counter create hit The Gunpowder Plot - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Gunpowder Plot

Availability: Ready to download

Antonia Fraser, a popular historian, has delved into archives across Europe to unravel the true story of the plot by fanatical Roman Catholics to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I at the opening of Parliament in 1605.


Compare
Ads Banner

Antonia Fraser, a popular historian, has delved into archives across Europe to unravel the true story of the plot by fanatical Roman Catholics to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I at the opening of Parliament in 1605.

30 review for The Gunpowder Plot

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    For much of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the repression meted out against Catholics increased almost annually. You can understand why the Queen might have been a bit annoyed with the Catholics – she might well have won the Spanish Armada, but even the joy of winning would have to have been tempered by the fact that these guys literally wanted her dead and were prepared to go to quite an extreme to assure that. A Pope had even named her in what we would probably call today a fatwa – making it v For much of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the repression meted out against Catholics increased almost annually. You can understand why the Queen might have been a bit annoyed with the Catholics – she might well have won the Spanish Armada, but even the joy of winning would have to have been tempered by the fact that these guys literally wanted her dead and were prepared to go to quite an extreme to assure that. A Pope had even named her in what we would probably call today a fatwa – making it virtually the religious responsibility of Catholics to try to kill her. She was considered a devil, not only for being a woman ruler (clearly considered a job that could only be done with the right set of genitalia intact – a view that was so wide spread that even Elizabeth thought of herself as an honorary man), but also a bastard and therefore out of contention for what was basically a holy office from birth – she had even been excommunicated from the Church. You know, the Catholic Church had not exactly done all that much to endear itself to her. Given her near absolute power, all this was hardly likely to be good news for the Catholics living in England. And it didn’t prove to be. On a near endless list of jobs with appalling OH&S standards in Elizabethan England, Catholic Priest surely was in the top ten list of most dangerous. James is perhaps my favourite Royal of all time – a king with more numbers than your average king being both James I and James VI, he also spoke with so broad Scottish accent that the English struggled to understand what he was saying. They found it just as hard to understand why he spent so much time chasing male Courtesans around his various palaces. When the old virgin finally died and was replaced by James I there was a general view (among the Catholics, at least) that life for England’s Catholics was likely to improve. And let’s face it, there was plenty of scope for improvement. Life for Catholics in England was pretty well intolerable. But their hopes for better days were based on the facts that James was both the son of Mary, who had died a Catholic, and also that he was married to a Catholic. There was even talk that he was just waiting to become King so he could do a Blair and convert to Catholicism. Things were looking up and James himself was helping to spread these rumours. And then? Well, then if anything things just got worse for Catholics. The repression didn’t slacken, it intensified. For the most part the Catholic Church called on its members to do the sorts of things that Churches in such situations often call on their members to do: stay calm, have patience and pray. And also typically, a group of youngish men decided that more direct action was called for. Of these young men Guy Fawkes (who had started calling himself Guido) was actually one of the least interesting. In one of those twists that history likes to play he become the symbol and supposed ring leader of the plot where in fact as he was always somewhat less than this. What seems to be obvious is that the plot had been discovered by the authorities a long time before it was set to ‘go off’, so to speak. It seems also clear that the gunpowder had actually deteriorated, something I didn’t know gunpowder could do, back into its constituent components and would never have blown up anyway – but more importantly, it seems clear that those responsible for making sure parliament did not blow up knew this was the case and knew it for a while before they chose to act. In fact, the only injuries caused by gunpowder by this plot (both figuratively and literally) was to some of the plotters themselves who spread their gunpowder out to dry as they were being hunted by the authorities and found it caught alight and effectively incinerated them. It also seems clear that the authorities dragged their feet in ‘discovering’ the plot and that they probably did this because they knew there was nothing to fear in any case. It seems those in charge had decided that there was a psychologically impressive moment for such a discovery and announcement and that everything was arranged so as to ‘discover the plot’ at that best of all moments. As I’ve said, the plot was actually carried out by a small group of radical young Catholic men. It did not have the support of the majority of Catholics in England, nor was it supported by Catholic powers abroad, nor by Catholic doctrine, nor by the Jesuit priests working in England at the time. Yet all of these groups, particularly the Jesuits, would be blamed and punished for their ‘involvement’ in this treason and outrage. There is an interesting point made here about the Porter’s scene in MacBeth and its constant talk of equivocators which is a direct reference (and one I’d never known before) to this plot. The whole question of equivocation is fascinating. Ms Fraser wrote this book in 1996 – as it turns out, five years too early for us to be able to play that most satisfying of games, the ‘we learn nothing from history’ game. The government’s attempts to tarnish the adherents of an entire religion on the basis of the actions of a few radical extremists, the efforts made to contort the ‘doctrine of equivocation’ (a necessity in a land where you could be put to death for admitting to being Catholic) so as to make it seem like all Catholics were essentially liars and the disproportionate punishment of civilian populations so as to make them pay for the excesses of a small number of extremists have so many parallels with today it seems pointless listing them. This really is a story of our times played out long enough ago for most of us to be able to see past the petty loyalties of religious nutters to the equally horrifying games played in the name of politics – well, by ‘most of us’ I obviously don’t include the crazies of Northern Ireland, say, who are still fighting the same wars. (Oh, did I say crazies, I meant family and fellow countrymen, but then, that is much the same thing) This is a story of our times because it shows how easy it is to manipulate people on the basis of fear of an out-group and how those in power love to play precisely these games so as to enhance their power. Unlike September 11, however, the only people hurt by the Gunpowder Plot were Catholics, whereas with September 11 merely most people hurt by it have proven to be Muslim. The gleefulness with which authorities of the day set about persecuting those suspected of being involved in this plot – obviously not unlike the gleefulness with which we invaded Iraq - was likewise inversely proportional to the level of responsibility these Catholics had for the plot. I’m not arguing that there was no plot – though, it appears that this is something that has been argued by historians since the days of the plot itself – but rather that it seems clear the Jesuits were not involved in the plot and yet those priests captured were tortured and put to death in the most unimaginably cruel ways. They suffered just as those who did plan the plot suffered. The authorities knew all along they had bigger fish to fry than those directly responsible and if the truth had to be somewhat manipulated to make the noose fit, well, there was plenty of rope. Colin Powell’s legacy destroying speech to the UN comes to mind. This is my first book by Antonia Fraser and I must seek out more. I’ve only just discovered that she not only writes history, but also fiction (crime novels, no less) and was married until his death to Harold Pinter. This book is subtitled, Terror and Faith in 1605, but as I’ve said really ought to have been written following 911 – all the same it makes for fascinating, disturbing and depressing reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Orsolya

