Remember, Remember the 6th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
Wait! That’s not how it’s supposed to read. It should be the 5th of November. I run the rhyme again through my head. My first thought is that someone got the date wrong but then I realize how clever it really is.
It’s my pleasure to welcome author Tony Morgan, whose debut novel, Remember, Remember the 6th of November, has just been released. It’s a historical thriller and all profits in 2016 will go to Save the Children and a Yorkshire flood support charity. The book leads up to the Gunpowder plot of the 5th of November but focuses on what happened after.
Today on the 17th Century Enthusiast, Tony talks about the Gunpowder Plot, bonfire celebrations and what if things turned out differently…
Who should we put on top of the Bonfire on November 5th?
by Tony Morgan
Every year in the UK, on the evening of November 5th fireworks parties and bonfire celebrations are held across the country. One of the highlights for many is placing the Guy onto the top of the bonfire but what is this all about?
Last year, I asked myself this question. I knew the Guy was an effigy of a man from York called Guy Fawkes, who’d been arrested whilst planning to blow up the English Parliament, with a whole lot of gunpowder but to be honest I didn’t know much more.
So I began to do a little background reading and research around the Gunpowder Plot. Within a short time, I was hooked. There was a complex Protestant King, James Stuart, an educated man who’d written about the divinity of monarchs and the evils of tobacco smoking. He’d been on the throne for only two years. Initially, he indicated he would be tolerant towards Catholics but by 1605 he was actively pushing an ever increasing level of persecution.
In James’s palaces and bed, although rather infrequently of late, was the Queen, Anne of Denmark, mother to their two sons and two daughters and… a Catholic. Whilst James enjoyed the hunt and the company of some of his male friends, Anne loved the arts, especially masques and was patron to many of the leading lights of their time, including Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones. He turned a blind eye to her religion, as long as she practised her faith discretely, behind closed doors.
At the King’s side, was his Secretary of State, the Earl of Salisbury, Robert Cecil. This man was also the Spymaster General, controlling a growing army of spies, watchers and informants. Whatever was happening out there, Cecil was the first to know about it. Rumours were rife he was having an affair with the Lord Chamberlain’s wife, Katherine of Suffolk, intelligent, ambitious, beautiful and… another Catholic. What were her motivations, I wondered?
James’s policies were not going un-noticed. Many Catholics felt betrayed. Whilst most would not dare protest, for fear of potential retribution, others believed armed struggle was their only hope. Their leader was a charismatic swordsman, Robert Catesby. Carefully Catesby created a terrorist cell and developed a plan to instigate regime change. The King, the government and the Princes had to be killed. The state Opening of Parliament would give the group the perfect opportunity.
The older Princess Elizabeth would then be kidnapped, converted to Catholicism and placed onto the throne. If they could achieve the first part, he was sure they would get external help for the second from Spain. (Although he also knew the Spanish were wavering due to a peace deal signed recently with England, in which both Cecil and Katherine had played their parts).
Wow! What a story I thought. Spies, terrorists, religious unrest, government surveillance, a rift between Britain and Europe. I could have been watching the ten o’clock news. But most interesting of all were the people. The ones I have mentioned above but so many others.
There were sub-plots galore!
An anonymous letter warned of the plan to blow up Parliament and was given to Lord Monteagle. It could have been written by the plotter he owed money to or the one who used to be secretary or the one who was his brother-in-law! But he passed the letter onto Robert Cecil, perhaps concerned Cecil may have written it himself. Cecil then put his watchers onto the case, or were they on it already?
One of the plotters, Thomas Percy, had abandoned his wife and daughter for a younger model. This didn’t so much to endear him to two of the others, Martha Percy’s brothers, Jack and Christopher Wright. How would these tensions rise to the surface?
The plotter least known to the London authorities was Guy Fawkes. As this was the case, he was placed undercover in Westminster, disguised as a servant man and given the pseudonym, John Johnson. It would be his responsibility of protect the gunpowder beneath Parliament and light the fuse but did Fawkes have a secret Spanish wife, Isabella?
What about the children? Thomas and Martha’s daughter, Edith, and Robert Catesby’s son, Robin. They were watched over by Martha and Isabella in the rented house next to Parliament. So close to the gunpowder. The risks were enormous.
In my book, I bring all these threads and a few others together in the week leading up to November 5th and then the 6th of 1605, as the men and women involved each play their part.
As I wrote the story, I began to wonder what could have happened differently. Perhaps today we would no longer put the Guy onto the fire but place an effigy of the King onto the bonfire. Perhaps, if this had happened, there would not have been an English Civil War or centuries of hostilities in Ireland and the British Empire may have been something quite different. Perhaps? Perhaps? Perhaps?
My book is called Remember, Remember the 6th of November. It’s a historical fiction thriller but it’s mainly the story of the men and women who were involved, written in an engaging and contemporary style. The initial reviews have been very good. I hope you enjoy it.
Tony Morgan is a Welshman living in Yorkshire in the UK.
His debut novel, Remember, Remember the 6th of November, is set at the time of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The book explores a number of striking parallels with the modern day, including civil unrest, terrorism, and government surveillance, through the men and women involved. The story combines real life events with a view of what could have happened, as spymaster Robert Cecil and his lover, Katherine of Suffolk, attempt to create a different outcome for the Gunpowder Plot.
Remember, Remember the 6th of November is available as an e-book on Amazon, with all profits in 2016 being shared equally between Save the Children and a small local flood support charity.
Link to Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LICIBOK
Link to Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LICIBOK
Tony is currently working on a sequel, set twelve years later in 1617, which investigates how the world may have developed differently following the events of 1605.