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Instigator of the Gunpowder Plot. Arrested and freed for earlier campaigns, he gathers around him twelve Catholic friends to lead to glory. Ultimately blind to the human suffering that his actions will cause – to his enemies if he succeeds, and to his friends and himself if he fails.
King James I
Scottish successor to the English throne, following the death of the childless Elizabeth I. Unsure of how to consolidate his power, is persuaded by Cecil – against his better nature – to continue the persecution of Catholics. Hence becomes the target of Catesby’s plot.
The power behind James’ throne. Having risen to the top under Elizabeth, has assembled a network of spies throughout the country. His concern is always pragmatic; he wants what he sees as best for England. The freedom of English Catholics is not part of this vision.
Father Henry Garnet
One of the highest ranking in the covert brotherhood of English Jesuit priests. Secretly performs Mass, while constantly on the run from the authorities. Has no truck with violence from either side, but finds himself unable to do anything about the plot.
Unmarried, having chosen to dedicate her life to God, her role is to provide Garnet with food and a safe hiding place. A cousin of Catesby and knows many of the plotters, but like Garnet, unable to find a way to successfully prevent bloodshed.
Has never led a safe or stable life, and so spying for Cecil comes as second nature. A maid in Vaux’s household, espionage is a job of work for her, not a matter of religious devotion. Her world is turned upside down when she meets another of Vaux’s servants, Nicholas Owen.
Working as a carpenter for Anne Vaux is merely a cover for his true vocation – a builder of priest-holes; the tiny secret rooms that riddle many of England’s greatest houses. Never privy to the plot, but his involvement with Finwood leads him – and her – into danger.
An outsider amongst the plotters, his experience as a soldier in Flanders (fighting against the English) means he has more practical experience than the rest. Understands the true nature of what they are attempting, but is not troubled by it.
With his easy charm, would probably have been happy and successful if he had not grown up with his cousin, Catesby. Always the weaker willed, Wintour is now one of the staunchest followers of the cause, using his charm where necessary to further the plot.
Another of Catesby’s many of cousins, who has been reluctantly brought into the plot because of his vast wealth. Eventually decides to walk out, with Catesby’s acquiescence, but discovers that all the plotters will be held equally to blame.
Lady Elizabeth Monteagle
Intimate friend of Vaux and sister of Tresham, but also the wife of a government minister. Thus when she hears of the plot, is torn by her two loyalties. The letter that she and Vaux send is a brave attempt to square this circle, but it ultimately ends in failure.
Lord William Monteagle
A Catholic in his heart, but a Protestant in church. In his youth, stood alongside Catesby in lesser rebellions, but now happy with his seat in the Lords. On receipt of the warning letter, which he is unaware comes from his wife, he hands it straight to Cecil.
Proud of her husband’s position as Keeper of the King’s Wardrobe, and of the house in Westminster that comes with it, but blind to the darker plans of the plotters when they rent the house from her – with its cellar under Parliament.
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