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Every November the 5th, for over four centuries,
we've celebrated the discovery of Guy Fawkes,
"The devil in the vault."
But time has masked the dark truths of the Gunpowder Plot.
It could have been a turning point.
I don't think one should really underestimate
what those 36 barrels of gunpowder would have done.
Fawkes was no lone wolf.
And 5/11 was not the end of the plot.
The ringleaders were still at large, bent on rebellion.
You would have me betray my friends.
I shall not.
After it was crushed,
an investigation into this shadowy conspiracy
would uncover threads running out to the continent,
and into the King's own bodyguard.
He was aghast at how close 13 desperate men had come
to annihilating England's ruling class.
The whole intention of the Gunpowder Plot is to
do something on a grander scale than has ever been seen before -
to erase the entire political nation.
They're literally looking at a clean slate.
The plot's inner secrets were held by Thomas Wintour,
their captured military commander.
Vivid accounts of his comrades' conversations, hopes and fears
are etched still in the detailed records of his interrogation.
His confession is a remarkable piece of documentary history.
It's a shocking piece of detailed treason laid bare for everybody.
This film dramatises the inside story of the conspiracy
using the actual words of the plotters
and those of their inquisitors.
If he will in no other way confess,
the gentler tortures are to be used unto him.
He would expose the vengeful intent of a ruthless leader...
We will blow up the Parliament House, with gunpowder.
..their violent response to betrayal...
Which of us had sent that letter to my Lord Monteagle?
We suspected only one.
..and their path to self-destruction in the desperate days after 5/11.
There are none that know of this plot that shall not perish.
These were dashing, exciting young men
fighting an autocratic, persecuting government.
It's easy to find them attractive.
But beware - these men were killers, let's not forget that.
The most dangerous terrorist ever captured on British soil
made his confession on November the 23rd, 1605,
two weeks after he was taken in a bloody last stand.
Such was this prisoner's importance,
Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, the King's Chief Minister of State,
attended his so-called "examination."
No torture was used.
Thomas Wintour was ready to talk.
I do not speak in the hope of pardon.
My fault is greater than can be forgiven.
I will now set out my own accusation
and tell you how I proceeded in this business.
I remained in the country with my brother, Robert,
for the beginning of Lent, in 1604 -
the second year of the King's reign.
About that time, Robin, Mr Catesby, sent for me,
entreating me to come to London,
where he and other good friends would be glad to see me.
But I was not well disposed.
I excused myself and returned the messenger without my company.
This initial rebuff was probably influenced by Robert,
a prosperous, more conservative family man.
He had long watched his adventurous younger brother, Tom,
fall under the spell of their charismatic cousin.
Four years earlier, Catesby had first drawn Thomas,
a new convert, into his circle of Catholic gentlemen determined
to overthrow their persecutor, the heretic, Queen Elizabeth.
I think there is something about this particular group of people
that are very frustrated, very disenchanted,
it's almost as though their Catholicism
is a badge of disaffection as much as just a kind of religious faith.
They're all in their early 30s,
they're all people who've grown to manhood in the 1590s,
a sort of classic fin-de-siecle generation.
They don't seem to have the patience of their parents' generation,
they'll just sit tight, keep their heads low and wait for better times.
Actually, no, they want to do something right here, right now.
Based in the Midlands, a stronghold of Catholic resistance,
these firebrands belonged to a close-knit family network
whose grand homes gave painful reminder
of lost power and privilege.
Now they were enemies within,
oppressed by recusancy fines for non-attendance at Church,
under surveillance by watchers,
their homes riddled with hideaways to protect illegal Jesuit priests.
In March, 1603, faint hopes of a Catholic successor to Elizabeth,
the last Tudor queen, were dashed.
The wily Robert Cecil secured the Crown
for the Stuart King of Scotland.
James I of England had a young family,
promising a long-lasting Protestant dynasty.
Catesby determined to restore a Catholic England by the sword...
..and began a quest for trusted men.
Thomas Wintour was restless,
preparing to leave Huddington to rejoin an exile army,
when Catesby's second messenger came.
I received another summons...
..and this time I did go,
and found him with Mr Jack Wright at Lambeth.
Mr Catesby knew that I intended
to leave England to return to Flanders to fight.
Yet he urged me to stay.
Do not forsake our country, Tom.
Surely you believe we must...
deliver England from the servitude in which she remains?
Or at least assist her with your uttermost endeavours?
I've often risked my life for far less.
I would not refuse any good opportunity
to serve the Catholic faith, yet I see no means likely to succeed.
I have a way.
A way to deliver us from all our bonds without any foreign help,
and in one instant.
And so we shall replant the true faith.