    “Remember, remember the fifth of November” is a little ditty that even those not living in England are familiar with. Guy Fawkes Day always stood out to me personally as it is the birthday of my estranged half-sister. However one relates to it; it is accepted as the Catholic conspiracy to “blow up” King James I of England. Antonia Fraser portraits this undeniable act of terrorism and those involved with it in, “Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot”. Fraser is a master at depicting “Remember, remember the fifth of November” is a little ditty that even those not living in England are familiar with. Guy Fawkes Day always stood out to me personally as it is the birthday of my estranged half-sister. However one relates to it; it is accepted as the Catholic conspiracy to “blow up” King James I of England. Antonia Fraser portraits this undeniable act of terrorism and those involved with it in, “Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot”. Fraser is a master at depicting historical events and thus continues to work her magic in “Faith and Treason”. Dividing the text into five parts; Fraser rehashes the inner workings of the Gunpowder Plot into a sort of detective/court case by exploring both the environmental background of the conspirators and the actual plot. Fraser uses an authoritative and scholarly voice and yet isn’t ‘dry’. The pace therefore moves in a steady and narrative way. It is undeniable that Fraser conducted deep and intricate research while avoiding speculation. In the first section of “Faith and Treason”, Fraser sets the scene of England as James enters the realm and reveals the religious unrest circulating during this time period. For those readers hoping to immediately dive into the conspiracy; this may be a little sidetracking and bland (not to mention, overwhelming: as a lot of detail is involved). However, in doing so, Fraser sets the case and offers a well-rounded view into what actually played a role in the creation of the plot to begin with. Fraser moves on in the second section by introducing the conspirators and revealing the formation of the plot in the third. “Faith and Treason” certainly picks up momentum at these points and reads almost like an exciting novel (but still in an academic way). Fraser has strong sleuth and debunking skills which offers new view points and angles to the reader. The only issue is that sometimes Fraser delves too much into detail and seems to stray on tangents. Some readers may, as a result, do some skimming. Fraser’s explaining of the actual plot, movements of the conspirators, and the look at evidence is absolutely remarkable. “Faith and Treason” has an eye for historical detail and accuracy. Fraser is clear and concise leaving no stone being left unturned. The striking issue with “Faith and Treason” is the constant references to plays, dramas, and Shakespeare. This is irrelevant and really has no place in an academic, scholarly writing. Playwrights were not historians and shouldn’t be references or alluded to (yet historians continue to do use them as such). The concluding chapters of “Faith and Treason” are particularly strong as Fraser does well wrapping up the subject as a whole by updating on what happened to friends and family of the conspirators post-plot and also examining the reactions of England, other nations, dignitaries, etc; immediately afterwards and throughout history since. This certainly leaves “Faith and Treason” on a memorable note. Fraser provides notes (although not annotated), a list of sources, and not one but three sections of color plates plus genealogical charts to help strengthen the text. “Faith and Treason” is an overall well-written, unbiased, thorough look at the Gunpowder Plot that combines scholarly text with a readable accessibility. There are some tangents and dull moments but the reader is left with a plethora of knowledge on the topic plus an interest to seek out more information regarding the key figures. If one plans to read only one text regarding the Gunpowder Plot; then “Faith and Treason” should be the choice book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Juliew.

    I'm giving this four and half stars.It takes you on a definite journey into the immediate past of 1605 and 1605 itself.It covers the mood of the country,the plotters lives, connections,intended victims and right into the very heart of the court and to the king himself.The war between the Catholics and Protestants in Europe has always led to casualties and this story is no different.Told in a compelling,detailed,well researched manner the author covers her topic throughly.Loved the timeline aspec I'm giving this four and half stars.It takes you on a definite journey into the immediate past of 1605 and 1605 itself.It covers the mood of the country,the plotters lives, connections,intended victims and right into the very heart of the court and to the king himself.The war between the Catholics and Protestants in Europe has always led to casualties and this story is no different.Told in a compelling,detailed,well researched manner the author covers her topic throughly.Loved the timeline aspect,the interesting descriptions of those involved and their possible motives,the escape attempt recreation and the topic of torture and its methods during this period.This was very well written and kept me on the edge of my seat even though i knew the outcome.By the end of this I very much count myself a new fan of this author.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Siria

    Remember, remember, the 5th of November; Gunpowder, treason and plot... At first glance, it might seem a little odd that I am reading a book so closely connected with November and Bonfire Night at the beginning of August. But although Fraser manages to untangle much of the still confused circumstances and events which made up the Powder Treason, this book is a lot more than a simple recounting of the events of 1606. She places them in the context of a continuum of events dating back to the reign Remember, remember, the 5th of November; Gunpowder, treason and plot... At first glance, it might seem a little odd that I am reading a book so closely connected with November and Bonfire Night at the beginning of August. But although Fraser manages to untangle much of the still confused circumstances and events which made up the Powder Treason, this book is a lot more than a simple recounting of the events of 1606. She places them in the context of a continuum of events dating back to the reign of Elizabeth I, and traces their impact and influence all the way down to the modern day, looking at the struggles associated with being part of a minority - a Catholic - in a country where that had been the majority religion not a hundred years before. The terrors and vagaries of life as a recusant, and the tangled webs of recusant gentry society, are also examined. The most important and most intriguing part of the book, to my mind, though, was when Fraser looked at the question of what kind of faith, what kind of beliefs are they, that would drive a group of men to commit mass murder. That's been a question for a long time where I live, and has rarely been more relevant in the rest of the western world. It's not an easy question, either to ask or to answer; and Fraser does not, in fairness, really try to answer it. She displays the evidence to the best of her ability, and leaves it up to the reader to make up his or her own mind - and that's the best kind of history writing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Alfonseca

