Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Gunpowder Plot

Shortly after the king's religious convention, some of the Roman Catholics, seeing they would never get what they wanted from the king, formed a plot to blow him up, with his eldest son and all the members of Parliament. With this purpose in view, they hired the cellars under the hall where Parliament sat, and stored away there great quantities of gunpowder and fuel.

Houses of Parliament


One of the conspirators, anxious to save the life of a friend, wrote him a letter warning him not to go to Parliament on a certain day, as his life would be in danger.

This letter seemed so suspicious that the man who received it showed it to the king. James, on reading it, cleverly discovered its hidden meaning and immediately sent some officers to visit the cellars under Parliament House.

These officers, entering unexpectedly, found there a man named Guy Fawkes, and seized him. It was well they did so, for when they searched him, they found he had a lantern and slow-match all ready. Clearing away the fuel, they next discovered the barrels of gunpowder, and a train all ready laid to set them off. When they asked Guy Fawkes why he had so much powder stored there, he gruffly answered that it was to blow the Scotchmen back to Scotland. He was taken off to prison, where, under torture, he revealed the names of his fellow-conspirators. Those who had taken part in the Gunpowder Plot were arrested, and hanged, drawn, and quartered.

The narrow escape of the king and Parliament was commemorated by a yearly holiday on the 5th of November. On that day there were bonfires everywhere, and after a straw effigy of Guy Fawkes had been duly paraded through the streets, it was publicly burned. This holiday, which is still celebrated in England, was observed also in America until the time of the Declaration of Independence.

Throughout James's reign there was a constant struggle between the Parliament and the crown. James fancied that a king reigned by divine right and could do as he pleased; so whenever Parliament opposed him, he dissolved it. Finding, however, that this did no good, and that each new Parliament was more or less against him, he tried to get along without any.

But as he was always in need of money, and as he could not raise it by taxes, except through Parliament, he was often forced to resort to strange means. Besides asking for benevolences, or gifts, from rich people, he sold titles and offices, and tried many other ways of raising money. The funds he obtained, however, were not wisely used, for James was both lavish and miserly.

Once, for instance, he ordered that 20,000 should be given to his first favourite, a worthless creature by the name of Carr. The treasurer, knowing that James would not willingly give away the money if he only realized how much it represented, made a heap of it and showed it to the king. James gazed at it in wonder, and when he heard that this glittering heap of gold was the sum he had promised Carr, he flung himself upon it and clasped it in his arms, saying he could not part with it.

To increase his own wealth, as much as for the good of the country, James encouraged commerce. This was a great advantage and London grew rapidly, owing to the trade brought by the ships which came up the Thames. Once, when angry with the lord mayor, who refused him funds, James threatened to leave London and establish his capital elsewhere, thinking such a measure would diminish the city's trade. But the lord mayor answered this threat by saying, "Your majesty hath power to do what you please, and your city of London will obey accordingly; but she humbly begs that when your majesty shall remove your courts, you would please leave the Thames behind you."

The mayor, you see, realized that it was owing more to the Thames than to the presence of king and court that London had become so thriving a city.