We will blow up the Parliament House, with gunpowder.
For in that place they have perpetrated all their mischief.
Perhaps God designed that place for their punishment.
I was stunned by this extraordinary idea.
Oh, yes, it struck at the very root.
Yes, it would cause such confusion that all could change.
If it should miscarry, as most such ventures do...
..the scandal to the Catholic faith would be so great that
our friends as well as our enemies would, with good reason, condemn us.
There's something uniquely shocking about Catesby's plan, blowing up
Parliament with the King and all of the Establishment within it.
And that isn't just us!
I mean, Tom Wintour himself says when Catesby first outlined this,
he was shocked!
I mean the, country would have had no memory,
so not only no history, but no memory.
It would have been a completely blank slate
on which to create a whole new state.
But Wintour's protestations of shock
were overcome by a charge of excitement.
He was hooked.
Do you give consent to this device?
In this, and whatever else you decide upon,
I will venture my life.
Catesby's friends were known troublemakers
and no strangers to treason.
In February, 1601, he had embroiled them in a disastrous coup
which left him imprisoned and heavily fined.
The core group have a history of plotting,
they're practised at their trade.
The principal plotters have actually engaged in a rebellion
in 1601 in support of the Earl of Essex, where Catesby and the Wrights
have actually ridden into the heart of London in arms
in support of the Earl's doomed rebellion.
Catesby hungered still for revenge and immediately
despatched his new adjutant to the continent on a dual mission -
to appeal for diplomatic help from an envoy of Spain,
the Catholic superpower,
and to scout out a tough mercenary
fighting for the Spanish army of Flanders.
Thomas Wintour brings many talents to the core group of plotters.
He's a soldier,
he's also experienced in secret diplomacy.
He's loyal, he's brave.
In many ways, he's an ideal associate for Robert Catesby
in building the team that forms the heart of the Gunpowder Plot.
I crossed the sea and found the Constable of Castile
near Dunkirk, where I delivered our appeal.
I was helped by the intelligencer, Mr Hugh Owen, who, for his part,
felt himself bound in good conscience to help us.
Hugh Owen was a veteran Welsh spymaster and Catholic middleman
well placed to interpret the shifting priorities
of his Spanish paymasters.
I asked Owen if the Spanish would faithfully help us.
The answer was no.
The Spanish sought peace with England.
They held us Catholics in small account.
No plot would now be encouraged.
And so I began to enquire of Mr Fawkes.
A school friend of Jack Wright
who had left England over a decade before,
Captain Guido Fawkes was well known amongst fellow volunteers
for his fierce piety and hatred of the Scots.
There's a natural hostility between English and Scots.
There has always been and it's increasing now.
Even if there were one religion,
it will never be enough to reconcile our two nations for too long.
The Scottish King is a heretic
and the peers are unhappy with those miserable Scots
for their crudity and ceaseless quarrels in court.
Guy Fawkes wasn't part of this tight family group,
he was the one that wasn't known to the authorities.
But he did have a series of skills
that Catesby needed for this plot to work.
He's deliberately recruited because he's a clean face,
he's not known to the authorities,
but also he's got a lot of technical expertise in laying mines,
siege warfare, ballistics and he also seems utterly loyal.
Wintour's recruitment of Fawkes was subtle and effective.
Some good friends of yours desire your company back in England.
We have not yet fully resolved our plan
but, if Spanish peace does not help our cause,
we are determined to do something.
So, if it pleases you, meet me at Dunkirk in two days' time.
Fawkes and I sailed back together to Greenwich.
We took a pair of oars and rowed to Mr Catesby's lodgings at Lambeth.
Catesby welcomed Fawkes to England and asked me,
"What news of the Constable and the Spanish?"
"Sweet words," I said. "But I fear their deeds will not answer."
That summer, Lord Salisbury dealt these Catholic malcontents
the reversal they had feared,
successfully ending England's 19-year war with Spain.
The Constable of Castile, to whom Wintour had appealed,
renounced Spain's commitment
to restore Roman Catholicism in England.
It was time to abandon the plot...
..or to go it alone.
A vengeful dream turned to practical reality
at the Duck and Drake Inn,
as Catesby summoned the core cell of four
and introduced a powerful new member.
It was May.
Whether sent for by Catesby or on his own business,
up came Mr Thomas Percy and into our company.
The first words he spoke were,
"Shall we always, gentlemen, talk, and never do anything?"
Catesby took him aside, spoke to him about what could be done.
Yorkshireman Thomas Percy would become the de facto number two.
Catesby valued the older swordsman's aggression and fiery spirit.
Married to Jack Wright's sister, Martha,
Percy was also extremely well connected to power.
