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Gunpowder Plot document on display at Shakespeare's Birthplace

See an original printed copy of the Royal Proclamation, dated 7 November, 1605, which named the chief conspirators, all of whom had strong links to Warwickshire

Printed proclamation for the apprehension of the chief conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot
An original printed copy of the Royal Proclamation for the apprehension of the Gunpowder Plotters, dated 7 November, 1605. Photo (c) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The 413-year-old Royal Proclamation that named the chief conspirators of the failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, King James I and the Prince of Wales will be on display at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon this week.

The two-page document is among the one million museum, library and archive items held in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s world-class collection. It will be on display between Thursday and Sunday (1-4 November) to coincide with this year’s bonfire night.

The proclamation — issued on 7 November, 1605, two days after Guy Fawkes was arrested underneath the Palace of Westminster — names Thomas Percy, Robert Catesby, Ambrose Rookwood, Thomas Winter, Edward Grant, John Wright, Christopher Wright, and Robert Ashfield, describing the wanted men as “utterly corrupted” and “detestable traitors”, and their actions as “devilish” and the “most horrible treason”.

Paul Edmondson, head of research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said, “It’s a fascinating document that would have been read out in market places up and down the land, and makes it clear that to withhold information as to the whereabouts of these men would be considered treason itself. 

"The magnitude of what these plotters did not achieve cast a very long shadow, and the civil rights of Roman Catholics were severely restricted until the middle of the 19th century. This proclamation is a reminder of a failed act of terrorism, as well as state-inflicted social injustice."

A BBC Radio 3 documentary will be broadcast at 6.45pm on Sunday, 4 November, in which Paul Edmondson will discuss the Royal Proclamation, how 14 of the 19 men who died as a result of their involvement in the failed plot had links to Stratford and Warwickshire, and Shakespeare’s references to the plot in his plays.

On Saturday, 3 November, at Shakespeare’s New Place, historical interpretations company Live’n History will deliver two, 30-minute costumed presentations on the story of The Gunpowder Plot and its failure, and how the plotters escaped into Warwickshire. Performances are at 12pm and 1pm.

A Bonfire Night with a Tudor Twist takes place at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, also on Saturday, 3 November, from 5.30pm-8pm, when the Yarnsmith of Norwich will tell Tudor tales; there will also be a spectacular fire-breathing show. Tickets are £8 adults and £6 children, booking is required at or call 01789 204016.

Normal admission fees to Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Shakespeare’s New Place apply.