Archive: 17th Century Plotters Who Sparked the Course of History; This Year Sees a Series of Landmark Anniversaries and Today Is No Exception. Chief Feature Writer Paul Groves Looks at a Series of Events to Mark the 400th Anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Groves

It was in November 1605 that a small group of young men, including the most celebrated of them all, Guy Fawkes, attempted to assassinate the King of England and Scotland, all the nobles, bishops, and members of the House of Commons in one fell swoop.

The plan involved hiding 36 barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords, to be detonated at the time of the State Opening of Parliament. Four centuries later this event is still commemorated by bonfires and fireworks.

Who were these men and why did they plan such a stupendous act of treason?

Why did November 5 become such a significant date in the calendar? What relevance does this event have for our own times?

Answers to all these are provided by a series of special events and exhibitions to mark the historic anniversary. They include: n Gunpowder Plot: Parliament and Treason in 1605, which runs until November 18, is a free exhibition in Westminster Hall that provides an essential introduction to the events of 1605 in a location close to the scene of the actual events.

Fawkes and several of his co-conspirators were tried at Westminster Hall, which was used for state trials at the time.

n If you want to put names to faces, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) is hosting a display of paintings and engravings, which runs until December 18.

The NPG holds the famous image of the plotters dawn by an anonymous artist in 1606. In Room 4 of the gallery you will find this and further portraits and paintings that provide an essential visual context for the events commemorated on bonfire night. Focusing on key figures involved in the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators will be shown alongside those they sought to overthrow.

A series of related lectures and room talks accompanies this small but essential exhibition.

n Another famous "image" of the Gunpowder Pot is the confession signature of Guido Fawkes.

There is perhaps no better way of bringing home the brutality of the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot than by gazing on the shattered handwriting of Guy Fawkes on his confession document. …