His patron was Henry Percy, the mighty Ninth Earl of Northumberland,
who had made him steward of his vast Northern Estates.
Thomas Percy was about same age as the Ninth Earl -
I think there was a year or two between them -
but they were very different characters.
The Ninth Earl was a very powerful magnate but he was also an academic.
Percy was belligerent, rough, intelligent, he was a born leader.
They looked to him as probably the loudest Catholic in the group.
I swear by the Blessed Trinity never to disclose the matter
that shall be proposed to me, nor desist from the execution...
'We five met again that Sunday in a chamber behind St Clement's Inn.'
Mr Catesby, Mr Percy, Mr Jack Wright, Mr Guy Fawkes and myself.
And, upon a primer, each solemnly gave each other our oath of secrecy.
That summer, the plotters enjoyed two major breakthroughs.
Thomas Percy became a Royal bodyguard.
He was enrolled into the so-called Gentleman Pensioners
by Northumberland, who was commander of this force.
The plotters had infiltrated the very heart of Royal power.
And Percy then secured a greater prize still,
a small house directly adjoining Parliament.
These were times of hope.
Thomas Percy had been tasked with taking possession of a house
beside Parliament occupied by a Mr Ferris.
Mr Fawkes then adopted the role of Percy's servant,
taking the name John Johnson and the keys to the house.
His face was the most unknown to the authorities.
A fortnight before Christmas, we finally entered the lodgings,
late in the night.
Only Fawkes, our sentinel, was ever seen.
We brought baked meats to avoid sending out for food,
and tools to dig a mine under the Upper House.
As they struggled to tunnel the mine,
the group had time to consider the aftermath of the blow.
Plans for an uprising
and the kidnap of a future puppet queen were forged.
Now we began to shape our plans, for money, for war horses,
and for all that we would do after the deed was done.
First, how we might kidnap the next heir.
Prince Henry would hopefully be in Parliament with the King,
so how would we then kidnap
the young Prince Charles, the next in line?
Thomas Percy, now a Royal bodyguard, was given this task,
as few would suspect him.
He was to enter the Prince's chamber after the blow
and he would carry the Prince away on horseback
with several confederates.
And what of the King's third child, Princess Elizabeth?
The Princess we felt would be easy to surprise in the country,
at Coombe Abbey.
We would draw together our friends nearby,
under the pretence of a local hunting party.
What foreign princes did you acquaint with the plot,
before or after?
We agreed not to solicit any foreign princes, even under oath.
We did not know if they would approve our plot or dislike it.
Yet hatred of the foreign prince who now held the English crown
It encouraged Catesby to hope that disaffected Englishmen,
hostile to the Scots, might approve of their murderous deed.
It was no accident that the plot coincided
with the King's controversial effort
to create a union between England and its old enemy.
Anti-Scottish feeling was certainly a component in the Gunpowder Plot.
There was a verse that became popular
when the Scots arrived in London in 1603 and it ran,
"Hark, hark the dogs do bark, the beggars have come to town
"Some in rags and some in tags and some in velvet gowns."
And these poverty-stricken Scots, as they were viewed,
did very well immediately out of James' accession.
They were given English land, they were given English money
and, to the extreme irritation of many English Catholics,
they collected the recusancy fines that James reintroduced.
The plotters' chosen instrument of vengeance
was safely transported to their base within the Parliamentary precinct.
Over time, gunpowder was bought and conveyed over at night by boat
from Lambeth, as we were willing to have all our danger in one place.
We had shot and powder
and we resolved to die in that house before we would yield or be taken.
Yet their iron resolution did not extend to casual assassination.
In late December,
King James hosted a lavish Cecil family wedding in Westminster.
Among the society guests, close by with sword in hand, was Guy Fawkes.
I assume that he came as a servant,
rather than as a principle guest,
and that perhaps at weddings of this kind you suspend hostilities,
if he was feeling hostile at the time.
Or perhaps he was anyway just a hireling,
a captain from Flanders
and he hadn't got his riding instructions yet.
But it is rather a delicious irony, at the very least,
that he was there.
Guy Fawkes resists the temptation to assassinate the King
when he stands close to him at a society wedding
because the game is bigger than mere assassination.
Mere King-killing is something that an early modern state
can just about cope with.
The Gunpowder Plotters' intention is to erase
the entire political nation, to destroy the buildings
and the monuments that symbolise the power of the state,
so while it might have been tempting to stab the King and see him die,
it would not have actually achieved the grander ends.
Yet terror on this scale was an expensive business.
Already the indebted Catesby had drawn in two more plotters.
At his mother's Northamptonshire home,
Catesby realised he needed more money and more men.
