Who is Robert Catesby, you ask? Here’s everything you need to know — and the true story — about the man HBO’s ‘Gunpowder’ is about.
1.) Robert Catesby was born around 1572 and is believed to be from Warwickshire, England. He is best known as the leader of a group of English Catholics in an attempted assassination of King James I of England and IV of Scotland. Robert planned to kill King James after he took the throne in 1603 and it was revealed he was not as tolerant of Catholics as many believed he would be. In 1604, Robert started recruiting other English Catholics to join his fight, with the intention of killing King James by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament. This is what HBO’s mini-series, Gunpowder, is all about.
2.) Robert’s assassination attempt failed. Unfortunately for Robert and his men, but fortunately for King James, an anonymous letter detailing the assassination attempt was sent to the authorities in 1605. The authorities immediately searched the House of Lords to find one of Robert’s men, Guy Fawkes, guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder which were meant to be used as explosives. Guy was arrested while the other conspirators attempted to flee, though Robert attempted to take a stand against the Sheriff of Worcester. He was shot and killed during the battle.
3.) He is a direct ancestor of Kit Harington. In a recent interview, actor Kit, who plays Robert in Gunpowder, revealed that he is actually one of his direct descendants. According to Kit, his mother’s maiden name is Catesby, as is his own middle name. However, Kit claims he absolutely did not decide to work on Gunpowder so that he could play his ancestor. “It’s not really about me wanting to play my own ancestor. I don’t feel connected to him in that way. I just think he ended up being the character that I was most suited to, and the one that I was most intrigued about, wanted to play,” Kit told RadioTimes.com.
4.) Robert had two children before he conspired against King James. It’s believed that Robert married a woman named Catherine Leigh in 1593. Their first son, William, died as an infant, but their second son, Robert, survived and was baptized a Protestant. It is believed that after Robert’s wife and father died within the same year, he became a radicalized Catholic, leading to his assassination attempt of King James.
5.) The House of Lords made an example out of Robert. Although he was shot and killed long before the authorities were able to complete their investigation and trial of the assassination attempt, Robert’s body was exhumed and decapitated so that it could be displayed. Robert’s decapitated and decomposing head was stuck on a spike alongside the head of Thomas Percy, a co-conspirator who was shot and killed at the same time as Robert.
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