Guy Fawkes Night

If Guy Fawkes had succeeded.

Four hundred years ago the gunpowder plotters hoped to change the world by blowing up parliament and killing the king. Had they succeeded, what effect would this have had - and would today's UK be any different?  With 36 barrels of gunpowder stacked directly beneath the King's throne, a group of young, disaffected Catholics planned to attack during the State Opening of Parliament in 1605. But Guy Fawkes, the explosives expert charged with lighting the slow match "therewith... to give fire", was caught just hours beforehand.  Had he succeeded and Westminster been blown sky-high, the country would have been in chaos. The whole of the establishment, including King James I and the aristocracy, would have died in the blast, leaving the conspirators ready to seize the kingdom.
"There would have been a complete power vacuum at the centre of English government; the blast would have killed the king, his direct heir [eldest son Henry], the Privy Council, the law lords, the bishops," says historian Alice Hogge, the presenter of a BBC Timewatch documentary on the plot.  The conspirators planned to kidnap the king's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, from her Warwickshire residence and start an armed rebellion there which would sweep the country.  With Elizabeth as puppet queen, a new government would be formed - of whom is not known, as the plotters left no definitive blueprint.

It probably wouldn't have gone the way they hoped.  There was enough gunpowder to turn the heart of London into something looking like Ground Zero in New York, many more than just the lords would have died, and that's not a good start to anyone's reign.  So gather round the bonfires, enjoy the fireworks, and celebrate the plotters failure!  And wave at the Houses of Parliament next time you go past.

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