The burden of maintaining all of us, the hire of the many houses,
the cost of the gunpowder, all weighed heavily on Catesby alone.
Jack Wright called in his younger brother, Kit.
But it was now necessary to recruit others,
fit and willing to ease his charge.
To this we all agreed.
Wintour himself recruited the ninth and tenth conspirators,
both close to home.
Letters reveal that John Grant of Norbrook,
his sister Doll's husband, had been assiduously groomed.
With my sister's good leave, let me entreat you, brother,
to come over next Saturday.
I can assure you of kind welcome
and your acquaintance with my cousin, Catesby.
I would wish Doll here, too,
but our life is monastical, without women.
The tenth conspirator was his elder brother, Robert.
He was deeply troubled by the lack of foreign support
and high risk of failure.
But his Huddington home became another link
in a chain of plotter bases clustering close
to their kidnap target, readying for rebellion.
The London unit next made a decisive breakthrough.
Percy had secured the lease to a vault
ideally located for their crime.
Near Easter, we suddenly had opportunity to hire a cellar
directly under the Upper House.
We could abandon the mine.
Mr Fawkes laid into the cellar 1,000 billets, 500 faggots,
and covered the gunpowder with them.
Meanwhile, our company being yet so few,
Catesby was authorised to call in more confederates.
So he went to recruit Sir Everard Digby,
though at what time I know not.
And last of all, his cousin...
..Mr Francis Tresham.
Francis Tresham was Catesby's childhood companion
and a fellow Essex plotter.
The death of his father in late September
saw him inherit substantial wealth.
Soon after, with indecent haste, Catesby swooped.
It was a stormy encounter.
Sir Tresham's interesting.
On the face of it, he's one of this very closely-knit family group.
But one should always be a little wary about assuming that just
because one's closely related to people that you share
the same political outlook or the same commitments.
It's very clear that, from the outset,
Tresham is pretty appalled by this prospect.
He swears an oath of secrecy before he's told about it
and then feels immediately compromised.
He's recruited primarily
because he's just come into a large fortune on succeeding his father,
and he looks as though he can bankroll some of the plot.
But he does everything he can then to buy the plotters off.
To try and not only save the King and the country
from this terrible catastrophe
but actually just to send them overseas.
Tresham's queasiness was not shared by the other 12 plotters.
Well-versed in continental Jesuit works on tyrannicide,
they were comfortable with the idea
of the mass murder of an unjust regime.
They were warrior monks,
fighting for God and country.
Any early 17th-century Catholic believed that it was
the first duty of governments to protect the truth,
and to foster the interests of the Church, the Catholic Church.
And governments which didn't do that were, to that extent, illegitimate.
Most moral theologians would have thought
that there were circumstances in which you could consider
blowing up a Protestant regime as an act of war.
Yet many were troubled by the fate of the innocent Catholic Lords
due to take their place in Parliament.
One of their circle, Lord Monteagle, was now openly loyal to the King.
But he had employed Wintour
and was a close kinsman and friend to Tresham.
At a Middlesex safe house, the thorny topic
of which Lords might be spared, and how, was finally aired.
Thomas Percy is bound to his near kinsman, Northumberland,
and loath to see him harmed.
Assure yourselves such of the nobility that is worth saving
shall be preserved.
I shall play tricks upon them. They will know nothing of the matter.
But as for, say, Lord Mordaunt, I would not for a chamber
full of diamonds acquaint him with a secret he could not keep.
Mr Tresham is exceedingly earnest that we do not
sacrifice Lord Stourton and Lord Monteagle.
I would rather they all were blown up,
even those as dear to me as my own son,
rather than this project not take effect.
Atheist fools and cowards sit there.
Now, Thomas, what news of Prince Henry, will he be in Parliament?
We may need more men.
Catesby's response to Wintour
is almost quite astonishing in its coolness.
Tresham's, I think, exceedingly worried
that Monteagle should go and Catesby says,
"Oh, I will try some tricks, but I'm not going to make Essex's mistake
"and reveal too much of the plot. I will try and send hints
"to some of these people that they shouldn't be there."
Of course the poor people who do make arrangements not to be there,
like Lord Mordaunt, thereafter fall under immediate suspicion
they must somehow have been part of the plot.
Preparations for the uprising after the blow were now well-advanced.
New recruit Sir Everard Digby had secured a base in Warwickshire
to oversee the Royal kidnap.
Hidden stores of pikes and armour were stashed,
ready for the Catholic militia force they hoped to raise.
And the stables of war horses at nearby Warwick Castle
were secretly reconnoitred.
As the countdown reached
just ten days before the State Opening of Parliament,
the mood was one of confidence.
Then everything changed.
There was a traitor in their ranks.
