The Blue Blot

notes, finds & fragments of research

Remember, Remember ~ Plotters & Heroes in the Family Tree

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

When I woke up this morning this was the first thing that sprung to mind. The other lines of the nursery rhyme, commemorating the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, have just disappeared from my memory, Only fragments of the ‘three score barrels of powder below’, and ‘holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring’ remain, as well as something about ‘God save the King!’. It would probably take two glasses of wine and some ponderous moments to recollect the rest – albeit not necessarily in the right order, I’m sure. Still, I remember, remember; that should count for something, not?


GUN-POWDER Plot: / OR, / A Brief Account of that bloudy and subtle Design laid against the King, his Lords / and Commons in Parliament, and of a Happy Deliverance by Divine Power. (source)

There was always a family myth, told by an old aunt, that we were descendants of both a plotter and the man who saved the day – and king, and country. I have always been rather amused by the story of us having ancestors involved with both sides to this legendary plot, but alas – the plotter I have never been able to trace in our bloodlines. I checked on all thirteen of them, but the result was rather disappointing where it concerned direct lines; however, there are a brother of the conspirator Sir Everard Digby as well as a sister of another, Francis Tresham, but I suppose they were mostly embarrassed, to put it mildly, by their plotting brothers. But the claim to descent from the man who was acclaimed for the discovery of this murderous plot, Lord Monteagle, is true; interesting detail is that he was brother-in-law to the afore-mentioned Tresham. And not only that, but Tresham has also long been suspected of being the one who wrote the letter that warned Monteagle. The rest, the arrest of Guy Fawkes, caught with matches in his coat, is well-known history.

William Parker, 13th Baron Morley, 4th Baron Monteagle (1575-1622), by John de Critz, the Elder, ca. 1615, oil on panel (104.1x84.3 cm), photo & collection The Berger Collection (Denver, Colorado, USA)

William Parker, 13th Baron Morley, 4th Baron Monteagle (1575-1622)John de Critz, the Elder, ca. 1615, oil on panel (104.1×84.3 cm), photo & collection The Berger Collection (Denver, Colorado-USA)

The Tudor period, and especially this near explosive end to it, is one of the most interesting periods of English history. They were troubled times, back in the day, with Protestants and Catholics at court and people changing religions, alliances, and spouses like shoes just to stay in favour (and more importantly: off the chopping block). But Monteagle, seemed to be one who managed to stay true to himself, despite his (blood) relations to an extremist Catholic faction. I am honoured to be his descendant, but I can’t deny it would have been nice to discover the truth in an old tale – that we are descendants of one of the conspirators too; but, oh well, we may lay such claims to many other plotters, who were hanged, drawn and quartered in an equally gruesome manner.

Not being in Britain I’ll miss the bonfires and firework displays again, but I have many fond memories of the times I did attend – and so, this evening, I will light a mere candle and drink to the fact that we still do remember; because, indeed, there is no reason why we should forget.

PS: Some ten years ago a reconstruction of the former House of Parliament was made – to discover what would have been the effect of the explosion, had it not been prevented. It was quite impressive. The documentary The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding the legend is still to be found online.

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