    ENGLISH: At the beginning there are a few things I did not like, such as some improper comparisons of the plotters with hippies, the suggestion that James I-VI was homosexual, or an unwarranted attack against Saint Augustin (whom Fraser calls "fanatic"), but soon the book becomes a good historical study of the Gunpowder Plot, full of learning and plentiful references. There is a quite good description of the barbarous way of executing "traitors" used in England (hanged, drawn and quartered), alm ENGLISH: At the beginning there are a few things I did not like, such as some improper comparisons of the plotters with hippies, the suggestion that James I-VI was homosexual, or an unwarranted attack against Saint Augustin (whom Fraser calls "fanatic"), but soon the book becomes a good historical study of the Gunpowder Plot, full of learning and plentiful references. There is a quite good description of the barbarous way of executing "traitors" used in England (hanged, drawn and quartered), almost as good as that in Robert Hugh Benson's novel "Come rack, come rope!". Compared with this way of execution, those sponsored by the Spanish Inquisition are mild and moderate. The book presents a good treatment of questions such as "equivocation" (meaning mental restriction); whether it is lawful to murder a tyrant king; the polemics around the confession seal; and the confrontation between Appellants and Jesuits. The two main hypotheses suggested by Fraser, that Catesby was the mind behind the plot, and that the denouncing letter was forged by Cecil (Salisbury) and Monteagle, must be taken as mere hypotheses, for most historians do not agree with them, and anyway we'll probably never know. ESPAÑOL: Al principio hay algunas cosas que no me gustaron, como ciertas comparaciones inadecuadas de los conspiradores con los hippies, la sugerencia de que James I-VI fue homosexual, o un ataque injustificado contra San Agustín (a quien Fraser llama "fanático"), pero pronto el libro se convierte en un buen estudio histórico de la Conspiración de la Pólvora, lleno de erudición y de referencias abundantes. Hay una buena descripción de la manera bárbara de ejecutar a los "traidores" que empleaban ​​en Inglaterra (ahorcados, arrastrados y descuartizados), casi tan buena como en la novela de Robert Hugh Benson: "Come rack, come rope!" (¡A la horca!). Comparadas con esta forma de ejecución, las decididas por la Inquisición española parecen leves y moderadas. El libro trata bien cuestiones como la "equivocación" (es decir, la restricción mental); si es lícito asesinar a un rey tirano; la polémica sobre la inviolabilidad del secreto de confesión; y el enfrentamiento entre apelantes y jesuitas. Las dos hipótesis principales sugeridas por Fraser, que Catesby era el cerebro de la conspiración, y ​​que la carta de denuncia fue falsificada por Cecil (Salisbury) y Monteagle, deben tomarse como meras hipótesis, ya que la mayoría de los historiadores no están de acuerdo, y probablemente nunca lo sabremos.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tocotin

    I’ve always been fascinated by Catholics as persecuted minority. How would they behave? How would they cope? What would they do if they found themselves in the position they so often place other groups in? (I’m from a predominantly Catholic country.) Well, it turns out they would react in the same way as others; their religion is no deterrent to violence and terrorism; in other words, where you stand depends on where you sit. The book is well-researched, competently written, and difficult to put I’ve always been fascinated by Catholics as persecuted minority. How would they behave? How would they cope? What would they do if they found themselves in the position they so often place other groups in? (I’m from a predominantly Catholic country.) Well, it turns out they would react in the same way as others; their religion is no deterrent to violence and terrorism; in other words, where you stand depends on where you sit. The book is well-researched, competently written, and difficult to put down. The background and reasons behind the Gunpowder Plot are presented with clarity and flair. And yet there is something… I have to admit that I didn’t know much about the author apart from that she is a British historian. Then as I read this book, I found myself wondering whether she wasn’t a Catholic herself. I went online and voila – she had converted to Catholicism. The sympathy towards Catholicism is perceptible in the book, to the point where it could be seen as a slight bias. I read it some time ago, so I don’t remember the exact places which made me scratch my head, but I thought that there was a bit too much readiness to accept certain things about the Catholic way of treating their ideological opponents. Yes, it was unfortunate that they were persecuted and oppressed in England until the 19th century – but the Reformation and the emergence of the Church of England were the whirlwind the Catholic Church had sown the wind for. Guy Fawkes (who was NOT the leader of the Plot, by the way) and his co-conspirators were very much deluded, and they paid for it horribly; but f*ck that, their families and friends and SERVANTS paid too, without becoming Catholic martyrs and heroes, for the most part. I felt very bad for those deemed collateral damage – I always do. I also did feel sorry for (Saint) Nicolas Owen, and for the priests who tried to stop Catesby and the other dumbasses. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Wayland Smith

    A plot against the leaders of a land where religion, government conspiracy theories, and endless debate about who was really behind it... sound familiar? Despite the fact that in broad strokes this sounds like it could have been written about a lot of the modern world, this is about the infamous Gunpowder Plot in the early 1600's. The more I read about this, the more it sounds like England's version of the JFK conspiracy. A lot of what happened is still being debated, a lot of things people "know A plot against the leaders of a land where religion, government conspiracy theories, and endless debate about who was really behind it... sound familiar? Despite the fact that in broad strokes this sounds like it could have been written about a lot of the modern world, this is about the infamous Gunpowder Plot in the early 1600's. The more I read about this, the more it sounds like England's version of the JFK conspiracy. A lot of what happened is still being debated, a lot of things people "know" are wrong, and the famed Guy Fawkes both wasn't called that at the time and wasn't the leader. It's a well researched book about the tension (to put it mildly) between the Protestants and Catholics at that time, with the Puritans causing troubles as well, almost a hundred years before some of them get on the Mayflower and start a genocide instead across the ocean. I knew little bits about this famous event, now I know a great deal more. Recommended for fans of history in general, English history, religious history, or political history in particular.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mariangel

    I enjoy the way Antonia Fraser writes. Though she mentions tons of names, places and events, it is done in a way that I find easy to follow. She gives a very comprehensive description of the times in which the Gunpowder Plot was hatched - the situation of Catholics under Elizabeth I (in particular, of the parents and grandparents of the plotters), their hopes in the new king James, the political situation of neighboring countries, even what Shakespeare was writing at the time. We get to know the I enjoy the way Antonia Fraser writes. Though she mentions tons of names, places and events, it is done in a way that I find easy to follow. She gives a very comprehensive description of the times in which the Gunpowder Plot was hatched - the situation of Catholics under Elizabeth I (in particular, of the parents and grandparents of the plotters), their hopes in the new king James, the political situation of neighboring countries, even what Shakespeare was writing at the time. We get to know the main characters well as they plan and put the plot into effect. It keeps the interest all along, including the last chapter, about the consequences of the plot in subsequent centuries, all the way till our days.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Les Wilson

    An excellent book but a little too biographical for me. I would have preferred it to be more historical.

