English History

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The Church of England has produced a very moving 60 second message – a montage of UK Christians praying the Lord’s Prayer, beginning with the Archbishop of Centerbury, Justin Welby.

They have launched a website (www.justpray.uk), and had contacted the leading movie theater chains in the United Kingdom to contract to have the message aired during previews in the month of December, capitalizing on the expected five million cinema-goers expected to view the new Star Wars movie over the Christmas Holidays.

Here’s the video (well worth 60 seconds of your time):

The cinema chains have refused to accept the advertisement on the grounds that it might “offend or upset audiences.”

Although this is not technically censorship, it is very close to its functional equivalent.

The viewing of a 60 second video, with the only the 66 words of the Lord’s Prayer, “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences.”

Here’s British actor Stephen Fry’s response:

And here’s a link to a more complete article from the Daily Mail:

Archbishop Welby’s fury at cinema ban on ‘offensive’ Lord’s prayer:
Church threaten to sue after plug pulled on advert due to be shown to millions at Christmas

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a speech given by Rob Shearer at Lipscomb University on Dec 3rd, 2011
part of a Limited Government Seminar sponsored by the Lipscomb University College Republicans

My topic today is the birth of liberty in Europe.

Well, it was born in Europe wasn’t it?

Every generation thinks it was the first to discover sex, so I guess every nation believes it was the one to discover liberty.

I hope to shatter a few illusions this morning. I want to broaden your horizons.

I am going to boldly assert that as young healthy American college students there are a number of things that you believe that aren’t true. Just as a fish never really notices the water, all of us, are usually oblivious to what Emmett Tyrell calls the Kultursmog.

Let me start with three small observations:

  1. the world did not begin in 1492
  2. human nature has not changed.
  3. progress is a myth

The one assertion you can confidently make about human nature over the course of 4,000 years of recorded history is that it has not evolved. In fact, it would be difficult to prove that human nature has appreciably changed.

I would challenge you to read the literature of the ancient world, or the medieval world, or the renaissance or the reformation. If you do, I think you’ll find something surprising. The thoughts, emotions, desires and aspirations of those people will be instantly recognizable and understandable. In truth, they are just like us.


Read the Bible. Read the Hymn to Aton by Pharaoh Akhnaton. Read the Epic of Gilgamesh. Read Homer. Read Augustine. Read Chaucer.

The people they describe are JUST. LIKE. US.

And they aspired to liberty – individual liberty, political liberty, JUST. LIKE. US.

We didn’t invent the idea of liberty.

It has a long pedigree, with roots back into the ancient world.

And the record of European history, of Western Culture, shows some remarkable periods in which political liberty was achieved.

We are the heirs to that rich European culture.

Our ideas about religion, philosophy, politics, and government have all come to us directly from Europe or through Europe.

But the development of liberty in western culture has followed a long and tortured path. It has not been the steady path of progress. There have been fits and starts. Achievement and decay.

It was anything but inevitable.

Now there is a school of history that believes that the course of history is pre-ordained, and unfolds by inexorable laws.  Macaulay, Hegel, Marx and Calvin all have one thing in common. They all believe in predestination.

Calvin… well, let’s leave Calvin out of this. He gets enough grief as it is. I don’t wish to trouble him this morning.

Thomas Babington Macaulay was the great Whig historian of 19th century Britain. For Macaulay, all of recorded human history was simply documentation of the unfolding idea of freedom which came to its fulfillment in that best of all possible representative constitutional, representative governments – 19th century Britain.

 

 

 

Hegel is the great German philosopher of the 19th century. For Helgel, all of recorded human history was simply the record of the unfolding and developing idea of freedom, which, by way of the dialectic, revealed itself in ever more refined and perfect fashion until it reached its culmination in 19th century Germany.

 

 

 

Marx believed that all of recorded human history is simply the clash of economic classes and forces and that the course of history was certain and determined and would inevitably lead to the overthrow of each imperfect intermediate form of government  until history was fulfilled in the workers’ paradise of a true communist state where the private ownership of capital would be abolished, and rule by the dictatorship of the proletariat. He thought that this would inevitably happen first in the most industrialized nations of the 19th century: either Britain, Germany, or the United States. Such a revolution, of course, could never occur in the less developed more rural nations on the edge of Europe or outside of European civilization. Certainly never in a country as backward and agricultural as Russia (where they still had serfs when Das Kapital was written!)

