On this day in 1605 was discovered “a most horrible conspiracy of the Papish against the King [James I]” to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster, for their roles in which Guy Fawkes and his fellows were cruelly put to death. (The discoverer, incidentally, one Thomas Knyvet(t), the Keeper of Whitehall Palace, was rewarded by the granting of an extension of the lease on his house, in what was to become Downing Street).
Sir Edward Hoby wrote of the event:
“On the 5th of November we began our Parliament, to which the King [James I] should have come in person, but refrained, through a practice but that morning discovered. The plot was to have blown up the King at such time as he should have been set in his royal throne, accompanied by his children, Nobility and Commons and … Bishops, Judges and Doctors, at one instant and blast and to have ruined the whole estate and kingdom of England. And for the effecting of this there was placed under the Parliament house [Palace of Westminster], where the king should sit, some 30 barrels of gunpowder … . … In a vault under the parliament chamber before spoken of one Johnson [Guy Fawkes’s assumed name] was found … who, after being brought into … the court, and there demanded if he were not sorry for his so foul and heinous a treason, answered he was sorry for nothing but that the act was not performed. Being replied unto him that no doubt there had been a number in that place of his own [Catholic] religion, how in conscience he could do them hurt, he answered a few might well perish to have the rest taken away. … When he was brought into the King’s presence, the King asked him how he could conspire so hideous a treason against his children and so many innocent souls which never offended him? He answered that … a dangerous disease required a desperate remedy”.
Hoby (1560-1617), incidentally, was a scholar and a courtier during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. He was the son-in-law of Elizabeth’s cousin Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon (see October 8th posting, entitled “Shakespeare and his fellow actors promise to be good neighbours”), and the nephew of her chief advisor William Cecil, Lord Burghley (see posting “Facial hair through the ages”).
The Palace of Westminster is visited, although not entered, on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London”, “Legal London” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by phone (020-8998-3051).