Lord Monteagle is sitting down to supper
when he receives a letter from an unknown man, a man disguised.
The letter is in an obviously contrived hand,
it's deliberately disguised handwriting.
It is of course unsigned, it's of course anonymous,
and it warns him to stay away from Parliament on the 5th of November.
My Lord, I have a care of your preservation,
therefore I would advise you as you tender your life,
devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this Parliament,
for though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say,
they shall receive a terrible blow.
The danger is passed as soon as you have burnt this letter.
I hope God will give you the grace to make use of it.
Monteagle raced out to alert the authorities in Whitehall.
But, shortly after, one of his Catholic servants
at the supper also left -
to tip off Thomas Wintour.
A friend rushed to my chamber.
He told me that a letter had been given
the night before to my Lord Monteagle.
The author wished His Lordship to be absent from Parliament,
because a blow would be given there,
and he told me that the letter
had been carried forthwith by Monteagle...
..to you, my Lord Salisbury.
Wintour rushed to tell Catesby of the crisis.
The next morning, I went out to Enfield Chase
and I there told Catesby,
"The plot is uncovered. Leave the country now."
But he wanted to proceed.
He ordered me to send Fawkes back to Parliament
to reconnoitre the cellar.
Which of us had sent that letter to my Lord Monteagle?
We suspected only one.
Catesby and Wintour summoned their cousin to a forest clearing.
They recalled his fervent opposition and planned to kill him.
Tresham said, "Nothing but a bad cause can make me a coward.
"A damnable act," his words.
He's a King's man.
'Catesby and I met Tresham on Thursday at Barnet and questioned him
'as to how this letter got sent to my Lord Monteagle.'
I did NOT betray you.
'But he maintained his innocence.
'He swore he was not our accuser.'
The suspicion of all hands had put us into such confusion.
-..cut your tongue out, you traitor.
-I did not, I'm not a traitor.
The Gunpowder Plotters are now in a very difficult position.
Of course, the delivery of the letter
has, to some extent, compromised all their plans.
At the same time, this is an anonymous letter.
Governments, authorities get this kind of warning,
often an apocalyptic warning, almost every day.
How much credence do they put in it?
Is there actually going to be any action following the warning letter?
So Catesby has to decide what to do.
Tresham somehow convinced the pair to spare his life,
begging them to flee.
Wintour now sensed the game was up.
On Saturday, I met Tresham again at Lincoln's Inn Walks.
And he said that Lord Salisbury
had surely reported the project to the King
and I gave it up as lost a second time.
Robin, you must see sense.
'I repeated Tresham's warnings to Catesby
'but he wanted Percy's counsel.'
He wanted Percy's consent.
There are those fatal junctures, the opportunities to abandon all this.
So many people now seem to know about the secret.
Catesby seems desperately to need Percy's sanction.
Percy seems to be the one person who can control Catesby
and Wintour later says he needed his counsel,
he needed his consent to go ahead with it and when everyone else
was saying, "The secret's out, we need to abandon it,"
Catesby keeps going.
Percy finally arrived from the north and gave his resolution,
"No, nay, we persevere, we must abide the uttermost trial."
And so we did.
November the 4th saw Guy Fawkes ready
and waiting all day in the vault.
But the authorities were on high alert.
That afternoon, he'd been clearly spotted lurking
beside the cellar by a search party, including Lord Monteagle.
It was now a trap.
A second raiding party was sent back just after midnight.
Four hours later,
Fawkes was dragged to a palace bed chamber for interrogation...
by a King.
Who are you?
I'm John Johnson.
Servant to Mr Thomas Percy.
And your intent, John Johnson?
My intent was to kill a heretic King
and to blow you Scots back over the mountains.
Do you not seek our mercy?
No. The Devil and not God was the discoverer.
How could you contemplate so hideous a treason
against the queen and Royal children?
A dangerous disease requires a desperate remedy.
You have no authority over me.
You have no authority!
Here you see Fawkes' own determination, stubbornness,
but also you pick up on the xenophobia,
the anti-Scots sentiment, which also fuels the Gunpowder Plot.
He turns round to the King and says,
"You, I would have blown you and your courtiers
"back to your Scottish mountains."
That's the nature of the Yorkshire talk that we get from Guy Fawkes.
He's determined to go down fighting.
Wintour was stationed in his lodgings on the Strand,
close by Parliament.
Street noise had alerted his soldier's instinct for danger.
Soon came news of disaster.
The young Wright, Kit, came to my chamber.
He had just heard a nobleman call out to Monteagle
in the Strand, "The matter is discovered!"
I told him, "Go.
"Find Percy - it is him they seek. Bid him be gone.
"I myself will stay."
