Monument commemorating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot Frontpiece of Monument


Historic Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces
United Kingdom

This monument in the Council Chamber of the King’s House at the Tower of London is a unique reminder of one of the most notorious events in British history; the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Erected in 1608 for the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir William Waad (1546-1623), it commemorates the failure of a small group of Catholic rebels, including the infamous plotter Guy Fawkes, to blow up the House of Lords, and with it King James VI and I (1566-1625), during the State Opening of Parliament on the 5th November 1605.

Waad had played a central role in the unravelling of the Plot. After Guy Fawkes was apprehended with his barrels of gunpowder in the undercroft beneath the House of Lords he was brought to the Tower as a prisoner. There in the hall of the King’s House – then known as the Lieutenant’s Lodging – he was interrogated by Lieutenant Waad and by members of the Privy Council. Only after torture did Fawkes reveal the names of his fellow conspirators and expose the extent of the Plot.

In 1607 Waad had the hall of the King’s House remodelled. The formally double height space was divided in two by the insertion of a floor, creating a dining room downstairs and the Council Chamber above. The following year he commissioned this monument for the wall of the Council Chamber.

Made of pink and black marbles and alabaster, this monument appears, at first glance, to be a fireplace overmantel or a funerary monument. It is, of course, neither but the unnamed stonemason who made it had no other precedent to follow for designing such a unique monument. In the oval panels Latin texts praise the King and his family, extoll the virtues of the Privy Councillors who foiled the Plot, and condemn the wickedness of the plotters, whose names are listed.

A passage in Hebrew in the lower left oval quotes the Old Testament; 'He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death' (Job xii.22). The choice to use Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, for this particularly apt text is a reflection of Protestant opposition to the Latin translations used in the Roman Catholic church.

Along the top are the coats of arms of the members of the Privy Council, but it is Waad’s own arms that are most conspicuously displayed at the bottom. The prominence of Waad’s arms indicates that this is a monument to his own posterity, recording for all time his role in the failure of the Gunpowder Plot.

However, the monument also had another, more sinister, purpose. The Council Chamber was designed as a room in which to interrogate prisoners and the monument acted as a warning that uncooperative prisoners could suffer the same grisly fate as the Gunpowder Plotters.

Alongside it, and probably carved at the same time, is a portrait bust of James VI and I providing the interrogations with royal authority and, according to later descriptions, the room may also once have been decorated with wall paintings depicting men being tortured. This fine monument, therefore, was part of a cleverly designed scheme intended to aid the process of interrogation and is unlike anything else in Britain.