  10. 5 out of 5

    C.S. Burrough

    Whatever Lady Antonia Fraser wrote about - I'm sure I could read her shopping lists and be entertained - would be worth reading. The lady is perhaps my favourite mistress of this genre. Not simply erudite, eloquent and formidably well educated, she's genuinely talented. Such is the key to her success and longevity. It came as no surprise, therefore, that what has to me been one of the most excruciatingly boring episodes in history to glean facts from, was here made gripping material that refused Whatever Lady Antonia Fraser wrote about - I'm sure I could read her shopping lists and be entertained - would be worth reading. The lady is perhaps my favourite mistress of this genre. Not simply erudite, eloquent and formidably well educated, she's genuinely talented. Such is the key to her success and longevity. It came as no surprise, therefore, that what has to me been one of the most excruciatingly boring episodes in history to glean facts from, was here made gripping material that refused to be put down. Why couldn't we have had such reading at school? People can't help learning when drinking up such words. It's unnecessary to outline here what the failed Gunpowder Plot was, with Guy Fawkes night such a culturally ingrained institution. What makes Fraser's history of its advent so coherent is, as always, her elaboration of the characters, their background, their motives, etc. Just her broader insight into James I & VI's kingship was enough for this reader. His was never a time that resonated for me in other reading, yet here he is given life I had previously begged for in other works to gain just basic insight. Callously indifferent to his mother's cruel fate, displaying not an ounce of filial loyalty, this maternally disdainful overly precious selfserving brat spent his Scottish days awaiting Elizabeth I's death. Baring a nauseatingly acquiescent grin from afar he anchored her favour as heir. As if dancing, satin-shoed, on Gloriana's grave, he then minced brashly around her crumbling English palaces whose days of pomp and finery were gone before she lay cold. Ostentatiously bejewelled, in dusty ermine, swirling velvet, fluttering cloth of gold and ermine, he flirted audaciously with male favourites, in an unfathomable Scottish brogue. He stank. Behind him trailed a grubby, uncouth imported entourage that echoed his foreign tongue, stank just as badly and collectively got up everyone's nose. Yet James was impervious to the resulting courtly consternation. Not entirely facile, he was icily shrewd, calculating like his great great grandfather Henry VII. He also sponsored translation of the Bible named after him: the Authorised King James Version. I still didn't warm to him though, but didn't need to. It's astonishing that any son of so fascinating a legend as my favourite tragedienne, the martyred Mary, Queen of Scots, could have turned out so drab to eek out depth or meaning from! He would surely have been so reviled for his boringness alone; that in itself would justify the hatching of any plot. (In fact this plot targeted the House of Lords rather than the king specifically. James's rule and its incidentals personified that target though.) Contrasting with his predecessor Elizabeth I, her sister 'Bloody' Mary I and father Henry VIII, slithery James I lacked fire, conviction, had a spinelessness, a wateriness I find hard to get my teeth into. Yet Lady Fraser overrides this obstacle with all of her usual panache. Guy Fawkes himself was little more interesting than King James, yet here we have all we need on him, fleshed out via 'that' satisfying Fraseresque treatment she is renowned and revered for. The politics around the plot are, by any other account I've read, dry, monotonous and interminably convoluted, particularly for those not instinctively drawn to the Jacobean era. Not a patch on all things Tudor despite being immediately adjoined to its timeframe. Yet these politics, too, are here given context, explained patiently and meticulously. On this I knew I would be able to rely, having relished other such Fraser books. Like a child in a hearth I sat, glued, welcoming the magic of this storyteller's voice. Like I said at the start, it wouldn't have mattered what it was about, it was always going to be special. It was, it is. I was finally able to learn things I didn't know about this fiasco, minus that dreaded textbook tedium that creeps into other accounts (oh woe, oh woe!). Recommended especially to those who, like this reader, need more than a dry old listing of dates and names to get through this done-to-death tale to broaden their knowledge. (Would have given it 5 stars but knocked off a half for my undying dislike of all things James I & VI - give me his neurotic mother any day, or even his sleazy grandson Charles II - and another half for whoever chose that ludicrous e-cover art.)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elli

    There is so much right about this book! Her comparisons to the similarities between how today's peoples react to similar movements and plots that cause disruption and turn people's thinking into being wary and wanting protection were very relevant. Catholics were not that accepted at this time, but it could have been alot worse and many just out of wanting safety and loose attitude from others about their own practice of their own faith. If there was anything that people didn't want...it was to There is so much right about this book! Her comparisons to the similarities between how today's peoples react to similar movements and plots that cause disruption and turn people's thinking into being wary and wanting protection were very relevant. Catholics were not that accepted at this time, but it could have been alot worse and many just out of wanting safety and loose attitude from others about their own practice of their own faith. If there was anything that people didn't want...it was to be felt as a threat or to be moved to worry about Catholicism as a threat. And that is exactly what happened. The plot people were a bit off the deep end of radical as to where they fit with the more general Catholic population, and help from Spain in that way was supremely unwelcome. It's well written, well researched, and Ms. Fraser knows what she is talking about. And she has a good bit of salt in writing style, similar to Barbara Tuchman. And when she passes a conclusion, it's really worth considering. I'm giving it 3 stars because I got bogged down and it became slow reading for me. I guess I'm looking right now for a bit more of fast movement like fiction. But it is an excellent book! It's a book I may reread later on.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mercedes Rochelle

    This is obviously a well-researched book which I found to be a bit anti-climactic. I suppose the response to me should be that I need to go find a historical novel, which is true. But I was expecting more events surrounding the actual discovery of the gunpowder, etc. and less exhaustive background about the minor personages—of which there are many. The actual apprehension of Guy Fawkes took about a paragraph, and the word gunpowder wasn’t even referred to until later. It was kind of a “what happ This is obviously a well-researched book which I found to be a bit anti-climactic. I suppose the response to me should be that I need to go find a historical novel, which is true. But I was expecting more events surrounding the actual discovery of the gunpowder, etc. and less exhaustive background about the minor personages—of which there are many. The actual apprehension of Guy Fawkes took about a paragraph, and the word gunpowder wasn’t even referred to until later. It was kind of a “what happened” moment for me—almost as if the discovery was much less important than the religious fervor surrounding the plot. We do get a very thorough explanation of the complicated situation the Catholics had to deal with: concealing priests in carefully constructed hiding places; secret masses; obeying the government’s insistence on attending Protestant services (or not); and especially the infamous equivocation when being questioned. If you want a primer on the religious situation in Jacobean England, this will do the job. If you want a page-turner, this is not it. I found myself rereading paragraphs several times. Nonetheless, there is a wealth of information here and you certainly do get plenty of background before and after November 5.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark Singer

    A good, but not perfect, introduction to the Gunpowder Plot. The plusses are brevity, and a good background as to why it happened. Fraser makes the case that the plot was triggered by the disappointment of leading Catholics to the perceived broken promises of toleration by the new monarch, James I (aka James VI of Scotland) who ascended the throne of England in 1603 after the death of Elizabeth I. James I had a Catholic wife (Anne of Denmark) but learned how to survive in the violent politics of A good, but not perfect, introduction to the Gunpowder Plot. The plusses are brevity, and a good background as to why it happened. Fraser makes the case that the plot was triggered by the disappointment of leading Catholics to the perceived broken promises of toleration by the new monarch, James I (aka James VI of Scotland) who ascended the throne of England in 1603 after the death of Elizabeth I. James I had a Catholic wife (Anne of Denmark) but learned how to survive in the violent politics of Scotland by promising everything yet nothing to all. She also makes a good case for the plot leadership by Robert Catesby, not the more infamous Guy Fawkes.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Zuvich

    Very good overview of the plot and key plotters as well as peripheral persons, but would have been stronger without the unnecessary inclusion of 20th century terrorism (IRA, Mandela, etc).

