'That heavy and doleful tragedy which is commonly called
the Powder Treason.'
Sir Edward Coke, prosecuting counsel at the trial of the
On the night of 4 November 1605, the earl of Suffolk, lord chamberlain of
the household of James I, led a search of the maze of cellars and basements
that lay under the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster.
search party discovered a man claiming to be John Johnson, a manservant
standing guard over his master's winter fuel supply. In fact, Johnson was a
professional soldier and explosives expert named Guy (or Guido) Fawkes, and
the casks and wood faggots he was guarding concealed 36 barrels of
Fawkes' mission had been to blow up the Houses of Parliament where, the
next day, James I – accompanied by his queen, Anne of Denmark, and heir, Henry,
Prince of Wales – was to open the new session. A handful of men had
threatened to change the course of history.
What would have happened if the plot had succeeded?
To ensure the success of the plot, it would have been imperative for
Parliament to meet in October 1605, so that the gunpowder would have been
fresh and in working order.
So let's assume that Guido Fawkes lit the fuse, stood well back and
watched as the House of Lords – and all within it – blew up to the heavens.
The massacre of Catholics at the hands of vengeful Protestant militias
and vigilantes – an outcome feared by Francis Tresham – follows the
blowing-up of the Houses of Parliament. This has important consequences...