HBO’s New Series Explores Oppression of Catholics in Protestant England

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The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the oppression of Catholics in Protestant England is the theme of the new HBO series Gunpowder.

Gunpowder is a three part mini-series that tells the story of the Gunpowder Plot, the tale of a group of Catholics led by the nobleman Robert Catesby who planned to blow up the English Parliament on the fifth of November, 1605. The plot was borne out of the Jacobean era, when Catholics in England faced intense religious persecution under the Protestant Monarchy. Despite King James I promise he would not persecute “any that will be quiet and give but an outward obedience to the law,” he instituted strict punishments for being Catholic – including being hung, drawn, and quartered.

The lead role is portrayed by Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame, who in real-life is a direct descendant of Robert Catesby, whom he portrays. The series begins two years before the would-be deposition of the Protestant government in England. It chronicles the evolution of the plot as begun by Catesby, how collaborators were brought in to carry it out, and the gathering of resources as the group faces constant pursuit by the spymaster of King James, Robert Cecil.

In addition to the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, Father Henry Garnet, the principal Jesuit of England, and Anne Vaux, the cousin of Catesby are portrayed on the show and their involvement is depicted.

The series places a heavy focus on the emotional atmosphere of the terror felt by Catholics and the brave priests who gave them safe refuge. It opens with a grim scene of the execution of a young priest and Catholic woman – a very real punishment handed down during Jacobean persecution.

Watch the official trailer, and visit the official HBO website for Gunpowder here.

 

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  1. Interestingly, the actions of James I that subsequently resulted in the gunpowder plot began a period of 110 years of strife and internal unrest that did not end until the English imported a German protestant prince to become George I of Great Britain in 1714. While the country became a European military power, some of its best and brightest emigrated to various North American colonies, the end result of which was American independence in 1776. The lack of national unity had its consequences though few realized it until much later.

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