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Carniglia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Great telling of a complex, interesting topic--probably barely known to Americans. I only tripped onto the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot from watching an old British mystery which was itself portraying Victorian London on a November 5th, as the Bonfire festivities figured in many crucial scenes. So, thanks to Fraser's book, and an article or so here and there, I'm getting up to speed on the history of Elizabethan (and subsequent) English Catholicism. It's a very long path from Henry VIII's time to th Great telling of a complex, interesting topic--probably barely known to Americans. I only tripped onto the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot from watching an old British mystery which was itself portraying Victorian London on a November 5th, as the Bonfire festivities figured in many crucial scenes. So, thanks to Fraser's book, and an article or so here and there, I'm getting up to speed on the history of Elizabethan (and subsequent) English Catholicism. It's a very long path from Henry VIII's time to the Glorious Revolution, which pretty much encompasses the transition from Catholic to Protestant rule. It's not that surprising that, given the defeat of the Armada in 1588, Catholicism was definitely on the defensive in England, just as nationalism was gaining strength in most of the Great Powers. I think that nationalism had as much to do with the Reformation generally, and particularly in Henry VIII's case, than worries about the Catholic rituals in themselves. This can be seen in the near constant reaction to the Plot, both before and after 1605, as having foreign origins; it was Spanish, if not Papist, or French, if not Jesuit influence corrupting or influencing English Catholics. That's true in the literal sense that any Catholic country in Europe might serve as a destination, safe haven, or origin for any Catholic setting foot in England. Officially though, as the author points out, the King was fairly certain that the Plotters, whether they had sought foreign help, were acting on their own. That wasn't due to any lack of Fawke's (and others) hoping for just that--a second Armada, in effect. As pointed out, having completely failed to ensnare any foreign power in the Plot, Catesby and the others were left with challenging the King (for what seemed to be his reneging on promises of religious toleration) with the means at hand. Something the author doesn't delve into was the plausibility of alternatives to the terrorist act they hoped for. I suppose they couldn't come up with something more spectacular than killing all of Parliament as well as the King. The purpose of the Plot seems completely obscured by the act. I'm reminded somewhat of the American Abolitionist John Brown plotting a slave insurrection in 1859. His fanatical devotion to a cause, which was at least as admirable as the goal of securing toleration for 'recusants,' led to a plot that was not only amateurish, but logistically and politically absurd. That taking over a Federal arsenal with seventeen guys would somehow lead to a slave rebellion shows completely disjointed thinking. Maybe, as with the Gunpowder Plot, the act was a desperate attempt to make a mark, regardless of its consequences. Not that killing the King would've been acceptable, but it at least makes sense as an act of vengeance against the person who the Plotters blamed for the recusants' plight, rather than the arbitrary and immense crime of simultaneously killing all the members of Parliament, some of whom were sympathetic to the recusants, and a few of whom were actually fellow Catholics. Had the explosion occurred, it's doubtful that English Catholics, to say nothing of Catholic courts in other countries, would want to throw in with indiscriminate murderers. The author sets the stage well, going back to the initial split with Rome in the 1530s, and picking up the trail of the succession, with the twists and turns in recusant policy, up to and after the era of the Gunpowder Plot. Despite all of the ancillary information, there's plenty of detail about each Plotter, their relations and interactions, and their accomplices. Especially interesting is the mystery surrounding the so-called Monteagle letter, which gave the plot up. A very fair and balanced analysis of this still-born Plot. She's very handy with her phrasing, maintaining a serious, scholarly tone but finding room for some laconic, witty, and poignant descriptions and details. Highly recommended for those interested in English history; this puts a little light on an obscure period, coming as it did just before the British Colonial era in America.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    'Remember, remember the fifth of November...' And we do, some four hundred years on. The memory of the Gunpowder Plot lingers on to this day in the ritual bonfire and effigy of Guy Fawkes on Bonfire Night on the 5th November, in the ceremonial searching of the vaults and cellars of the House of Lords on the eve of the Opening of Parliament, in the perennial joke regarding Guy Fawkes being 'the only man to ever enter Parliament with honest intentions'. However, it is likely that the majority of th 'Remember, remember the fifth of November...' And we do, some four hundred years on. The memory of the Gunpowder Plot lingers on to this day in the ritual bonfire and effigy of Guy Fawkes on Bonfire Night on the 5th November, in the ceremonial searching of the vaults and cellars of the House of Lords on the eve of the Opening of Parliament, in the perennial joke regarding Guy Fawkes being 'the only man to ever enter Parliament with honest intentions'. However, it is likely that the majority of those celebrating on the 5th November know very little about the historical context of the Plot, the virulent anti-Catholicism of Jacobean England, the players other than Guy Fawkes (who actually had a relatively marginal role and certainly wasn't one of the instigators), the subsequent hunt and trials of those accused, the executions and martyrdom of plotters and priests. This is a complex story, with many players, both high and low, but Fraser lays it out clearly and concisely. The history of the Gunpowder Plot has long been riven by controversy and arguments between No-Plotters (those who believe that the Plot was manufactured and contrived by Robert Cecil, Secretary of State under both Elizabeth I and James I, as an excuse to crack down on Catholicism) and the Pro-Plotters (those who believe there was indeed a Plot, conceived and carried out by Catholic recusants) - Fraser navigates a diplomatic path between these two sides, coming down on the whole with the Pro-Plotters, albeit with a few caveats about how much Cecil knew and when. The Gunpowder Plot, as the title 'terror and faith' illustrates, was simply an early example of what we today know as terrorism - wherever minorities are oppressed for reasons of faith (or ethnicity or political affiliation or any number of reasons) there will always be a small number who will feel that the only recourse is to violence. That they are often driven to such extremes by deprivation of rights, repressive legislation and societal discrimination is the real tragedy. Indeed, the Gunpowder Plot was described at the time as a 'heavy and doleful tragedy', although who exactly were the tragic heroes is best left to individual opinion.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    Before reading this book, I never understood the religious and cultural history of the gunpowder plot. Fraser takes us back to the beginning of the 17th century, when British Catholics were filled with hope at the death of Queen Elizabeth and the ascension to the throne of James I, son of Catholic martyr Mary Queen of Scots. Hope soon turned to disillusionment as Catholics realized that James was a thorough Protestant and had no intention of softening the anti-Catholic measures the Tudors had pu Before reading this book, I never understood the religious and cultural history of the gunpowder plot. Fraser takes us back to the beginning of the 17th century, when British Catholics were filled with hope at the death of Queen Elizabeth and the ascension to the throne of James I, son of Catholic martyr Mary Queen of Scots. Hope soon turned to disillusionment as Catholics realized that James was a thorough Protestant and had no intention of softening the anti-Catholic measures the Tudors had put in place. They came up with a plot to blow up the houses of Parliament with most of the royal family inside; they would then capture James's 9-year-old daughter (who was studying outside London) and raise her Catholic until she was ready to be queen. There's no saying how much of this might have worked if the actual explosion had occurred, but as it happened, the plotters were betrayed and Guy Fawkes was seized along with the gunpowder the night before the bombing was to take place. The gunpowder plot was the 9/11 of its day -- a scheme so villainous and dramatic that it colored the very date. Every British child knows what happened on November 5. It's a gripping tale, and Fraser tells it well. She spends a lot of time discussing the conditions for Catholics at the time -- fines, priest holes, all that. She hasn't much sympathy for the plotters themselves, but has a lot for their priests, some of whom were also captured, tortured and killed. She mentions that a few priests had learned of the plot months before November 5 and had tried to reach out to the Pope so that he could forbid it -- but did not tell anyone else as the plot was learned in the confessional. I'm not a Catholic myself, but must say I can rather see the point of the English government in questioning this decision. I mean, if the plotters had been successful, they'd have taken out both the royal and legislative leadership of the country and possibly sparked a civil war.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Maura Heaphy Dutton