Seeking confirmation of Fawkes' capture,
Wintour coolly headed right into the lion's den.
The court gates were strictly guarded.
So I went down towards Parliament.
In the middle of King Street,
I found guards who stopped me and would not let me pass.
As I turned back, I heard someone say,
"There is treason discovered
"in which the King and Lords would have been blown up."
All was known.
So I rode out to join Catesby and the others in the country.
As Wintour sped northwards to the Midlands,
the planned uprising was fast unravelling.
The kidnap target, Elizabeth,
was hurried from Coombe Abbey to safety.
The fake "hunting party" of Catholic gentlemen,
assembled in ignorance nearby,
dispersed in panic as they discovered Catesby's real intent.
And the ill-judged raid for war horses on Warwick Castle
had triggered a massive manhunt.
Yet, back in London, the authorities were groping in the dark.
Only Percy's mysterious servant, "John Johnson",
now in the Tower of London, could provide information.
King James, estimating that 30,000 people
would have been killed by the blast,
was both appalled and fascinated by his defiant prisoner.
He provided a list of questions for his interrogation
and a legal sanction for the use of torture.
'What is he?
'For I do not hear of any man that knows him.
'How has he received those wounds in his breast?
'How came he in Percy's service, by what means and at what time?
'Was he ever a papist and, if so, who brought him up in it?
'If he will in no other way confess,
'the gentler tortures are to be used unto him
'and so, by degrees, until the ultimate is reached.
'And so God speed your good work.
How did you come by your scars, John Johnson?
Are they a soldier's wounds?
No. They are from the healing of pleurisy.
Why did you travel to Flanders?
I went there but once, just to see the country and pass the time.
And when you were there, did you have conference with one Hugh Owen?
I had no conference with Owen,
just ordinary salutations in open company.
Which gentlewoman wrote the letter found upon you?
A gentlewoman married to an Englishman in Flanders
by the name of Bodstock.
And why did she address this letter to a Mr "Fawkes"?
Because "Fawkes" is the false name that I used.
Guy Fawkes is, of course, the only plotter to have been arrested
and he wants to give his colleagues every chance
to put some part of their plan into effect.
So he insists on the rather unconvincing alias, John Johnson.
He tells them nothing of consequence.
As this deadly duel was unfolding in the Tower,
Thomas Wintour finally arrived back at his family home.
His brother, Robert, always more sceptical of Catesby's grand plans,
gave a bleak report of events.
What news of Catesby, brother?
Yesterday he sent for me in the fields, outside his home at Ashby.
He told me plain,
"Mr Fawkes is taken and the whole plot discovered."
What would he do?
He will not submit.
I argued that the raid on Warwick Castle
would only create huge uproar in the country.
All would rise against us.
That if we all throw ourselves on his mercy,
then perhaps the King will yield some favour to the least deserving.
But he will not let it alone.
Robert, some of us may not look back now.
So said Robin.
"Have you hope, Robert?" he asked.
"Because I assure you there is none."
There are none that know of this plot that shall not perish.
Shunned by loyal villagers and weakened by constant desertion,
Catesby would now play a desperate last card
to try and draw in Sir John Talbot,
the leading Catholic nobleman in the region.
It was a calculated and bullying ploy.
Sir John's daughter, Gertrude, was Robert Wintour's wife.
You must draw Sir John Talbot into our cause.
If true Catholics now stir, our fortunes will yet turn!
You do not know my Father Talbot as well as I.
If I sent a messenger to him, he would surely stop him.
Nothing in this world will draw him from his allegiance to the Crown.
So satisfy yourselves, gentlemen. I will not write to him!
Well then, Robert, you shall write to Sir John's steward.
And what of my poor wife, Gertrude?
And of my children? Sir John alone would look after them if I am gone.
"..pray use your best endeavours to stir my father, Talbot.
"Send to me as many friends as you have, and pray for me."
Well, sirs, this letter itself is enough to have me hanged.
And he that should conceal it.
I will deliver it, brother.
In the Tower of London that same day,
the patience of Fawkes' inquisitors was at breaking point.
The resort to torture in the dungeons below was now imminent.
Where did you stay on Wednesday last?
I have forgotten.
Your courage is unwavering.
And where did you stay on Thursday last?
I have forgotten.
And on Friday?
I don't know.
You seem a man devoid of all trouble of mind.
I have prayed every day since the action that
I only do that which advanced the Catholic faith
and preserved my soul.
You would have me betray my friends.
I shall not.
You have held your resolution to be silent.
Our resolution is now to proceed with the greatest severity.
Therefore I will you, John Johnson, prepare yourself.
