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.
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.
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.