Trial of Guy Fawkes begins

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Trial of Guy Fawkes begins

Westminster, London The 27th of January 1606 AD

These days such a trial would last perhaps three months. In Jacobean times justice was swifter: Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators left alive were tried and convicted within the one day, January 26 1606. Some were executed on January 30, Fawkes himself on January 31 .

Given Guy Fawkes had been discovered in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with enough gunpowder to blow the building to pieces, armed with fuses and the wherewithal to light them, the verdict against him was never going to be anything other than guilty. He had also confessed to the crime, albeit under terrible tortures, though in that age torture could be part of the judicial system.

The trial itself at Westminster Hall was an occasion of enormous drama: tickets for the court changed hands like Wimbledon finals ticket today. The greatest judges and some of the highest figures in the in the land presided, with a total of nine commissioners: The Earls of Nottingham, Salisbury, Worcester, Suffolk, Devonshire and Northampton; Sir John Popham , Lord Chief Justice; Thomas Fleming, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer; and Sir Peter Warburton, a Justice of the Common Pleas.

The indictment was read by Sir Edward Philips, the Serjeant at Law; Attorney General Sir Edward Coke prosecuted, describing the crimes as: “the greatest treasons that ever were plotted in England.” The accused all – with one exception, Sir Everard Digby who tried to justify his crimes – pleaded not guilty, but to no avail. All were found guilty, and all were sentenced to die by being hanged, drawn and quartered.

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