On November the 7th, the die-hard plotters left Huddington
and drifted slowly westwards before arriving at Holbeche House,
scene of their last stand.
Two rival county militias were fast closing in.
Early the next morning,
Thomas Wintour arrived at Sir John Talbot's home
to deliver Robert's letter.
As anticipated, he was rebuffed like a plague carrier.
But worse news was to come.
I was still out early that Friday morning
when I saw a messenger racing towards me.
A terrible accident at Holbeche House.
Some gunpowder, laid out to dry, had caught fire, severing our company.
The sight of burnt and scorched men had led many to disperse.
Would I, too, now flee?
I wanted to see the body of my brother, Catesby,
and bury him, whatsoever the risk.
The report of Catesby's death was premature.
But despair had taken hold.
Among those who had vanished into the hills that morning
was Wintour's brother, Robert.
It is a supremely ironic moment
when the gunpowder explosion occurs at Holbeche,
and there is a sense that this is the moment when Catesby
and some of the others begin to think,
"Is this a sign of divine displeasure?"
Some of them are very badly injured, one is blinded,
this is a sense that perhaps we should actually just take
the gunpowder now and just finish the job off.
Interestingly, Wintour himself doesn't see it
in those sort of apocalyptic terms.
He just thinks it's what logically happens sometimes
if you put damp gunpowder near an open fire.
But it really does focus the minds that God may not be on their side,
that this is now where they're all going to die together.
When I arrived at Holbeche,
I found Catesby, Percy and the Wrights alive,
and reasonably well.
What do you intend to do?
We mean here to die.
I take such part as you do, brothers.
He goes back to Holbeche, to the 13, 14 remaining men
holed up in this country house.
Thomas says, "If that's what you're going to do, I'll share your fate."
And, of course, he does.
He faces up to the end with Catesby and the Wrights and Percy.
Whatever you think of their mission,
whatever you think of their intentions, they are brave men.
The Sheriff's men arrived at 11 o'clock.
They besieged and set fire to the house.
I fear we have offended God by this bloody act.
I have prayed to Our Lady for forgiveness.
But I will not have them take me.
Against that only will I defend myself with this sword.
I went out first into the courtyard...
GUNSHOT ..and was shot in the shoulder.
I lost the use of my right arm.
The next shot felled the elder Wright.
And the next took Kit, his brother.
Then I turned to see Catesby standing by the door and he said,
"Stand by me, Tom, and we will die together."
So we stood close together.
Then Percy and Catesby were hit,
as far I could guess, with one bullet,
and the Sheriff's men stormed in.
Even as the bodies of dead and dying plotters
were being stripped for trophies at Holbeche,
Fawkes was broken on the rack.
'I confess that a practice in general was first broken unto me
'against His Majesty for relief of the Catholic cause,
'and not invented or propounded by myself.'
A faint, scratchy signature of his chosen name
bears witness to the suffering of "Guido" Fawkes.
Yet his endurance had been in vain.
It's one of the great ironies of the plot that
the torture of Guy Fawkes need never have happened.
When he was being tortured on the 8th and 9th,
the siege of Holbeche was petering out
and the State had in its hands, in Worcestershire,
a man who could tell them an awful lot more than Fawkes ever could.
Wintour's arrival in the Tower set the stage for a climactic chapter
involving the pursuit of hidden accomplices,
trial and bloody retribution.
All the energies of the Jacobean state
were devoted to the investigation of the so-called "Powder Treason".
Information from spies and informants flooded in.
'These gentlemen under-named supped
'at William Patrick's hostel, The Irish Boy,
'with one other unknown to Mr Patrick or any of his house.
'Thomas Wintour, Lord Mordaunt, Sir Jocelyn Percy, John Grant,
A sickly Francis Tresham was arrested,
vehemently protesting his innocence.
'Neither my hand, purse or head was involved in the acting
'or contriving of this plot, but being lately and unexpectedly...'
Tresham died that December in the Tower, despised by both sides.
The key prize was the identity of a suspected "General Head",
an arch-traitor within the ruling elite.
Who would have been the mastermind?
Who would have been the Protector of the Realm?
Who would have actually had power?
The Gunpowder Plotters themselves were country gentlemen.
It was a status-conscious society, there had to be somebody higher up.
So went the thoughts of the Government.
Northumberland was the prime suspect.
The Earl had made Percy a Royal bodyguard
and had been visited by the plotter on November the 4th.
He wrote to fellow peers, "None but Percy can show me
"clear as the day or dark as the night."
But Percy's exhumed head was on a spike,
rotting on Parliament House.
Everything hinged on Thomas Wintour,
how much or how little he was willing to disclose.