We laugh at the naiveté of these historians now… and think them parochial for advancing their own nations as the high point of history.

And then, of course, we’re guilty of the same thing.

We order the past to show how several thousand years of history were but prologue to the inevitable and pre-ordained emergence of the American republic.

This notion of history (quite widely and popularly held) is why many of the American historians of my generation have gone out of their way to attack the virtues of the founders.

The truth is, the founding of the American Republic is a remarkable and rare event in history.

Let me reassure you that I admire and revere the founders of the United States. I believe that Washington, Adams, Jefferson, & Franklin were remarkable and praiseworthy men.

But I want to suggest to you this morning that the founding of the American Republic was not as original as we sometimes think… nor was it inevitable.

So let me go back to the western European history and highlight places where Liberty appears.

But first, let me point out that Liberty & Law are inextricably intertwined.

Liberty is not license or lawlessness.

In fact, there can be no liberty without a recognized body of law (Hobbes & Locke had much to say about this, but let me come back to them later.)

Liberty depends upon a shared, recognizable concept of law – natural law.

Liberty and natural law are intertwined.

The notion that there is a natural moral law that is intrinsic, built-in to the universe, and discoverable is an idea with a long pedigree. It was something the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans all agreed upon. They might have disagreed with each other over who was the author of this law, or over some of the particulars, but they all agreed and acknowledged that natural law was an objective fact.

The birth and expansion of liberty has deep roots. It is a long tale.

Now of course, modern Europeans have abandoned the idea of natural law – just as they have abandoned the notion of objective truth. This doesn’t mean that either have ceased to exist – only that the Europeans have ceased believing in them.

But a belief in natural law and a devotion to discovering, or at least outlining, its details is a central part of the story of liberty in western culture.

But natural law by itself does not generate personal liberty, or political liberty.

Personal, political liberty depends upon the notion that natural law limits the actions of everyone in society.

Tyranny, despotism, oligarchy, aristocracy all are antithetical to liberty, because they all believe that there are some people who are not obligated to obey natural law.

Liberty is achieved to the extent that the wealthy, the privileged, the aristocrats, the king and his officers are all forced to obey, equally the natural law.

So long as there are some people who are above the law, liberty is curtailed.

When all are equal before the law, there is liberty.

THAT idea as you might imagine took a long time to succeed.

To achieve liberty, you must limit government. You must limit the king. You must limit the kings officers.

And they’d rather NOT be limited or held accountable, thank you very much – so they resist.

The struggle to achieve liberty then is a struggle to limit government – not to throw off the natural law, but to bring everyone under the law.

Let me outline for you briefly some highlights in the history of the struggle to achieve liberty – the struggle to limit government

It is useful to remind us how costly the struggle has been, how much patience and perseverance it has taken to guard the spark and flame over long centuries, and how irregular the course was. The many setbacks are a useful reminder to us that the unfolding of liberty was anything but inevitable.

In the ancient world, you can do no better than to make a comparative study of the political history of Israel, Greece, and Rome – coincidentally, the three streams of political thought & philosophy which lie at the heart of western European culture.

And in all three you find a curious sequence of events. The unfolding of liberty is not a linear tale of progress. Israel is ruled by Patriarchs & Judges, then by Kings. The kings (as prophesied) are more oppressive in their rule than were the judges, and to make matters worse the Kings, over time get progressively worse, not better! In fact you could argue that a graph of the political history of Israel has a downward slope – the opposite of progress.

Hmmm…

 

Well, let us turn to Greece. The political history of the Greek city states is rich and varied. And the Greeks give us the democracies of the city-states like Athens, Corinth, and… Sparta? Wait. How many of you saw The 300? The Spartans represent a strand of Greek culture that values honor and the battle-skills of well-trained soldiers far above liberty. And over time, which strand of Greek culture came to dominate. Did the Greek city states gradually merge into a larger, representative political union? No, in fact the Greek city states either succumbed to their own demagogues and tyrants, or in the end they were conquered by Alexander and his Macedonian phalanxes, and came under what can only be described as a military dictatorship.

How would you graph liberty over the history of ancient Greece?

And now, let us turn to Rome.

The Romans achieved remarkable stability in their government and successfully pacified and governed the entire Mediterranean world – the pax romana. And Rome was a republic. The republic held elections for the office of consul every year. And the Roman republic achieved political stability by dividing political authority – not just between two co-equal consuls, but between consuls and senators and a host of other prominent officials.