    Fifty pages from the end, and I've given up: the plot has been discovered, the main Plotters are dead, and there may only be the final details to tidy away, but I've finally had enough of Fraser's special pleading for these terrorists, and the Jesuits who enabled them. Let's clarify a couple of things: the Gunpowder Plotters were NOT martyrs for religious freedom. They weren't fighting for freedom from persecution, but for freedom TO persecute anyone who disagreed with them. Sadly, that was the n Fifty pages from the end, and I've given up: the plot has been discovered, the main Plotters are dead, and there may only be the final details to tidy away, but I've finally had enough of Fraser's special pleading for these terrorists, and the Jesuits who enabled them. Let's clarify a couple of things: the Gunpowder Plotters were NOT martyrs for religious freedom. They weren't fighting for freedom from persecution, but for freedom TO persecute anyone who disagreed with them. Sadly, that was the name of the game at the time: the Catholics tortured and executed the Protestants, the Protestants tortured and executed the Catholics, and the Inquisition tortured and executed the Protestants, Jews and free-thinkers. Seeing the actions of the Plotters through a rosy modern glow, as "fighters for freedom of conscience" is just wrong. Second, the Plotters were, to a man, dumb as a bag of rocks. Your plot is revealed by an anonymous letter a couple of days before it's supposed to go ahead? No problem! You have failed miserably to enlist the support of foreign governments? They will surely see the light, when they see how well it's all going (in spite of the fact that the ambassadors of those governments, who usually attended the state opening of Parliament, would have been killed in the explosion ...). EVERYONE TELLS YOU IT'S A BAD IDEA. They're just spoilsports. Positive thinking, that's all you need ... As always, Antonia Fraser's account of the Gunpowder Plot is well researched, detailed and well-written. However, as I commented in my recent review of her biography of Marie Antoinette, her devotion to her subject tends to result in claims that she doesn't even try to support -- her Plotters were wrong-headed and misguided, but they couldn't possibly have acted ignobly because ... well, just because.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mouldy Squid

    A well researched treatise on the infamous 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Readers expecting a more "exciting" or "sensational" treatment of Guy Fawkes will be disappointed, but for those with a more academic interest in the history of the Gunpowder Plot will find this book rich in detail and information. Fraser focuses on the men, women and families of the plotters, and on the men who prosecuted them. Very necessary context is provided by Faser, clarifying the politics, society, religions and prevailing a A well researched treatise on the infamous 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Readers expecting a more "exciting" or "sensational" treatment of Guy Fawkes will be disappointed, but for those with a more academic interest in the history of the Gunpowder Plot will find this book rich in detail and information. Fraser focuses on the men, women and families of the plotters, and on the men who prosecuted them. Very necessary context is provided by Faser, clarifying the politics, society, religions and prevailing attitudes of late Elizabethan and early Jocobian England. Also of interest is her detailing of the ongoing controversy in academia concering the Gunpowder Plot. The Gunpowder Plot is a detailed, if at times dry, examination of the people, places and actions surrounding the abortive attack on King and Parliament on 5 November 1605. It is well recommended for those with a historical bent.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    For the last few days I've been trying to recall a better book of narrative history, and can't think of one. On that basis it clearly rates 5 stars. All the boxes are ticked - the prose is clear, the main themes relating to the subject are all covered, sources are meticulously referenced, and it's an interesting and involving read. I don't agree with all of Fraser's conclusions, but she is very clear about separating documented fact from deduction and speculation, and her ideas are certainly not For the last few days I've been trying to recall a better book of narrative history, and can't think of one. On that basis it clearly rates 5 stars. All the boxes are ticked - the prose is clear, the main themes relating to the subject are all covered, sources are meticulously referenced, and it's an interesting and involving read. I don't agree with all of Fraser's conclusions, but she is very clear about separating documented fact from deduction and speculation, and her ideas are certainly not without merit. I think she's also maintained about as balanced a view as you can get of the main points of contention. Highly recommended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    The story behind why we English have Bonfire Night every 5th of November. Fraser doesn't just tell the story of what happened that fateful night but also goes into the background of the reasons why the Catholics became homeland terrorists. As Fraser is a renowned historian I expected the book to be quite dry and academic so I was pleasantly surprised to find it an entertaining and informative read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lori Widmer Bean

    Since I like switching between fiction and nonfiction, I started this book at the same time I started The Appeal by John Grisham. So far, I'm loving this book. Fraser pulls you right into the plot from the epilogue, where she sets up the environment post-Queen Elizabeth. Her writing is lively, factual, and overall, fun to read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Luci