There is a motivation for him to come up with a narrative
that's compelling, that's plausible, but that doesn't shift blame
onto people who, you know, might still be harmed.
He doesn't mention his own family members in the confession.
He doesn't mention priests, he puts a lot of the blame onto Catesby.
There is also a sense that this is being written for a bigger audience.
Mr Wintour, tell us the name of your general head.
My Lords know there was no general head.
Give us the name of the noble head of your faction.
Of our company, Catesby and Percy alone were the chiefs.
Northumberland was taken to the Tower and held there for 16 years,
but proof of a mastermind was never found.
They had hit a wall.
On November the 23rd, Wintour signed his famous confession,
declaring himself "a poor, humble and penitent prisoner."
He was burdened with guilt over the fate of his brother, Robert.
Wintour knew that the plot had failed.
He knew that in all likelihood he would die a traitor's death.
But his conscience pricked him about family members
and others that he had helped draw into the plot.
Robert was on the run for two gruelling winter months.
But he did not escape.
In early January, he was betrayed
and became a captive in the Tower.
There, Salisbury had a final trick to play.
Unseen "listeners" were installed beside the cell of Robert,
seemingly the most detached of the conspirators.
Yet they eavesdropped on talk of occult visions,
premonitions of the Holbeche explosion and martyrdom.
These words would cause a sensation at his trial.
The night before Holbeche, I had a strange dream.
I saw church steeples standing awry.
St Paul's coated black.
Stones ready to fall.
And within those churches, strange, scorched, unknown faces.
After our powder blew...
..I recognised those scorched faces as those of our injured brothers.
It is rumoured that a good while after Thomas Percy was buried...
..they exhumed his body.
His head was cut off...
..and he bled afresh
and very abundantly.
Some of us here should not die.
They offended only an intention, not action.
It is for God's cause.
Our deaths shall be a sufficient justification of our doings.
And our God will raise up seed to Abraham out of the very stones.
The State turned now to unleash its "pursuivants",
the priest hunters, to capture the shadowy Jesuits
who had been confessors to, and protected by, Catesby's circle,
and a fearful majority of law-abiding Catholics
braced themselves for retribution.
James himself is very gracious
when he addresses Parliament on the 9th of November.
He accepts that this is probably the work of a small fanatic minority,
it's not representative of all Catholics
but it clearly is very difficult for the Catholic community
thereafter to portray themselves as loyal, obedient subjects.
No mercy was shown by the Attorney General, Sir Edward Coke,
to the eight surviving plotters during their one-day trial.
'We hereby indict as false traitors who sought to kill
'the King, queen, and Princes, to stir rebellion and to change
'and subvert the established religion
'Thomas Wintour, Robert Wintour,
'Guy Fawkes, otherwise called John Johnson,
'men perniciously seduced, abused and corrupted, Jesuited!
'A treason intending
'the destruction of the frame and fabric of the nation.
'The greatest ever plotted,
'this is Gunpowder law, fit for the justice of Hell.'
Robert Wintour was executed first on January the 30th,
outside St Paul's Churchyard.
Bring him out!
Guy Fawkes and Thomas Wintour were taken to execution the next day.
They would die within sight of the Parliament House
they had intended to obliterate.
All would suffer the ordeal of ritual dismemberment
the State reserved for traitors.
De profundis clamavi ad te Domine, de profundis.
'You will be put to death halfway between heaven
'and Earth as you are unworthy of both.
'Your privy parts will be cut off and burnt before your faces,
'since you are unworthily begotten
'and in turn unfit to leave any generation after you.
'And the head which had imagined the mischief cut off.'
The plot is born of revenge and resentment and despair.
It was a desperately long shot, the odds were stacked against them
almost at every stage,
even when there was a chance of destroying Parliament.
But it was not quite the completely hopeless plan
that some people suggest.
English Catholics were spared violent pogrom.
But the black stain of this reckless act would linger for centuries.
It was the icons of their faith
that were whitewashed from national memory.
The plot was devastating for Catholics.
It cemented into place
what had been a major theme of anti-Catholic propaganda
for the previous 40 years.
Catholics, above all Jesuits, could not be trusted
and that gets enshrined in a religious Service of Thanksgiving
which would commemorate, year upon year,
the deliverance of the nation from the bloody,
murderous, demonic religion of Catholicism.
So it gets cemented into the English psyche.
Deliverance over four centuries ago from the "devils in the vault"
helped to forge the nation's new Protestant identity.
But this tale of faith and fanaticism,
loyalty and persecution,
espionage and betrayal,
resonates in a new century darkened by terror,
perpetrated in the name of God.
It's time to rediscover
and to remember the tragedy of England's greatest terror plot.
They hold their secrets.
There are lessons still to learn.