But what happened to Rome? How do we explain/ what answer do we give to Gibbon’s great historical work titled The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? (published in 1776, by the way – this is called foreshadowing)?

Actually, I think Gibbon’s work asks the wrong question. It’s not really even all that very interesting a question. He thought the answer was that Christianity had undermined the old Roman virtues and weakened Rome. I think that’s a preposterous answer by the way. But Gibbon work asks the wrong question.

The much more interesting, much more important question is “Why did the Roman Republic fail?” Not the Empire, the REPUBLIC! Why did Rome cease being a Republic and become an Empire.

The peak of Roman civilization is during the days of the Republic. When the Republic fails and Rome becomes an Empire it is a sign that things have already gone badly wrong. The Roman Emperors were not nice men. That fact is masked for us, because in the movies they always speak with British accents and seem refined and cultured. But they were not nice men. Almost every single one of them was a general and owed his title to the backing of the army. The ugly truth (seldom spoken) is that the Roman Empire was a military dictatorship. And like many military dictatorships, the most frequent method of regime change was a military coup. Roman Empire is a misnomer. It was not so much the Roman Empire as it was the Roman Banana Republic – 500 years of military dictatorship.

So the real, important question to be asked of Roman history is not why did the Empire fall, It’s why did the Republic fall? Why did it cease to hold elections and turn into a military dictatorship?

I challenge you to take up the study of Roman history. The answer to that question is fascinating, and frightening.

I could say much about the Middle Ages and the Germanic kingdoms that succeeded Rome. Here again, our nomenclature is misleading. Rome was not conquered by the Germanic tribes. The Germanic tribes had no kingdoms of their own. They were homeless. They crossed the frontier of Rome (the Danube River) as illegal immigrants. And the hollow and rotted out shell of the Roman Empire collapsed under the weight of their migrations.


And in one of the great ironies of church history, barely a century after the urban, lower-class persecuted Christian church had succeeded in converting the Roman aristocracy, Rome was conquered by pagan barbarian tribes and it would take several more centuries for the conquered Roman Christians to convert their Barbarian masters.

 

Much could and should be said about the development of law and liberty in medieval and renaissance Europe. The struggles of the 12th & 13th century led to The Great Charter of the Liberties of England, and of the Liberties of the Forest – a radical notion that the king was bound by the law.

That notion was more prominent in the late Middle Ages and then was rejected by the monarchs of the 16th & 17th centuries who claimed to rule by direct authority from God. England went through a civil war and ten years of military dictatorship sorting that out. The result brought the king’s back under the authority of the Magna Charta and the law. One could argue that Locke, Hobbes, and the Glorious Revolution were a recovery and revival of early medieval notions of kingship.

But I want to come back to that bit of foreshadowing I spoke of before. I don’t want to steal the thunder of the next figure, but I want to make an important point about the connection between liberty in the United States and liberty in Europe.

I mentioned that Gibbon published The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776. His work typified the ongoing study of the ancient world which had been revived in Europe at the end of the middle ages.

At the end of the Middle Ages came a period of time dubbed the renaissance or rebirth because of a widespread movement which sought to revive the ancient world. Across European culture, for several centuries, there was an intense interest and devotion to studying Greece and Rome. It began with a revival of languages and literature. It spread to a revival of artistic styles and subjects. The protestant Reformation itself fits organically into this cultural preoccupation with reviving the classical world. This fascination with the ancient world persisted for several centuries. It was the exact opposite of our modern notion of progress. Renaissance men did not believe that everyone who had lived before them was stupid and insignificant. Rather, they believed that the wisdom of the ancient world had been tragically lost and that it could and should be rescued and revived. The motto of the Renaissance was “ ad fonts” – back to the sources.

The culture of the 18th century, the 1700s in America was still the culture of the Renaissance, with an emphasis on studying the classics of Greece & Rome. The culture of the Enlightenment and the rejection of authority and the past was just developing in Europe – but not yet in North America. The colonies were not on the cutting edge of cultural trends. They were a cultural backwater, lagging behind and maintaining the attitudes and culture of earlier centuries.

And what model did the American colonists turn to when they wished to establish a new form of government, independent of the British monarchy? They consciously chose the form and features of the Roman Republic – with an eye towards avoiding its deficiencies, but with a thoughtful recognition that it had governed the Roman World successfully for 500 years.