    This was an excellent analysis of the Powder Treason. I especially liked the references to the wives and sisters of the planners. This book gives a great overview of what the reality of practicing Catholicism during the early parts of the Jacobean reign. It was well-researched and the footnotes only clarified interesting facts to the reader.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Linda Root

    This was exactly what I needed in researching my WIP. It is an entertaining recap of the Gunpowder treason and it allowed me to later tackle some of the scholarly works upon which Antonia Fraser bases her research. The conspirator Thomas Percy is a major character in my novel, and Fraser's work provided me with the overview I needed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I don't know why I originally picked this history up, but it turned out to be a fascinating read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Claer Barber

    This is the only book by Antonia Fraser that I have read. Historical non-fiction largely not being what I read – except for about a few events in the past which hold a fascination for me – the Gunpowder Plot being one. However, I have enjoyed this book enough to return to it several times since first reading it in 1997 when it was recommended to me by my history buff sister. Back then I struggled to read the first five or six chapters of the book. This is more to do with my main interest in the b This is the only book by Antonia Fraser that I have read. Historical non-fiction largely not being what I read – except for about a few events in the past which hold a fascination for me – the Gunpowder Plot being one. However, I have enjoyed this book enough to return to it several times since first reading it in 1997 when it was recommended to me by my history buff sister. Back then I struggled to read the first five or six chapters of the book. This is more to do with my main interest in the book being the detail of the Gunpowder Plot and plotters themselves, rather than a love for the period. I understand the need to set the scene, but this part of the book did not grip me as did the latter part. The early chapters are heavy in putting into detailed context the tensions of the time in which the seeds of the plot were sown. The issues of succession that caused such uncertainty at the end of the reign of Elizabeth I, the religious tensions that had built in England and the vagueness of James I in his promises to all sides. There is much on the persecution of Catholic recusants, but sadly not too much detail on the reasons for it. The Papal Bull (Regnans in Excelsis) of Pius V which 'excommunicated' Elizabeth I is mentioned, as are the previous 'Main' and 'Bye' plots of 1603 against James I, but little of the persecution of Protestants under Mary Tudor is covered. On re-reading I have realised the importance of this information to understanding better the motivations for the plot, but I personally, just find it less interesting. In contrast, once the book gets into the information and detail on the plotters themselves and the development of the plot itself – then I found this book very gripping. It is then that I think Antonia Fraser finds the right balance between dry factual history and a 'good read'. This book expertly researched, with footnotes and a copious list of sources and references, but at the same time there is a story that draws you in and makes you want to keep reading, even though we all know what the outcome was. What this book provides to the story we British all know in a limited way is the thorough detail few of us were generally taught in school history lessons. It dismisses some myths some of us had thought was fact; like Guy Fawkes being the ring leader (placing Catesby firmly in that role), the attempted digging of an underground passage from rented quarters to the cellars under the Palace of Westminster, and minimises the role of priests in the whole affair - undoubtedly overplayed by the authorities after 5 November 1605. Fraser explains the links between leading recusant families and stresses on them, as well as the role played by women. She notes how many preserved their Catholicism during this time and under Elizabeth I. The family connections and loyalties uniting the conspirators - except for a few outsiders, notably Guy Fawkes (but links him to other conspirators through St. Peter’s School) are well detailed. The last parts of the book are concerned with the brutal fates of the plotters and those on the periphery, namely family members, friends, bystanders and Jesuit priests. It suggests the authorities/government lied, forged documents and cheated to get the convictions of both guilty and innocent. Of course, history is written by the winners – so there will always be an area of doubt surrounding the “official” versions of such events. The interrogation, torture, trial and execution of the plotters and some priests make very uncomfortable reading. Overall, this is very well researched and written account that attempts to present all the known facts of the case and place them firmly in the context of the time they occurred. Some others have noted a bias in Fraser’s writing (she makes no secret of the fact she is Catholic). In some of the more contentious areas, such as the authorship of the fateful Monteagle letter, some interesting and plausible conclusions are presented. It is a very readable account (accessible to non-historians) of a fascinating event in history, one whose influence stretches all the way into the present. The final pages attempt to view the plot from a more modern perspective and how we today view terrorism and extremists (Mandela is mentioned), but I do wonder if the “misguided bad-men” verdict would be still included had the book (written in the 90’s) been published post 9/11. Of course as, Fraser writes, we have now “the distance of history”….. In all, strongly recommended. *My recent re-read of this book was done whilst reading a hard copy of Nadine Brandes “Fawkes” a fictional tale. The influence of Fraser’s work is clear and acknowledged in that book. They work well together if you wish to lighten the reading of a heavy, complex and dark event. I also re-read this listening to the audio CDs of the book (although I also have the hardcopy). I love the excellent reading of this by Robert Powell – it is a superb version.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nick Carraway LLC