  • Title: Monument commemorating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot Frontpiece of Monument
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1608
  • Location Created: Tower of London
  • Type: Monument
  • Rights: © Historic Royal Palaces
  • External Link: Explore more from Historic Royal Palaces
  • Medium: Marble, alabaster, and oil paint
  • Art Form: Architecture
  • Upper Right Roundel Translation: Robert Cecil Earl of Salisbury Chief and Royal Secretary and Treasurer of England Son of a most illustrious father and most deserving of the State a son by far the most worthy successor to his ancestors' natural gifts. Henry Earl of Northampton Warden of Cinque Ports and Keeper of the Privy Seal the most learned of the eloquent, most eloquent of the learned. Charles Earl of Nottingham the victorious High Admiral of England. Thomas Earl of Suffolk a most noble Chamberlain of the King Three most noble men from the ancient Family of the Howards and the stock of the Dukes of Norfolk. Edward Somerset Earl of Worcester, the most accomplished Master of the King's Horse. Charles Blunt Earl of Devonshire, Viceroy and Ambassador of Ireland. John Areskin the most illustrious Earl of Mar Governor of the Principal Ports of Scotland. George Hume Earl of Dunbar the most prudent Treasurer of Scotland. All Knights of the most illustrious Order of the Garter. John Popham Knight Chief Justice of England and most skilled in Law and Justice.
  • Upper Left Oval Translation: James the Great King of Great Britain most renowned for piety, justice, prudence, learning, courage, clemency, and the other Royal virtues, of the Christian faith, of the public safety, of universal Peace the Champion, a cherisher, an author, most keensighted, most noble, most auspicious. Ann the Queen the most serene Daughter of Frederick II the most unconquered King of the Danes, Prince Henry in the adornments of Nature in the strength of learning in the gifts of grace most thoroughly versed. To us both born and given by God. Charles Duke of York by Divine growth for every virtue. Elizabeth true sister of both, and most worthy of each parent. Do thou foreseeing strengthen these as the delicate apple of the eye and hide them far away from the assaults of the impious fearless under the shadow of thy wings.
  • Top Right Corner Translation: O Holy Father how many watchful and how Wonderful tokens of they care for us come to our aid? Which neither can our feeble mind perceive in quickness of apprehension, Nor can our tongue unfold in number.
  • Top Left Corner Translation: Renowned King thou art the bond by which the State hangs together,
  • Lower Right Oval Translation: All the most illustrious men, whose name to their eternal memory to be consecrated to Posterity have been placed above first of all according to their lineage as to the King by their Counsels, so by him deputed as inquisitors the several accused men having been many times called before them with incredible diligence and care, and their minds having been disturbed with no less shrewdness and dexterity forced to voluntary confession those men convicted after the answers of each had been compared And brought to the light the villainously hidden connexion of the consipiracy and the whole matter as thus far it had been carried out and was further about to be carried out by them with the greatest fidelity searched out to their eternal praise: in such a way that it was brought to pass by the unparalleled providence of the Divine One that so imminent and so foul a storm should be put aside from the King's majesty, and the Royal children and the whole Kingdom, but should recoil on the authors of it themselves and their allies.
  • Lower Left Oval Translation: The names of the consipirators to the everlasting infamy of themselves and the eternal detestation of so great savagery. Monks who belied the saving name of Jesus, Henry Garnet, John Gerrard, Oswald Tesmond, Edward Hall, Hamo Baldwin, Thomas Winter, Robert Winter, John Winter, Guy Fawkes, Thomas Bates, Everard Digby, Ambrose Rokewood, John Graunt, Robert Keyes, Henry Morgan, Thomas Percy, Robert Catesby, John Wright, Christopher Wright, Francis Tresham, Thomas Abbington, Edmund Baineham, William Stanley, Hugh Owen, [Hebrew] He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death (Job xii.22). He unfolds and brings into the light from the obscure night Things deep in the vast earth, and hidden in the darkness of fate.
  • Centre Oval Translation: To the Most High God Trinity and Saviour The destroyer and avenger of the atrocious and unbelievable conspiracy to blow up with gunpowder Our Most Merciful King, Our Most Gracious Queen, the Prince of Divine disposition and promise, and all the Royal Family, and the choicest flower of all Orders, Ancient Nobility, hereditary courage, purest piety, and perfect justice. A conspiracy prompted by the mad lust of quenching the true and Christian faith, and the nefarious desire of utterly destroying the Kingdom bythe instigation and aid of the Roman Jesuits of perfidious and serpentine impiety and other perpetrators and accomplices of the same mad crime, detected as it was miraculously by divine aid in an incredible and unhoped for fortune in the very moment of carrying out the pestilent plot (on the 5th day of November of the Year of Grace 1605). William Waade, appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of His Majesty the King, has dedicated by this perpetual memorial all the greatest and undying gratitude that mind can conceive, to be felt and rendered by those of our own times and posterity. Dated this 9th day of October in the sixth Year of the reign of King James I in the year of Our Lord 1608.
  • Catalogue Reference: 3902208
  • Bottom Right Corner Translation: I am the Keeper of the keeper, the Prison of the prison, the Citadel of the citadel and the Guard of the guard. I am the Tower of the tower, I am the chain in chains, the fetter encompassed with a fetter. Fastened I fasten, secured I secure, holding I am held. So long as the safety of the King and Kingdom stands strong calm, Glorious, I am the fetter of the fetter as far as I am allowed.
  • Bottom Left Corner Translation: O King, O Queen, O thou dutiful Prince of the whole Kingdom and thou O Parliament, The pillar of the state a prey that wert to be devoured by the cruel funeral pile, By the viper-like race and the pestilence breathing Hydras The venom o fthe Jesuits, fierce as the wolf, Beyond both our home and belief is so divinely taken away. Therefore let the whole Parliament be thankful and give thanks to God.

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