Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plotby Antonia Fraser
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 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.
Guy Fawkes Day, on November 5, is England's annual commemoration of the failed 1605 plot by a small group of English Catholics to blow up the House of Parliament with King James I present, in an attempt to bring back Catholicism as the state religion. Fraser's account of this dramatic incident is distinguished by her perspective on the larger issue of treason and on the vexed question of faith and patriotism. "The end of the sixteenth century," Fraser notes, "was an uneasy time in England. Harvests were bad, prices were high. As the Queen grew old, men everywhere were filled with foreboding about the future." Individual plotters (including "Little John," the near-dwarf who created hiding spaces for Catholic priests, the charming Guy Fawkes, and Robert Catesby, the plot's charismatic leader) and the society in which they moved take on the depth and dimension of real life. In addition, Fraser's thoughtful narrative probes the serious issues raised by the event. Her self-appointed task is above all "to explain . . . why there was a Gunpowder plot in the first place." Foremost among the striking aspects of English society Fraser illuminates is the Elizabethan distrust of Roman Catholics, who were suspected of disloyalty and were sometimes tortured and imprisoned for their beliefs. And she sets her discussion of the Gunpowder Plot against the background of modern problems of religious terrorism, describing the plotters as the equivalents of modern-day terrorists whose violence stems from their perceived weakness and desperation.
Fraser's book, a solidly researched and gripping account of religious battles and persecution, forces the reader to reflect on both the gruesome results and complex origins of terrorism.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Random House
- NOOK Book
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- 9 MB
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