    1) "Sunday 20 May 1604 was the fateful date. On this day a meeting was held between Robin Catesby, Tom Wintour, Jack Wright, Thomas Percy and Guido Fawkes. Although the band of conspirators would eventually amount to an ill-omened thirteen, these five were regarded as the prime movers of the plot that followed, with Catesby as their inspirational leader and Wintour as adjutant. This meeting, which kick-started the Powder Treason into life, was held at an inn called the Duck and Drake, in the fas 1) "Sunday 20 May 1604 was the fateful date. On this day a meeting was held between Robin Catesby, Tom Wintour, Jack Wright, Thomas Percy and Guido Fawkes. Although the band of conspirators would eventually amount to an ill-omened thirteen, these five were regarded as the prime movers of the plot that followed, with Catesby as their inspirational leader and Wintour as adjutant. This meeting, which kick-started the Powder Treason into life, was held at an inn called the Duck and Drake, in the fashionable Strand district, where Tom Wintour stayed when he was in London." 2) "On 28 July Parliament was prorogued by proclamation yet again. It would not now meet on 3 October as had been intended for the last six months, because it had been decided that 'some dregs of the late contagion' (the plague) still lingered in the capital. Since people were accustomed to return to London around All Hallows – 1 November – the new date chosen, which was in fact the third projected date, was Tuesday 5 November." 3) "Then on Saturday 26 October, apparently thanks to an obscure and ill-written letter delivered under cover of night to Lord Monteagle, everything changed. The text of this 'dark and doubtful letter', as it would later be termed, was as follows: 'My Lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift of your attendance at this Parliament; for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country [county] where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hunts them. This counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm; for the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter. And I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.'" 4) "It is Guy Fawkes who, in spite of having been generally known in his own time, including to the government, as Guido, has lent his forename to the stuffed, ragged figures on the pavement, whose placard solicits 'a penny for the guy', before being ritually burnt on 5 November. In all fairness, the reviled name should really be that of Robert Catesby, as leader of the conspiracy. But it may be some consolation to the shade of Guido, if it still wanders somewhere beneath the House of Lords, that Guy Fawkes is also the hero of some perennial subversive jokes as being 'the only man to get into Parliament with the right intentions'." 5) "It is not a position that the world can expect to see abandoned so long as the persecution of minorities – and for that matter of majorities – survives. Terrorism after all does not exist in a vacuum. 'I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness or because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people...' These are not the words of Robert Catesby, but mutatis mutandis they could in fact have been uttered by him had he lived to defend his actions to the world. This is in fact the speech, three hundred and fifty years later, of Nelson Mandela, in the dock for his leadership of the African National Congress, at the Rivoni Trial of 1964: he chose to quote it in his autobiography The Long Walk to Freedom as an explanation but not an excuse. [...] 'The hard facts were that fifty years of non-violence had brought [my] people nothing but more repressive legislation, and fewer rights.' The Gunpowder Plotters were terrorists and they were defeated. They were not good men – by no stretch of the imagination can they be described as that. The goodness in this tragic episode belongs to the priests and lay brothers such as Nicholas Owen (Little John) and the heroic women. But, under different circumstances, they might have been very differently regarded. One might go to the opposite extreme and represent the Plotters as brave, bad men: but perhaps brave, misguided men is a kinder verdict which may be allowed at this distance of time. The study of history can at least bring respect for those whose motives, if not their actions, were noble and idealistic. It was indeed a 'heavy and doleful tragedy' that men of such calibre were driven by continued religious persecution to Gunpowder, Treason and Plot."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: Explosive history After reading The Year of Lear, where author James Shapiro documented how the incendiary events surrounding November 5th 1605 made their way into Shakespeare's plays of the next year, and then Majestie, a biography of King James I of England (and VI of Scotland) who was the target of the plot, I turned to Fraser to focus on the foundation of the furor. Fraser is a historian and mystery novelist who specializes in writing narrative histories (based on secondary sourc Review title: Explosive history After reading The Year of Lear, where author James Shapiro documented how the incendiary events surrounding November 5th 1605 made their way into Shakespeare's plays of the next year, and then Majestie, a biography of King James I of England (and VI of Scotland) who was the target of the plot, I turned to Fraser to focus on the foundation of the furor. Fraser is a historian and mystery novelist who specializes in writing narrative histories (based on secondary sources) of English royalty for lay readers, so this one is imminently readable, especially once she gets into the events of that November 5th. Some of the background on the state of the Catholic "recusants" (unconverted Catholics who openly practiced their faith in defiance of the Protestant-dominant cultural, political, and legal environments) is slow sledding leading up to that point. It is important to the events that followed but sometimes hard to follow with the shifting aliases of the undercover priests and their flocks and the changing personal names and titles of nobility who favored or fought them. While Guy Fawkes Day is the name of the memorial celebration every November in the UK, it turns out that his role in the plot was not the central one. The inner core of half a dozen (later expanded to 13 who had varying degrees of knowledge of the plan) was led by Robin Catesby. Tired of the suppression and persecution by law and Protestants, this band of Catholic believers planted a pile of gunpowder at the core of a stack of firewood beneath the halls of Parliament to be exploded during the opening ceremonies that would be attended by the King, Queen and royal court. Historians have debated endlessly since how the plot came to be uncovered and the disaster averted, some (including contemporaries) believing that the government manufactured the plot to justify continuing restrictions on the Catholic religion. Fraser tells the story well, providing evidences for both the Pro-Plot and the No-Plot sides. But after this anti-climax, the real drama in Fraser's account is the denouement of the conspiracy, as the men headed to safe places in the British Midlands (including Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon), attempted to raise an army to overthrow the king and government despite the squelched explosion, and were finally either killed or captured, tried, and hung. While the conspirators hoped to free their religion from persecution, they instead brought more down upon their fellow Catholics, including undercover priests who had heard of the plot through confessions and implored the men to drop the plot and pursue legal and nonviolent means to the same end. The history is not only interesting but immediately relevant today. Fraser makes the point that the Gunpowder Plot was an early exemplar of terrorism, much like the September 11 attacks that were still in the future when she wrote this history. And in the account of how government creates scapegoats of small and mostly loyal minorities by controlling the flow of information ("fake news" before we knew the term) to demonize them and using the authority of government to punish their belief and behavior, the history of the Gunpowder Plot mirrors President Trump's immigration policy. History has never been more relevant than in the contextless age of digital media.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Evans

    Inspired by press accusations of inaccuracy in the current BBC mini-series “Gunpowder” I dug this superb account from my history books I’ve always meant to read cupboard and devoured it it in 2 days. The plot itself was planned by a small group of men in thrall to a deluded and dangerously charismatic chancer, Robert “Robin” Catesby. The prospect of further years of active state suppression of Catholicism,following initial hope that new King, James I would allow more tolerance, caused something Inspired by press accusations of inaccuracy in the current BBC mini-series “Gunpowder” I dug this superb account from my history books I’ve always meant to read cupboard and devoured it it in 2 days. The plot itself was planned by a small group of men in thrall to a deluded and dangerously charismatic chancer, Robert “Robin” Catesby. The prospect of further years of active state suppression of Catholicism,following initial hope that new King, James I would allow more tolerance, caused something to snap in Catesby’s psyche and he became a terrorist in the true meaning of the word. These days he would have attempted and failed to fly a ‘plane into the Houses of Parliament. Whether the plot was ever likely to succeed or was in fact largely embellished/fabricated by James’ intelligence chief, Robert Cecil, to further his own reputation and help him destroy the Jesuits, for whom he reserved a hatred that paralleled the Nazi view of the Jews in the last century, we can never know. The tale unfolds thrillingly and stands up as a historical page turner with a cast of sympathetic, downtrodden and ingenious Catholics whose efforts to maintain their religious devotions are punishable by fine and imprisonment. The bravery and devotion of the recusant (new word for me) women who maintained the illegal priests within their households and hid them in the ingenious spaces dug out by Nicholas Owen (“Little John” or Little Saint Nick since 1970) is astonishing. As for Guy Fawkes, he is a peripheral character at best. The best outcome for us all appears to be that our present Queen Elizabeth is a direct descendant of Princess Elizabeth, second child of James I, who was to be kidnapped on November 5th 1605 and installed as a puppet Queen by the new Catholic hierarchy. Turns out she was unsurprisingly appalled by this thought as a nine year old girl and eventually became Queen of Bohemia and the grandmother of George I.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.