In 1604 three men, Robert Catesby (age 31), and Thomas Winter (age 32), and John Wright,(age 37) met at the request of Robert Catesby at his house in Lambeth (across the river from Parliament at the site of the present day St. Thomas's Hospital) to discuss possible solutions to the limitation and qualification of the rights of Catholics which James I had re-imposed in February 1604 in response to activities against the state organized by Catholics. There was very real evidence which linked the community of English Catholic radicals to foreign Catholic states which were dedicated to the defeat of England and or the furtherance of the Counter Reformation.
Despite their involvement in treasonous activities the community of Catholic radicals continued to hold significant political and economic power. These known rebels held important, trusted, positions at court despite the penalties imposed against them. They owned and operated big houses and estates. Despite their treasonous activities and their responsibility for bringing harsh sanctions down upon the majority of Catholics, these radicals remained popular within the Catholic community and were embraced by Jesuits and priests. Despite their political and economic power the Radicals sought more of the same. Delivering England to the pope as prize of the counter reformation could bring them untold power and wealth if they were able to seize the persecutory powers of state and turn them against the Protestants. To accomplish this task, however, they would have to put their case before the English people. Their revolt would have its opportunity to do just that one cold November evening in the Midlands.
In general, within popular opinion, there was a broad political awareness that Catholics could not be trusted and were dangerous. By and large, however the Catholic community was not politically radical. England had grown into a nation state whose prosperity and strength had brought a sense of prosperity and security to all. This new prosperous environment was encouraging the growth of tolerance of religion and brought a new confidence even at the highest levels amongst the Jesuit community that, given a decline in treasonous acts, the religious freedoms of Catholics would soon be restored. In 1604 England was still in a protracted war with Catholic Spain. The government for national security purposes was forced to maintain a very clear distinction between political Catholicism and Catholicism as religion.
Political Catholicism, associated with men such as Father Robert Persons, Edmund Campion, Henry Constable and Hugh Owen, the centers of exiled Catholics in Douai, Rheims, and Rome (established by William Allen), along with the growing English Regiment lead aggressively from abroad by Sir William Stanley, was closely tied to the well-known, secular and political agenda of the Jesuits. This agenda was quite clear. It was the reversal of Protestant gains and total capitulation to Rome in matters of politics, government and religion. The papacy, perhaps skeptical of the success of the counter reformation, had begun to send mixed messages. Popes - in particular Clement VIII in 1602, at times would formally disassociate themselves from this philosophy which they saw as leaning to closely to Spanish political interests. The church was it seems beginning to recognize a primacy of national politics, yet, as its reaction to the plot would clearly demonstrate, it was in 1605 still not ready to put the Counter Reformation to rest. Getting off the fence proved more difficult in practice than in theory. In our case holding sacred ritual to be more important that public safety, human pain, suffering, political and social stability does not help to exonerate Political Catholicism or cleanse it of its imperial stains.
The political side of the Roman faith made a mockery of the loyal and patriotic aspirations of a great number of English Catholics upon whom the political Catholics and in particular the Spanish Party brought down the wrath of the national government through their wild , ill conceived and dangerous acts of disloyalty. Even secular priests such as William Watson and William Clark (the leaders of the Bye Plot of 1603) found themselves straying into the secular and political arena. Political Catholics often engaged in actions which would put the religious Catholic community at large in harm's way..
Therefore, in this climate Penal laws were reinforced and priests (who were in effect politically tied to the papal state) were banished. All of the plotters were prominent members of the English Catholic Sub-Culture. All were related either by birth or marriage. The English Catholic Sub-Culture was much more that that of religious association. It extended to family ties, economic networks and political relationships both within and outside of England. This organized group had a detailed history of radical opposition to the English State and a defiance of its laws. When in power this group supported and took part in some of the most horrific and violent persecutions of Protestants under the guidance of Bloody Mary. They were as human and as imperfect as any other group.
The plotters went about their work conditioned by the heritage of the English Catholic Sub-Culture. All this took place in a world in which a leading Catholic, Sir Thomas Tresham ,could speak highly of Lord Burghley, the ruthless defender of the Tudor state from Catholicism, in regard to his charity towards recusants ,and, while the queen herself- Queen Anne was embarking on her own conversion from Lutheranism to Catholicism. The English Catholic sub-culture was indeed a complex and oft - time fragmented entity, however, it is essential to realize that it was distinctly minority entity when compared to mainstream society of England and the nation state for which patriotism and national loyalty were becoming central concerns of great importance.
The plotters had suffered greatly for their activities in rebellion against the government, and for their support of the illegal activities of their church and of its political representatives the Jesuits. They were members of a more radical, frustrated younger generation who lacked the political experience which had placed a strong value upon the concept of English citizenship and patriotism-a generation which was not willing to suffer in silence rather than to put the protections and general benefits of the nation state at risk..
Principals of the plot, including Catesby, had earlier taken part in the Essex Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I. James had suggested to the prominent Catholic Thomas Percy, that should he become king he would be tolerant of Catholics. The disappointment of this reversal was surely a motivational factor, however, another factor of equal importance was the continued engagement of England in a war with Catholic Spain. King Philip of Spain was seen as a potential savior of the Catholic sub-culture who would bring down the increasingly nationalistic English state and substitute for it a Catholic monarchy in which Catholics would come to power and turn the clock back to the days of Queen Mary, the bloody. One must bear in mind that the interests of the political Catholic sub-culture were more than those of religious tolerance. There was much to be gained both economically and politically, from a reversal of English nationalism and a return to a form of Catholic rule in which the foreign and political papacy would play a large role. It was an important sign of their times that the man who was most instrumental in uncovering the plot Lord Mounteagle, William Parker was himself a devout Catholic who had once risked his life in rebellion against the state who by 1605 having breathed the fresher air of emergent nationalism had become one of the king's most trusted confidants.
....now let us join the conspirators in their discussions....
- Go on! Read Part One next Click here for-Part 1
As we see the web was quite tangled
"First in December, Anno Dom. 1601. do
And because that in all Attempts upon England,
Concerning the Place for landing of the King
Now there being at that time Hostility betwixt
Presently after whose Death was Christopher
Now the End of Fawkes's imployment
-Source:A Complete Collection
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