And so I would assert that the founding of the Roman Republic is the last expression and accomplishment of the spirit of the Renaissance. It looks backwards to the ancient world for guidance and wisdom. The renaissance began with language and literature and spread to the arts. The spirit of the renaissance, when applied to the problems of the church produced the upheavals of the protestant reformation.

And then finally, the renaissance results in the revival of ancient political thought and forms and the founding of the American republic.

The American revolution looks back to the ancient world. The French revolution is a horse of a different color. Its spirit is almost the antithesis of the renaissance. It rejects all past authority. It treats all ancient authority with suspicion and contempt. The proximity in time is misleading. They not the expressions of the same cultural movement, they are the antithetical expressions of two separate and opposite cultural movements.

So. The origin of Liberty in Europe took us back to ancient Rome, via the Renaissance.

And the cautionary part of that tale is that each expression of liberty which I have mentioned was not marked by a slow, steady progressive improvement. Rather in Israel, in Greece, in Rome, in the Middle Ages there are brief, compressed, miraculous expressions and instantiations of Liberty. But they do not last. They decay, they decline, they rot. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowy. But they do not build upon each other brick on brick, course on course.

The course rather is a sawtooth pattern. Liberty is achieved… and then begins to fade, and often seems to disappear – until another generation comes along and is miraculously empowered to create a culture, a movement, a political nation where liberty becomes real.

May your generation be such a miraculously empowered generation. Because we do not need progress. We need a renaissance of liberty. We need a revival of liberty.

Thank you.

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is worth a read.

This one expecially.

William Grigg at Pro Libertate on the doctrine of Interposition.

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It’s done! Finished, edited, proofed and approved. And we have copies on the shelves!

The sequel to Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation.

Rather than reprinting Famous Men of Modern Times (which is a bit uneven in both tone and selection), we have made the decision to complete the Famous Men biography series with four new books:

  • Famous Men of the 16th & 17th Century (Queen Elizabeth to Louis XIV) – available now
  • Famous Men of the 18th Century (Isaac Newton to Robespierre) – 2010
  • Famous Men of the 19th Century (Napoleon Bonaparte to Mark Twain) – 2011
  • Famous men of the 20th Century (Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan) – 2012

The 17th century was an age of religious wars and revolutions. The French had seven civil wars of religion from 1570-1590. The German Empire had a religious civil war from 1618-1648. The English had a civil war from 1642-1649. It was also the century in which the English and French settlements were founding colonies in North America at Jamestown, Plymouth, Boston, & Quebec. But learning the wars will not convey to students what the times were like. Biographies will. Twenty-eight key individuals are profiled in chronological order:

Birth Crowned Death

1519

1547

1589

Catherine de’ Medici
1553

1589

1610

Henry of Navarre (Henry IV)
1533

1558

1603

Elizabeth I
1540

1595

Sir Francis Drake
1552

1618

Sir Walter Raleigh
1566

1603

1625

James I
1552

1610

Matteo Ricci
1564

1616

William Shakespeare
1580

1631

John Smith
1583

1634

Wallenstein
1594

1611

1632

Gustavus Adolphus
1575

1635

Samuel de Champlain
1564

1642

Galileo
1585

1642

Cardinal Richelieu
1600

1625

1649

Charles I
1599

1658

Oliver Cromwell
1590

1620

1657

William Bradford
1588

1629

1649

John Winthrop
1623

1662

Blaise Pascal
1606

1669

Rembrandt
1608

1674

John Milton
1632

1675

Johannes Vermeer
1630

1660

1685

Charles II
1629

1674

1696

Jan Sobieski
1650

1688

1702

William of Orange (William III)
1632

1704

John Locke
1653

1706

Johan Pachelbel
1638

1643

1715

Louis XIV

I am particularly pleased with how the chapters on the colonial founders turned out. John Smith (Jamestown), Samuel de Champlain (Quebec), William Bradford (Plymouth), and John Winthrop (Boston) all have incredible and fascinating stories. A simple comparison of their backgrounds and their reasons for leaving England and France will give students far more understanding about the founding of the colonies than any textbook can.

I also enjoyed greatly retelling the events of the English Civil War, the Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. These events (with a number of larger-than-life characters) were critical in shaping the political ideas of America’s Founding Fathers – whose stories I am looking forward to telling in Famous Men of the 18th Century.

