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Born on 13th April 1570 in York, Guy Fawkes was the only son of Edward Fawkes, a respectable, middle-class Protestant. Edward worked in the ecclesiastical courts of the Archbishop of York and Guy's mother, Edith, was descended from a local merchant family, the Harrington's. Guy Fawkes' childhood was uneventful until January 1578 when his father died. In 1587 Fawkes' mother remarried and the family settled in Scotton, about 20 miles from York. Her new husband was Dionysius Bainbridge of Wheatley Hall who was a devout Roman Catholic. The young Fawkes was heavily influenced by his step-father's opinions and he began to convert to Catholicism.
Fawkes the Rebel...
Fawkes left England in 1593 as a converted Catholic and he joined the Spanish army. The Dutch had revolted against their Spanish overlords and Fawkes fought against the uprising, showing a brave and determined side to his character. He learnt about siege warfare and the use of explosives to blow up buildings and fortifications. In 1603 Fawkes even travelled to Spain to encourage the Spanish to launch a new armada against England. With the death of Elizabeth I in the same year, all English Catholics had hoped that the new king, James I, would restore England to the Catholic faith but this was not to be. During Easter of 1604 Guy Fawkes was approached by Thomas Wintour to join a conspiracy against James I. The remaining conspirators were Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, John Wright, Christopher Wright, Everard Digby, Robert Wintour, Francis Tresham and Thomas Bates
Fawkes' return to London was unnoticed - he had been out of the country for so long that no-one knew him. He adopted the alias 'John Johnson' and took on the guise as Thomas Percy's servant. It was decided to detonate an explosion beneath the House of Lords when Parliament was sitting - this one act would surely kill the king and most of the lords who supported him. The way would be cleared for a new government and perhaps a change of religious policy? It was decided that Fawkes would oversee the construction of a small tunnel and the placing of barrels of gunpowder beneath the Palace of Westminster. He also chose to stay with the explosives and guard the tunnel. Robert Catesby advised Fawkes to flee to the Continent as soon as he lit the fuses. Wise advice indeed! Robert Catesby was to lead a small group of conspirators on a daring attempt to kidnap the king's daughter, Princess Elizabeth. She was staying in the Midlands at the time under the care of courtiers and a small detachment of soldiers.
The Plot fails...
Unfortunately for the conspirators, knowledge of the plot was leaked. Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter (now believed to have been written by his brother-in-law Tresham) telling him to avoid the opening of Parliament on November 5th. Two searches were made of the storage rooms under the Parliament buildings and Fawkes was discovered, sitting with the faggots and gunpowder. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and forced to confess, giving the names of the other conspirators after enduring many hours of torture. Fawkes was subjected to a show trial with his fellow conspirators and found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered - the punishment for treason. Meanwhile, Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, Christopher Wright and John Wright had failed in their attempt to kidnap Elizabeth and had fled to Holbeche House in Staffordshire. Surrounded by the Sheriff of Worcester and his soldiers on 8th November 1605, Catesby refused to surrender. He died with his friends in a hail of bullets after attempting a last stand. Guy Fawkes, Everard Digby, Robert Wintour, Thomas Wintour and Thomas Bates were taken from the Tower to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster and publicly executed on January 31st 1606. Francis Tresham died in the Tower of London on December 22nd 1605 under mysterious circumstances!
What if the plot had succeeded...
Every November 5th we celebrate the failure of the conspiracy and it is tradition to burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes on bonfires around the country. However, what would have happened if Fawkes and his conspirators had succeeded? If King James and his ministers had been assassinated would there have been equal rights for Roman Catholics in England?
There were two major flaws with the plot. Firstly, the gunpowder had deteriorated to such an extent that it would not have exploded. Parliament was originally to have convened on 3rd October 1605 but this was postponed to avoid the after-effects of the plague. The gunpowder barrels were sitting in a damp cellar for weeks and they had begun to deteriorate - even if the fuses had been lit there would have been no explosion. Secondly, Catholics in England had no knowledge of the plot and would have been as appalled as the Protestant English at such a dreadful crime. As word spread of the death of the king there would no doubt have been reprisals against Catholics around the country. England could have become an extremist Protestant state. The king's surviving son, Prince Charles, would have become king at the age of four and no doubt been raised as a reactionary Protestant king, rather than an Anglo-Catholic monarch in eventual dispute with Parliament.
Speculation and imagination can create all kinds of probable 'what ifs' but we can be certain that the Civil War would not have taken place. The dispute concerning 'Divine Right' of the king may never have arisen and this in turn would have affected the future development of the monarchy and the country as a whole. Many modern historians now believe that Robert Cecil, the Secretary of State of James I, may have hatched the plot to destroy Catholic sympathies in England once and for all. There is much evidence to support this view but that is for another time and another place...
The Fourth Portrait
The fourth of Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Ian Rank Broadley, FRBS, FSNAD, whose initials IRB appear under the head, as used on all British coins from 1998.
The legend (inscription) reads:
ELIZABETH II D G REG FID DEF
The reverse features in a circular arrangement the symbols of state the mace, crosier and sword.
The legend (inscription) reads:
1605 - 2005
REMEMBER REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER
|Version||Diameter||Weight||Alloy||Actual Metal Weight|
|Piedfort Silver Proof||28.40||24.00||.925||0.7138|
Notes to Table
Diameter = Diameter in millimetres.
Weight = Weight in grams.
Alloy = Fineness of metal content.
AMW = Fine metal content in troy ounces.
Prices & Availability
BU Specimen in Folder
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Piedfort Silver Proof
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2005 60th Anniversary WWII £2 Coins - St. Paul's Cathedral
2005 Silver Proof Piedfort Four Coin Set
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