Plotters over a barrel
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
UNDER the watchful eye of armed police, descendants of the Gunpowder
Plotters, and those who discovered them, met for a reconciliatory handshake in
the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.
The occasion, staged in front of a heap of barrels (empty ones), was
arranged to launch a series of events to mark the 400th anniversary of the
attempt to blow up King James I and his Parliament.
Had the 36 barrels of gunpowder placed under the House of Lords been ignited
on 5 November 1605, it is likely that the country would have reverted to being
a Roman Catholic state, said Dr Chris Pond, a member of the project board for
the commemoration. The Church of England would have withered on the vine. "I
hope this will increase public awareness of what actually happened in the 17th
century and how Parliament developed," he said.
"If the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded, there is no doubt that Britain would
have been a very different place in religion, because the obvious aim of the
leaders was to reinstate the Catholic religion as the state religion. "I'm
excited about this year. It is a wonderful opportunity to tell people about
events that they know about dimly, but not in detail."
The launch brought together the Duke of Northumberland, a descendant of the
conspirator Thomas Percy; the Marquess of Salisbury, a descendant of Robert
Cecil, James I's chief minister; and Peter Knyvett, a descendant of Sir Thomas
Knyvett, who discovered Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder under the House of Lords.
During the course of the year, the Royal Shakespeare Company will stage
contemporary plays at Stratford; exhibitions will run at the Houses of
Parliament, and at the National Portrait Gallery. The Globe Theatre and the
Tower of London will also be hosting events.
The Duke of Northumberland said: "I think it's quite good that people who
have their Guy Fawkes's night can understand the historical relevance." But he
admitted that the celebrations were unlikely to redeem Thomas Percy. "He's
always been seen as the black sheep of the family."