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In putting together Remember! Remember!, we have continually found ourselves having to strike a balance between the demands of dramatic effect and historical accuracy. While we feel we have been successful in telling the story of the Gunpowder Plot, both in terms of specific details and of the broader picture, there are a few points where we have had to sacrifice strict historical correctness on the altar of convenience, the more important of which we will mention here.
All but one of the major characters in Remember! Remember! represent actual historical figures. The sole exception is Jane Finwood. Catholic families in England were often infiltrated by government spies, and while it is perfectly possible that Anne Vaux’s household was too, Finwood is a creation of our own.
As to a more minor character – in our story, at least – the name of Father John Watt is made up, but there were dozens of Jesuit priests arrested and killed at the time whose stories would have been scarcely distinguishable from Watt’s.
Beyond that, all of our characters – even the naïve landlady, Susan Whynniard – are real and their actions based on what is known from historical sources, with a few simplifications and interpolations.
Catesby did not, in fact, confess directly to father Garnet (although he knew him well) but to another Jesuit priest, Father Oswald Tesimond. It was Tesimond who then confessed what he knew to Garnet, and so although the route was more convoluted than we have shown, Garnet’s dilemma was just as real.
It remains an historical mystery as to exactly who sent the Monteagle Letter (which we have used verbatim). Many theories have been put forward, including that Cecil himself might have written it in order to divert attention from the real source of his information. Our idea that the letter was written by Anne Vaux and Lady Monteagle – though not inconceivable – is purely a dramatic convenience and is not presented as a new historical theory.
There were thirteen men generally recognised as plotters, and each has his own unique story, but for simplicity we have focussed predominantly on Catesby, Fawkes, Tresham and Tom Wintour. Some incidents which historically relate to other plotters have been attached to one of these four, so for example, we have Tom Wintour renting the house from Susan Whynniard and her husband, where in fact it was Thomas Percy.
Francis Tresham was always a reluctant plotter and – aside from his relationship with Finwood which, like the lady herself, is fictional – we hope we have portrayed him reasonably faithfully. He was suspected by the plotters of sending the Monteagle Letter and did persuade them of his innocence. He left the plot at that point, but was arrested anyway (though not betrayed by Monteagle). He died in the Tower of London, but almost certainly of illness, not directly through torture.
Both Garnet and Owen were arrested after the plot and taken to the Tower, although they had not been hiding together at White Webbs, but in separate priest-holes at Hindlip House in Worcestershire. Owen was with another Catholic who had become caught up in the plot, Ralph Ashley, while Garnet was hiding with a fellow priest, Father Edward Oldcorne. Both Ashley and Oldcorne became victims of the wave of executions that followed the unravelling of the plot.
The plotters and their associates were not all executed on a single occasion as we have shown them. Most of the plotters who survived Holbeche were hanged over two sessions, on 30th and 31st of January 1606. Garnet met his fate in May of that year.
Nick Owen never made it to the scaffold at all. He died in the Tower on March 2nd. The official story was that he had committed suicide, but few believe that a devout Catholic who had endured so much would have damned himself by committing this mortal sin, and it seems likely that he died under torture. He was canonised in 1970.
The devoted student of history will, no doubt, find further discrepancies between Remember! Remember! and the recognised historical narrative, but we hope that most will leave the theatre with a clearer picture of this famous, infamous and yet strangely unfamiliar story from four centuries ago.include("footer.php") ?>