Hugh Trevor-Roper

What Would Have Happened If It Had Worked

The Gunpowder Plot

By Antonia Fraser

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 416pp £20 order from our bookshop

The fifth of November is, I suppose, after Christmas Day and St George’s Day, the holiest fixed date in our national calendar. For centuries it has been celebrated annually with comminatory sermons, feux de joie, and (at least in robuster times) with the ceremonial burning (or, in Lewes, drowning) of combustible (or submersible) popes. And why not? For it commemorates our ‘great deliverance’ from that devilish popish attempt, in 1605, to blow up the Royal Family, the House of Lords and the whole Palace of Westminster: national institutions which, though we may criticise them in particular, we still cherish in general as part of our national myth.

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