Robert Cecil Gunpowder Plotter

Robert Cecil and the lie that was the Gunpowder Plot!

Knyvett made haste to the King’s palace, at Whitehall and told the news both to the Earl of Salisbury, Lord Robert Cecil, and the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Suffolk, Thomas Howard.  Then, the two men would see that Guido never saw his friends again.

Howard immediately woke the rest of the council who were staying at the Palace.

Guido was taken to a house opposite Whitehall, at the Knyvett House, but Doubleday wasn’t taken inside at first, instead he watched from the corner to see the candlelight flickering across the rooms in Whitehall. 

The palace guards who surrounded Guido wished that Doubleday would open the door and give them access to a fire. 

As the Lord Chamberlain, Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, interviewed Whyneard and, as Cecil hoped, discovered Thomas Percy had rented a house in Westminster from Whyneard himself.

He went with Whyneard to the next room to interview Knyvett, leaving Cecil free to put the rest of his plan into action, which he did with skill and alacrity. 

Knyvett sat on a stool, warming himself by the fire and immediately stood in deference to the Lord Chamberlain; the other two men pulled up the chairs that had been, up until then, decoratively lined on either side of the chimneybreast. Howard signalled to Knyvett that he should sit and indicated the same to Whyneard. 

“You may report to me,” Howard breathed reassuringly as he made himself comfortable.

“I found Thomas Percy’s man, standing abroad, his clothes and boots on; at so dead of the night, I decided to arrest him. Then, I went and searched the house, where I had the guards open a small barrel that had been buried under some of the billets and coals, which was added to the thirty-six there.”

“Curious,” Howard sighed.  He was clearly in the process of preparing gunpowder to blow up the palace.”

The audience listened, riveted by the tale as Kynvett explained excitedly, he had rehearsed his speech several times, so he knew chapter and verse. Cecil had made sure it would be dramatic and had drilled Knyvett.

“Then, you came directly to me, is that correct?” Howard asked.

“At first to the guardroom and thence to collect the keeper of the King’s wardrobe, John Whyneard,” Kynvett replied.

“We must await Lord Salisbury, the Secretary of State, Cecil will need a full report, and from thence we can go to the King and give him the good news,” cried Howard. “You have done well.”

Knyvett and Whyneard had done a very good job, but more so, Cecil had done extremely well; the fiction was holding up to the further scrutiny. 

Meanwhile, Cecil told his network the good news that Guy Fawkes was captured which would spread rapidly. If the witnesses could be persuaded of what they had seen, all other details could be changed. 

As Howard escorted Whyneard to the King who was staying at Whitehall, Cecil was encouraging Catesby and his sherry consortium to flee London.

By four in the morning, the Privy Councillors and witnesses had gathered in the King’s bedchamber, including Cecil, and as soon as the King’s Chamberlain entered, the Lord Chamberlain, 

Lord Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, told them all Knyvett’s news.

“All is well.” he announced, assuring King James that the traitor was bound, and that Edmund Doubleday had custody of the villain. 

James considered the news, knowing that Guido alone would not have been able to pull off such a plan. 

“Thank you Lord Knyvett; for discovering this plot particularly as its existence, that had been missed by so many.”

“Thank you, serving you is my only wish, Your Majesty.”

“Undoubtedly, your actions have saved many lives; not the least mine, and you will be rewarded. You did not find the props I had missing? ”

“Indeed not, I am sorry for that” replied Knyvett.

 He thought this would be the least of James’s concerns; but he did not know James as well as he thought. A house opposite the King’s favourite palace of Whitehall did not guarantee understanding of this monarch.  

“It is of little consequence now, and I will arrange for similar items held here at Whitehall to be transported to the Palace of Westminster. Are Waad and Popham here yet?” 

The two men walked forward and bowed; greeting James with the pomp a king deserved, they wished him a long and peaceful reign for good measure.

“My Lords, it is your duty to find out who helped this man in his endeavours is that not so?” James asked.

“Indeed, Your Majesty,” Popham agreed.

