For Americans, The Gunpowder Plot may be something you have never heard of, or had maybe only learned of while in high school history class (and therefore probably don't remember). The new miniseries, Gunpowder, premiering on HBO Dec. 18, will show us all something a bit more interesting than an average class may offer — and it may leave you wondering, What happened to Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby IRL? If you want the answer to that question, know that there will be major spoilers ahead for the Gunpowder miniseries... but only if you fell asleep in that high school history class.
According to the History Channel website, The Gunpowder Plot was a planned attack to bomb the English Parliamentary building back on Nov. 5, 1605. The mastermind behind the plot was Catesby, while Fawkes was a supporting member and the one actually in charge of executing the attack. Ultimately, the strategy of this attack, if successful, would theoretically help stop the governmental persecution of Roman Catholics in England. Had they been successful, the bombing would have killed King James I, as well as any other members of Parliament in the building. The plan was only foiled, as the History Channel notes, because of an anonymous letter that was sent to a brother-in-law (Lord Monteagle) of one of the conspirators, which warned him to stay away from the House of Lords that day. Suspicious, he raised alarm and the plot was discovered.
The BBC goes into great detail outlining the chronology of the events of the plot. After Monteagle got the letter, he notified the authorities and a search of the building followed. That's when Guy Fawkes was discovered, along with 36 barrels of gunpowder. He was immediately arrested and, after being tortured, gave up the identities of the others who were involved with the plot. In the days that followed, all of them would end up being captured or killed.
The fates of Catesby and Fawkes are arguably the two most interesting ones out of the various conspirators. According to the BBC, Catesby and the other conspirators were on the run when they were tracked down to the Holbeche House in Staffordshire. It's there that they made their last stand. Faced with 200 government men, the ensuing shootout killed Catesby. According to the Radio Times, after being shot, but before dying, Catesby reportedly crawled back into the house and was found dead, clutching a picture of the Virgin Mary.
Fawkes, on the other hand, was supposed to be drawn and quartered. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, this gruesome process usually involved hanging, disemboweling, beheading, cutting/pulling off the victim’s arms and legs, and more. However, Fawkes escaped this fate. Just before his execution was to be carried out, he jumped from the gallows, broke his neck, and died instantly, according to The Telegraph.
Fans can expect to see a similar level of brutality in the TV series, just like in the real accounts of what happened. John Cooper, a historian who worked as a consultant on the series, said to The Times that the show contains "one of the most graphic representations" of the historical torture tactics. Definitely NSFW.
Neither Kit Harington, who plays Catesby, nor Tom Cullen, who portrays Guy Fawkes, will be making it out of this miniseries alive. But, even if you already know what happens to Catesby, Fawkes, and the rest of the conspirators of The Gunpowder Plot, it will certainly make for interesting television. As Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction,” and that certainly may prove to be the case when Gunpowder premieres.