I’ve also included accounts of the lives of artists (Rembrandt, Vermeer), a musician (Johan Pachelbel), and writers (Shakespeare & Milton) so that students will become acquainted with more than just the political history of the times.

The reading level is targeted on upper elementary/jr. high, but even older students and adults will find much here that gets left out of the textbook accounts.

Famous Men of the 16th & 17th Century is 28 chapters, 228 pages and retails for $17.95, directly from Greenleaf Press.

Get ’em while they’re hot off the press!

– Rob Shearer, (author and) Publisher

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winthropI’ve just finished drafting a short biography of John Winthrop for my next book, Famous Men of the 16th & 17th Century. The biographies begin with Queen Elizabeth and will end with the death of Louis XIV in 1715.

This has been a difficult chapter for me to write, and taken longer than I expected. I have developed an admiration for Winthrop, even if I have not been able to muster a great deal of affection. If I had known him, I might have liked him – but on the whole he seems to have had a very serious bent. Luther did too, but Luther had a playful, mischievous side to him that I greatly appreciate. I can find no hint of mischief in all of Winthrop’s writings.

Still, he is a man to be admired.

Part of the difficulty in writing about him is having to explain the culture and institutions within whose bounds he operated. He is an Englishman of the 1600s. Further, he is Puritan in his religious convictions. Further, he is from a moderately well-off, connected family from the Stour Valley in Suffolk. And he was a lawyer. I hope you get my drift.

Reasons to admire him? There are many.

His family – when he died, he had six surviving sons. The oldest was 48, the youngest barely a year old. Winthrop was widowed three times, twice before he was 30. He and his third wife were married for 29 years and had raised four sons together when she died. Winthrop, a widower at 59, married for a fourth time, and had a son who was just a year old when he died.

His leadership / perseverance – He joined the Puritan company who were planning to plant a colony in the new world in 1629 and was almost immediately elected governor. He organized a fleet of 11 ships and 700 colonists who sailed for Massachusetts just six months later.

His moderation – As governor he sought to reconcile embittered parties who came before him with legal disputes. He knew what a great freedom the Puritans had achieved by being granted a charter that allowed the colony to govern itself – without a royal, appointed governor.

His resolve – The life of the colonists was harsh, and challenging. Mortality was quite high – over 50% for many years. Threatened by disease, starvation, Indian attacks, and on occasion by internal quarrels, Winthrop persevered in seeing the colony grow and prosper. It had a population of over 15,000 when he died in 1649 – nineteen years after the first 700 had crossed the Atlantic in the Winthrop fleet.

Some may think the cases of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson are damaging to Winthrop’s reputation, but the original sources do not reflect badly on him. I would argue that Williams’ banishment from Massachusetts was not so harsh as later historians wish to portray it. In fact, after settling in Rhode Island, Williams and Winthrop maintained a friendly correspondence and sent each other gifts from time to time.

Anne Hutchinson is another matter altogether. I believe that the popular story of Hutchinson as an early feminist and a martyr for toleration and religious freedom can only be described as a great historical fraud. She has been adopted by those pursuing modern ideologies for their own reasons. In the record, it is clear that she was as intolerant (if not more so) as the Puritans of Boston. She was, in fact, agitating and organizing a faction in the church at Boston in an attempt to have one of the ministers dismissed and her brother-in-law appointed in his place. She claimed to know “by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit” who were truly elect and who were not. She charged that only Rev. Cotton and Rev. Wheelwright (her brother-in-law) were true ministers of the gospel and that all the other ministers of Massachusetts were preaching a false “covenant of works.” Had she succeeded, she would have gladly seen Winthrop banished from the colony.

Well.. chapter 18 is now drafted. The page count stands at 163. I have to finnish finding illustrations for these last few chapters. I have seven more to draft myself, and three to edit from the original Famous Men of Modern Times. Time to push on. . .

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Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Great Britain holds that office by succession to the head of his party when Tony Blair retired from politics. He has never led his party through an election and has no mandate of his own as Prime Minister. And it looks as though he never will have.

He’s also, increasingly had to juggle things to keep his cabinet under control.

