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The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605…

The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605 (1996)

by Antonia Fraser

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Brilliantly written and highly readable account of this most famous historical event. The author covers in detail the religious and political back story, as well as the growth, discovery and exposure of the plot, its aftermath and subsequent historiography. She offers a balanced view, coming to the conclusion that the genuine plot - and there is no doubt there was a genuine plot led by individual Catholic fanatics such as Robert Catesby, its leader, and Guy Fawkes - was used by the Government to discredit and repress all Catholics. In their sights in particular were Jesuits such as Father Henry Garnet, who was particularly ill-used here and blamed as the inspirer of the atrocity, whereas he had actually done his best to dissuade the plotters from going ahead, but had felt unable to break the confidence of the confessional to pass on his knowledge. Other interesting figures included the diminutive and disabled Nicholas Owen, who was tortured to death but still did not reveal his ingeniously devised priest holes, some of which are so cleverly designed they were not discovered for centuries and some may still be awaiting exposure. The key role of many Catholic gentlewomen in protecting recusant priests and maintaining oases of Catholic faith across the countryside is also well described. The torture and treatment of the conspirators, guilty or innocent, was clearly atrocious by modern standards, but typical for its time and also similar to treatment meted out in other countries to real or perceived traitors. All in all, this is an excellent read. ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 31, 2015 |
I wanted to like this book, I really really did. But after months of renewing it from my local library, I finally had to return it less than half way complete. Just far too detailed to get into. Very expertly documented, but that's not the best way for a mass media audience. If I find a more readable story of the Gunpowder plot I will try to remember to edit this review to include that. ( )
  fulner | Nov 24, 2014 |
The Gunpowder Plot is one of the best history texts I've read. It does have moments where it dwells too long in setting up the events but fortunately those moments are not the majority of the book. The Gunpower Plot / Guy Fawkes day is not something taught in U.S. schools (or if it is, it's glossed over) so I came to this book note knowing much and came away having learned a great deal. There are also three sections of lovely illustrations of paintings and such that were worth looking at. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 15, 2014 |
Tedious. Couldn't wait to finish it. Skimmed the last few chapters. ( )
  jmcilree | Jun 23, 2014 |
On November 5, 1605, a search party headed by Thomas Knyvet, working off information obtained from an anonymous letter sent to Baron Monteagle, checked out the area under the Parliament building in London. What they found there defined British politics and nationalism ever since. A fellow named Guy Fawkes, at first presumed to a servant man, was found guarding a pile of firewood. Under the firewood, however, was 36 barrels of gunpowder: enough to obliterate Parliament and foment a revolution. Antonia Fraser’s Faith and Treason relays the whole conspiracy of what would eventually be called the Gunpowder Plot with her usual flair and scholarship.

Fraser traces the roots of the Gunpowder Plot to Henry VIII and his efforts to separate the Church of England from the Catholic Church. This decree left English Catholics isolated and persecuted for 65 years. Two generations of English citizens had to hide their faith. The tipping point was James I’s refusal to return the country to a Catholic state or at least adequately lay out tolerance acts for all to worship. This led to a growing movement to remove James from the throne and install a more religious monarch. The plan was to destroy Parliament and install James’s daughter Elizabeth as queen.

Sadly, the ending is already painfully clear as soon as it starts. Since England’s just now its second Elizabeth, we already know that the Plot will fail. But, the failed plot is precisely the point. Since the conspiracy was exposed just before its execution, England saved itself from a unnecessary struggle for the throne (although, they would go without a monarch from 1649 to 1660). One wonders, however, what would have become of Great Britain if the plot had succeeded. That, though, is a matter for the historical fiction writers.

The book is really well-written, it has the consistency of a thriller and the feel of a work of scholarship. This is third book of Fraser’s that I have and she never disappoints. This is an incredibly thorough investigation of the Gunpowder Plot and if this is your area of expertise, her bibliography will be invaluable to your research. A great book. ( )
3 vote NielsenGW | Feb 14, 2013 |
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For Edward, who would have defended them; Lucy, who would have hidden them; Paloma, who would have succoured them in exile.
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On 21 March 1603 Father William Weston, a Catholic priest imprisoned in the Tower of London, was aware that "a strange silence" had descended on the whole city.
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Gunpowder was too moist and too old so quality was inconsistent. It didn't explode as expected and the conspirators paid dearly for it.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385471904, Paperback)

Our term "guy," slang for any man, comes from the name of Guy Fawkes, the alleged ringleader of the bungled plot to blow up King James I and the subject of Bonfire Night, the odd English holiday celebrated on November 5 by burning the execrable Guy in effigy. This and other facts tumble from the pages of this fascinating account of the Gunpowder Plot, written by the distinguished novelist and historian Antonia Fraser. Fraser delves into English religious history to show the harsh persecution of Roman Catholics under Jacobean rule and how James I disappointed those Catholics who hoped for a more liberal reign.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:21 -0400)

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"In England, November 5 is Guy Fawkes Day, when fireworks displays commemorate the shocking moment in 1605 when government authorities uncovered a secret plan to blow up the House of Parliament - and King James I along with it. A group of English Catholics, seeking to unseat the king and reintroduce Catholicism as the state religion, daringly placed in position thirty-six barrels of gunpowder in a cellar under the Palace of Westminster. Their aim was to ignite the gunpowder at the opening of the parliamentary session. Though the charismatic Catholic Robert Catesby was the group's leader, it was the devout Guy Fawkes who emerged as its most famous member, as he was the one who was captured and who revealed under torture the names of his fellow plotters. In the aftermath of their arrests, conditions grew worse for English Catholics, as legal penalties against them were stiffened and public sentiment became rabidly intolerant." "In a narrative that reads like a gripping detective story. Antonia Fraser has untangled the web of religion, politics, and personalities that surrounded that fateful night of November 5. And in examining the lengths to which individuals will go for their faith, she finds in this long-ago event a reflection of the religion-inspired terrorism that has produced gunpowder plots of our own time."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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