowing up the Houses of Parliament.
We leased a filthy, unused cellar that was situated directly under the House of Lords and, by late July of 1605, had placed thirty six barrels of gunpowder there. So far so good, we thought. We were planning to kill the King on the opening day of Parliament.
Then we had our first setback. Due to the threat of a plague outbreak, the opening was delayed to November 5th. During the delay our gunpowder decayed and we had to move more into the cellar. This second setback seriously placed our plans in jeopardy. The threat of discovery being ever-present. To reduce this threat, we concealed the barrels with cords of firewood.
During our latest planning meetings, it was decided that I would have the honor of lighting the fuse. Afterwards, I was to quickly leave the Parliament buildings, cross the Thames and escape to Europe. There I would meet with Catholic powers to explain my part in the conspiracy. I was filled with religious fervor and believed it was my holy duty to kill the King.
We had a scare in late October when a letter was sent to a fellow Catholic to warn him to stay away from the Houses on opening day. We learnt of the letter and lay low. On 30th October I checked our cellar and, when all was well, we decided to proceed.
Late in the evening of 4th November, I took up my place in the cellar to await the opening. Alas we were betrayed. The letter was shown to the King and he ordered a search of the cellars below the Houses. In the early hours of the following morning I was discovered with my watch and a slow match, sitting on the barrels. Of course I was arrested and taken to the Tower of London.
I was tortured to make me reveal the names of the others in the conspiracy. The torture continued until November 8th, when I finally broke and related some names.
I, with seven others, came to trial on Monday 27th January of the next year. The outcome was never in doubt. We were all found guilty and sentenced to be fastened to a wooden panel and drawn by a horse to the place of execution. There we were to be hanged until just before death. At that point we were to be brought down from the gibbet, emasculated, disemboweled and, finally, beheaded. Now dead, our bodies would be cut into four pieces. These would be taken to the four ends of England to be publically displayed as a warning to others.
I was lucky. I watched as Robert and Thomas received their punishment. I was last to be executed. There was some miscalculation at the hanging. Whether by my own fault or the fault of the hangman, my neck was broken as I dropped. I therefore avoided the worst part of my demise.
Now, I find it hard that I am remembered as a stuffed dummy atop a bonfire or in a children’s nonsense song, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.”
Needless to say, I am the ghost of Guy Fawkes and that was my story.