The Catholic Book Club discussion

The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605
This topic is about The Gunpowder Plot
18 views
The Gunpowder Plot (Dec 2018) > 1. Introduction (and Question)

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by John (new)

John Seymour | 1860 comments Mod
Published in Britain as The Gunpowder Plot and in the United States as Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot., there are some interesting differences in the Goodreads descriptions of the book.

The Goodreads description for The Gunpowder Plot is short and blunt/crude: "Antonia Fraser, a popular historian, has delved into archives across Europe to unravel the true story of the plot by fanatical Roman Catholics to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I at the opening of Parliament in 1605."

The description for Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot contains much more descriptive information, but also has a different tone: "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."

Which of these two descriptions do you prefer? Which do you think is more accurate? Do you agree or disagree with the depictions of the plotters included in these descriptions?


message 2: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 93 comments I prefer the second; it’s more nuanced, detailed and objective. In the Goodreads description I wish the writer had said “zealous” and not “fanatical,” when speaking of the Catholics.


message 3: by Fonch (last edited Dec 01, 2018 04:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Fonch | 1186 comments The book is excellent but i commented with my friend Alfonsaca There were some historiacal paralellisms, with which i do not absolutely agree. For this reason i rated with four stars. This book is really influenced by other previous book was written by the convert Hugh Ross Williamson, which appeared quoted in the Bibliography of Antonia Fraser https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... Joseph Pearce comented in his marevellous book Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief by Joseph Pearce.


message 4: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 666 comments I consider myself a zealous Catholic, eager to spread the faith, but I would never consider blowing people up as a good way to advance Christian objectives.


message 5: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 93 comments I preferred "zealous" because I was considering the historical context: the extreme repression of Catholics, the fact that Guy Fawkes and those who survived with him were put to death by the hideous practice of drawing and quartering. It's ok with me to use "fanatical," if the British Protestant government responsible for the anguish of the Catholic population out of which Fawkes emerged is described that way, too.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1438 comments Mod
Frances wrote: "I preferred "zealous" because I was considering the historical context: the extreme repression of Catholics, the fact that Guy Fawkes and those who survived with him were put to death by the hideous practice of drawing and quartering..."

In fact it was "hanging, drawing and quartering." First they were drawn throughout the town, tied to a wooden contraption dragged by horses, usually after having been tortured; then they were hung in the gallows; before they were dead, they were taken down, and then their "private parts" were cut, their belly was open, and their bowels and entrails were extracted one by one. The last was the heart, and until then the executed person was usually still alive.

This horrific way to execute death penalties was reserved for the crime of treason. But as Catholics denied that the king (or the queen) was the head of the Church, their priests, and many others, were automatically guilty of treason, so hundreds of them were executed in this way during the reign of Elizabeth, and many more later. In fact, Thomas More was also condemned to this kind of death, but Henry VIII, who considered him his friend, commuted his sentence to decapitation.

If you have read "Quetzalcoatl's Zahir" you'll see that what Gonzalo sees in the mirror is himself starting to perform the last part of this treatment on Vicky.

I seriously think that this form of death penalty is probably one of the worst ever, and the shame of Europe. However, it has been successfully covered up, in such a way that the Spanish Inquisition became the paradigm of cruelty, even though the number of death penalties was much smaller and the way of execution for most of them much more "humane" (by a procedure similar to the way rabbits are killed). Only very few were condemned to be burned alive, most were burned after death.


message 7: by John (new)

John Seymour | 1860 comments Mod
I am still waiting for my copy from the library. It is "in transit." About half of the discussion questions are from LitLovers. The others are my own, just thinking about the topic. Feel free to add your own.


Fonch | 1186 comments Manuel wrote: "Frances wrote: "I preferred "zealous" because I was considering the historical context: the extreme repression of Catholics, the fact that Guy Fawkes and those who survived with him were put to dea..."
A part of this we have to speak about the other nasty questions the rakings to the prisioners, and the hypocresy of the Tudors and Stuarts about this topic, and about the question of the Father Garnet, that he knew the conspiracy, and he was against the conspiracuy he could not tell because he was under the secret of confession.
The death penalty disappeared in Egland in the sixties i have the impression that Graham Greene told this story although i did not know the title of this short story. In France disappeared with François Mitterrand, despite the fact the popularity of the Death penalty in France. I quoted to Aramis in the Three Musketeers God wanted the redemption not the death of the sinner.


back to top