Q and A: the Gunpowder Plot

I am always astonished at how just a little research can open up so many possibilities for fictional weaving:

The BBC’s  What if the gunpowder plot had succeeded?  suggests an array of alternatives to what ‘actually’ emerged from ‘the reality’ of arrests, torture and subsequent suppression of Catholicism which followed the exposed plot on November 4, 1605…

BBC-what if GP Plot

Should Fawkes’s and the others’ plot have succeeded, Professor Hutton argues that “it is unlikely that things would have been very different had the explosion occurred, even had the conspirators captured the royal children.”


  • because Catholics were in a minority in England and “would have been in no physical or emotional position to support the rebels, and [because] they would have been surrounded by Protestants who were hearing of the atrocity in the capital and the uprising, aware that Catholics were responsible for both, and left under the command of their surviving local leaders….almost certainly these [Protestant peoples] would have taken up arms in a panic, turned upon the Catholics in their respective areas, and imprisoned or slaughtered them, in an English equivalent to the wave of hate and fear that had driven the French Catholics to massacre the Protestants there on St Bartholomew’s Day in 1572.’
  • Charles I would have adopted a much more protestant political philosophy (out of reverence for his parents’ death at the hands or crackpot Catholics) – thus gaining popular support in England and Scotland and thus no civil war
  • “the Catholic majority in Ireland, faced with such a hostile king, would have probably been moved to rebellion as they actually were against the Long Parliament in 1641, but the most likely end to that would be that the crushing of the Irish Catholics by Cromwell would have occurred much sooner, and by a secure and popular king.
  • the British state would have turned into a Protestant absolute monarchy as Sweden, Denmark, Saxony and Prussia all did in the course of the 17th century; but much stronger than any of those. As such, it would in turn have paid the price of this achievement, as its powerful monarchy collapsed in revolution in modern times…

HOWEVER (the game of what if continues)

  • “suppose that the English Protestant majority were sufficiently shocked and demoralized by the destruction of their ruling élite, and sufficiently reassured by promises of religious toleration offered by the new Catholic-controlled government, to give in to the conspirators.”
  • Charles I becomes a catholic king. “Protestantism in England [becomes] a minority from whom toleration could be withdrawn in future generations as it was in France

And that’s just a wee bit of what if Q and A based on one article…


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