Today, Tory MP William Hague (who will become the new Foreign Secretary when the Tories win the next election) mocked Prime Minister Brown’s actions in keeping one, LordMandelson in his cabinet:

“The unelected Prime Minister has managed to produce the most powerful unelected deputy since Henry VIII appointed Cardinal Wolsey, except Cardinal Wolsey was more sensitive in handling his colleagues that the noble Lord Mandelson…

“The Prime Minister, who lectures us all on democratic renewal, is appointing peers to positions of power on a scale unknown for decades. There are now more peers attending the Cabinet than at any time since the days of Harold Macmillan…

“And the Lord Mandelson, denied the opportunity to become the Foreign Secretary… has gone around instead collecting titles and even whole government departments to add to his name, now adding up to

The Right Honourable the Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the County of Durham, First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Privy Council and Secretary of State for Business and Secretary of State for Innovation and Skills.

It would be no surprise to wake up in the morning and finding he had become an archbishop…”

hat tip to the blog of Archbishop Cranmer, who blogs pseudonymously on British political and religious topics.

The video below is worth watching. The clever soundbite comes at about 1:50 into the clip. But stay for the end, and watch how a brilliant MP deftly deals with the questions from two Labor MPs.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geWERiWP7aA

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Taken from Captain John Smith by Arthur Granville Bradley, copyright 1905:

A colony of French Huguenots had settled on the coast of Florida in 1565. Pedro de Menendez attacked it with overwhelming numbers, and hanged every grown male in the settlement on trees to the number of a hundred and forty and on the breast of each he attached this inscription, Not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans.

When a certain valiant De Gourgues, a Frenchman who had once been taken prisoner by the Spaniards, and hated them with a deadly hatred, heard of the catastrophe, he set about preparing to avenge it with grim deliberation, in spite of the frowns of his own government. The Spaniards had made a considerable settlement at St. Augustine in Florida, a day’s journey from the one they had so brutally destroyed, and upon this De Gourgues fixed his avenging eye. He sold his property in France, and invested the proceeds in three small ships, carrying eighty sailors and one hundred soldiers.

Having obtained a commission to sail the Guinea Coast as a slaver, he immediately crossed the Atlantic. He laid his plans, and kept his followers in hand with infinite skill and patience, surprised the Spaniards, who far outnumbered his own party, in their forts, and captured them all. He then deliberately hanged every man of them upon trees, and over each body he nailed the inscription, Not as Spaniards, but as traitors, robbers, and murderers.

This is perhaps the most appallingly dramatic episode that the story even of the Spanish Main can furnish, and in its daring almost rivalled the greatest even of Drake’s feats. The hero of it was offered high commands by foreign countries, but he died, like a later and less bloodthirsty hero, “at the moment when his fame began.”

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In November of 2005, Richard Hammond of Britain’s iTV set about to find out if Guy Fawkes really could have killed King James in 1605 – in a plot that was discovered 400 years ago.

The test was constructed on a truly massive scale. iTV budgeted enough to allow a reconstruction of the original House of Parliament as it existed in 1605 (the current buildings are a Victorian creation) . . . and then blow it up. The co-operation of the British army was requested and received. Over the course of several months, a large medieval building was reconstructed, with seven foot thick walls for the undercroft and a wooden beam floor with stone walls on a weapons testing site of the British army.

One of the more interesting challenges was the task of securing 36 barrels of gunpowder (about one ton). The producers finally had to make arrangements with a Spanish factory, and for security reasons the transport of the gunpowder barrels was shrouded in secrecy.

You can avoid the 50 minute setup and just watch the following video if you want to see what would have happened to the Houses of Parliament in 1605 if Guy Fawkes had succeeded in setting off those 36 barrels of gunpowder.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFytcsA9mU8

Explosion comes 1:45 into the video…

The instruments the Mythbusters placed in the building were completely destroyed. Everyone in the building would certainly have been killed. The mannequins used as stand-ins for the King, Bishops, Lords, & MPs were blown apart and carried hundreds of feet in all directions by the force of the blast. The force of the explosion surprised even the explosives experts who had been hired as consultants.

It would have been the worst mass assassination in history if it had succeeded.

And it very nearly did.

The night before Parliament was to convene, Guy Fawkes was arrested in the cellar under the house of Parliament, waiting by the 36 barrels of gunpowder. A watch, slow matches, and touchpaper were found in his possession.

A sobering thought.

There’s an article about the TV re-creation from the TimesOnline here.

I stumbled on all this today while doing research on James I for the book I am drafting on Famous Men of the 16th & 17th Century.

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