The Rosicrucians

A Rosicrucian Gunpowder Plot

Suggestion in my novel that the Gunpowder Plot was part of a Rosicrucian endeavour to place Princess Elizabeth on the throne has been rumoured since the 1600s. In her epic investigation into the Rosicrucian movement in the 1970s, the eminent historian Dame Frances Yates concluded that, although the society was almost certainly bogus, a unique Rosicrucian phase of culture was attached to Elizabeth’s early life. Whether or not the circles in which Dr John Dee walked when staying in Bohemia gave rise to the movement that followed remains a topic of debate.
Likewise, that a longer reign of Frederick and Elizabeth in Bohemia could have resulted in a Hermetic paradise will never be known.

Though claims have been put forward that Elizabeth or James could themselves have been Rosicrucians, there is little evidence for this. The suggestion in the novel that Elizabeth was described as a rose in need of protection does have a source. Intriguingly, in 1611 James received a unique Christmas card from Rudolf II’s physician, Michael Maier, which was allegedly of Rosicrucian design. Mention by Simon Studion, as suggested in the novel, that James should enter a triumvirate with Frederick, Duke of Württemberg, and Henry IV of France is also based on fact. Any interest James had in the matter, however, was almost certainly down to diplomatic reasons as opposed to being part of any secret accord.

Strangely, a connection between the Rosicrucian movement and the Gunpowder Plot would make sense. Besides clear intent on the part of Catesby to choose Elizabeth as James I’s replacement, the later intentions of the Fama do match well with Catesby’s desires for reform. Further to this, Gunpowder Plot historians have long been confused by a conversation between Robert Wintour and Guy Fawkes in their cells at the Tower of London, with Wintour recorded as having told Fawkes: ‘God will raise up seed to Abraham out of the very stones, although they were gone’.

Exactly what this meant is anyone’s guess. Quite possibly it was a reassuring message that soon the anguish would all be over and heaven awaited. In other quarters, it has been suggested the words were a coded message to avoid the attention of their gaolers.

Of Wintour’s real intention, we will undoubtedly never know.