“That is the least of our duties, Your Majesty,” Waad added, “a Mr. Doubleday has him in the house in the street opposite this very window. Beefeaters have been dispatched from the Tower to collect him, and then, take him directly to the dungeons there.”  

“Very, well,” the King announced in a loud voice.

So all in the room could hear his fine words; “you must make him speak and if he will not otherwise confess. 

“Your Majesty’s wishes will be followed;” so Waad said.

“We will make him sing like a canary bird,” Popham added.

“Very well, I will not detain you; there is an escort for your carriage waiting for you downstairs, ensure they make great speed to conduct you to your destination” The two men bowed and left immediately. 

The rest of the inner circle gathered around James and started talking animatedly to the King, registering shock and indignation.

Cecil held back waiting for his messenger to call him away so that he could oversee the rest of his true plot, which was to wipe out the vestiges of the Catholic courtiers. The plan was working even more smoothly than he had envisaged.

Cecil arranged the arrest of those who had escaped from London; but those in the far-off corners of the land whose movements had been watched constantly by the Justices of the Peace; and as well as those who might compromise the subterfuge of the Gunpowder Plot. 

As for the conspirators themselves, he had sent them himself to Holbeche House and Markham, helped by the sheriff, would ensure no one would survive.    

A Story by Michael Fitzalan

About the Author

Michael Fitzalan lives in south London, where he was born. His Irish parents were doctors and they settled on the West Side of Clapham Common and had six children in quick succession. The youngest started writing thrillers at fifteen. He published his first fiction book, a romance, The Taint Gallery.

Michael Fitzalan’s first novel gained cult status and here are some others: Waterwitch was a hit with those who have ever sailed; two brothers battle storms and Spanish support for the Malvinas in an attempt to meet up with their girlfriends in Ibiza. They have to get from The Algarve to Ibiza, all very straightforward until engine failure and storms threaten to sink all their plans. The Taint Gallery tells the story of a modern Romeo and Juliet; the story is set in Cheslea and Fulham, not Verona, nevertheless, it is a doomed relationship. The book was shunned by big publishers for its highly charged and graphic sexual content and the small publisher who produced the book folded, copies are rare. A reprint is planned for its twentieth anniversary next year; it is still as pertinent and shocking today as it was back in 1996. Switch is an amazing mixture of Franz Kafka realism yet it reads like a Raymond Chandler thriller. Joe Ederer falls for a French girl but he is recovering from being dumped by his English girlfriend. A fish out of water in London, he chases her home only to be rejected. He hooks up with a suffocating drug addict and that is when his nightmares begin. Major Bruton’s Safari is the story of innocents abroad; a family invited to celebrate the coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda become indoctrinated into the ways of Africa. With an acerbic observer on hand, the family experience the warmth and ways of Uganda that help them to understand themselves a little better. IPG – Innocent Proven Guilty is about a teacher, Philip Hayward whose brother sold their shared flat and ran off to America with the proceeds. Philip bumps into his brother’s ex-girlfriend and she tells him his brother is back. Racing to the address she gave him, he arrives to find his brother with a knife in his back. As he leaves, his shoes leave bloody footprints and the police come looking for him. Carom – Finn McHugh and his team take on a swindler and smuggler, Didier, who is depraved in so many ways. They know he is smuggling art and drugs; he must be stopped before others take him out. The Cubans, want him dead, Finn wants to break the smuggling ring. Who will win? Remember the Fifth November – Guy Fawkes was innocent, Catesby was a broken man who brought his children up in the Anglican faith, yet Robert Cecil arranged for them to be portrayed as terrible villains. With a spy service second to none and with moles everywhere how could someone hatch a plot like this and fail to be discovered? The answer, they could not. Read the truth! One – Bullying does not go on anymore in schools. I would not bet on it. Weep as you read the terrible story of a school bully and the misery he dispenses to all the boys. Then, cheer as one of his victims takes revenge. Take a trip to a prep school in a time when kids built tree houses, danced and swung on Tarzan ropes!

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