The Significance of the Gunpowder Plot for Catholics During 1605 - 4620

Topics: Gunpowder Plot, James I of England, Catholic Church Pages: 6 (2227 words) Published: July 11, 2013


This essay will discuss the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when a group of catholic noblemen plotted to blow up the English House of Parliament; the target of the plot was King James VI of Scotland and I of England. This essay will focus on how the event impacted Catholics and their treatment in society and law after the event. Primary sources including letters, Parliamentary documents and their insight into how the event impacted Catholics in the years after the event will be used to provide evidence and Secondary sources to provide different historians views on the treatment of Catholics.

The gunpowder plot had a significant effect on the catholic community due to the new laws and oaths put in place by the strongly protestant parliament and House of Lords. An example of this would be the Oath of Obedience, a law put in place by James I on June 22nd 1606, this meant all Catholics had to swear their allegiance to the king as head of church instead of the pope; this followed the Popish recusant’s act of 1605 which increased the watch on Catholics by government and the education of their children in the true religion, this being Protestantism. The impact on Catholics because of this oath was great as they had to swear against their faith causing them in God’s eyes to be heretics. An effect of the plot was that previous laws against their religion where brought back into parliament and strengthened due to James protestant upbringing and the reaction of society after the plot, To keep Protestants satisfied parliament where under pressure to victimise all Catholics and not just those who were connected to the plot; the protestants where scared that Catholicism could retain its hold in Britain. Catholic priests where under scrutiny for the writing’s, beliefs and connections (to the plotters) they had in the years before and after the Gunpowder plot, These where classed as “heretical, treasonable and damnable” to use the quote in Father Henry Garnets trial, a catholic priest who was trialled in connection to the plotter Robert Catesby. The trial of Father Henry garnet, conducted by the Privy Council, was preceded by his connections to Robert Catesby but also his writings after the gunpowder plot; this was conducted on 13th February 1606.This trial was of significance for Catholics as it showed the catholic population the opinions in parliament and more importantly the king’s opinion on Catholicism.

Catholics where continually under persecution by the government after the gunpowder plot, opinionated actions in society like the vote where withheld from the catholic community until 1829, this can be seen as a major impact on catholic opinion due to the gunpowder plot causing mistrust and fear of the Catholics. “Until 1797 no catholic male could vote in elections, and until after 1829 they could not vote in elections to parliament” Alan Haynes wrote in argument that “the gunpowder that did not explode, despite the earnest tending of Guy Fawkes, nevertheless managed to cause a severe, albeit invisible, national wound.” This suggests that even after the plot Catholics where withdrawn from society, their opinions invalid and their faith ridiculed for centuries after, giving reason for the harsh reputation of Protestants treatment of Catholics.

There were few social aspects of the impact of the gunpowder plot for Catholics but in 1697 the country was obsessed with the fear of catholic conspiracy once more. Cartoons and portraits where made after the plot to celebrate the fail of the plot but also to put fear onto the protestant population, the new printing press made publication of leaflets and cartoons easier and quicker than in Elizabeth’s reign. Puritans, the most extreme group of Protestants, printed cartoons to establish fear amongst the Protestant community and implicate catholic conspiracies. [See figure 1]The cartoon was originally...

Bibliography: Parliamentary Copyright House of Lords, 2005 & 2006.
A. Hart- Davies, What the Tudors and Stuarts did for us, 2002, Boxtree, 0752215086.
D. Jardine, Criminal Trials volume 2 part 1, first edition 2010, Nabu Press, 9781145785243.
D. Murphy, I. Carrier and E. Spary, Britain 1558 – 1689, 2002, Collins educational, 9780007138500.
( Parliamentary Copyright House of Lords, 2005 & 2006.)
Figure 2: an extract from a speech made by James I after the plot occurred
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