Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Gunpowder Plot

Another year, another celebration of Fawkes day - as I lie on the couch recovering from an epic night, watching Arsenal kill Sunderland. Amazing the popularity of the Premiership on this side of the Atlantic among friends since my return.

November 5th surely ranks up there as one of the quintessential English "holidays". You can read my thoughts about the incessant fireworks from last year here. And also check out this BBC's "what if" story - truly compelling stuff.

Both these fatal weaknesses were contingent, however, on one accident of history; the postponement of Parliament. It had originally been scheduled to meet on 3 October 1605, and only the lingering traces of bubonic plague in London made it seem sensible to put off the occasion for a month.

Let us suppose that this one variable had been removed, and there had been no plague in the capital that summer. Parliament would have met a month before,
very probably when the gunpowder (stored in the cellar since July) was still lethally effective, and arguably before one of the less discreet plotters had lost nerve enough to talk to Monteagle.

We are thus in a real position to suppose that in October 1605, King James, Queen Anne, and both Houses of Parliament would indeed have gone sky-high together, leaving the Catholic conspirators ready to seize the kingdom. What would have happened then?

Oh, but for the "accidents of history".... A what if for the ages indeed.


Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

We used to burn an effigy in undergrad at Trinity, U of T. I miss it!

9:36 PM  

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