Robert Catesby was born around 1572 in Warwickshire to Roman Catholic parents with close links to many other local Catholic families.
He was charismatic and made friends easily - many of whom remained loyal and devoted to him. He was said to be a wild character in his youth, before he became strongly religious.
In 1601, with the Wright brothers, Catesby was mixed up in the ill-fated rebellion of the Earl of Essex against the dominance of Robert Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s chief advisor. That escapade saw him wounded, imprisoned and fined.
From then on he was seen as a dangerous character by the English government. He had, apparently, been involved in discussions with the Spanish government in 1602 about instigating a rebellion in England.
He was one of those who were arrested as a precaution by the English government in 1603 after Queen Elizabeth's death.
Catesby masterminded the Gunpowder Plot, having decided that the Spanish would not help the English Catholics. He disclosed it initially to Christopher and John Wright and Thomas Winter. Later in May 1604 he told Guy Fawkes and Thomas Percy, at his London lodgings in the Strand. He recruited others later that year and during 1605.
On news of the discovery of the plot, Catesby fled London with several of his companions. After failing to rally the the Midlands' Catholic gentry to join him in a rebellion, he reached Holbeach House in Staffordshire. Several of the conspirators, including Catesby, were injured in a gunpowder accident.
When the authorities reached the house, the conspirators decided to die fighting. The same musket ball hit Catesby and Thomas Percy and both died soon after, despite efforts to save their lives so they could be brought to London for interrogation and trial. Catesby's head was later cut off and taken to London, to be stuck on the roof of the House of Commons.