16th Sep, Stowe School, Stowe.
This Masterclass was one of our most memorable so far. With the forthcoming new BBC1 show Gunpowder on its way the session gave our privileged few a unique insight into the convoluted and fascinating history of the plot that changed British history forever. The Masterclass was led by Jessie Childs, author of God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England, the most recent book to take a broad and also detailed view of the subject, and was introduced and curated by Sam Willis. The Masterclass ranged widely across subjects and themes. The acquisition of gunpowder…secret codes…the role of religion…politics…guilt…torture…monarchy. No fiery, intriguey, conniving stone was unturned. Our Masterclassers learned to write in secret ink (and did it themselves with oranges and fire), they transcribed the letter that revealed the plot and voted for who they believed was responsible for its writing, they raised questions that challenged their own views on the plot, they wondered at the survival of an eyeball of one of the plotters. Held in the extraordinary historical surroundings of Stowe House, our Masterclassers were also led on a tour to the Temple of British Worthies in the grounds, where they learned that history can take uncertain and unpredictable roads…especially if someone is plotting to kill the king.