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History comes to life in new Gunpowder Plot drama for BBC

Posted on 17 October 2017

University of York researchers, Dr Hannah Greig and Dr John Cooper, are the historical advisors behind the BBC’s new retelling of the infamous plot to blow up the House of Lords in 1605.


Game of Thrones star, Kit Harington, plays Robert Catesby, the driver behind the Gunpowder Plot of 1605

Gunpowder, starring Game of Thrones actor, Kit Harington and Lord of the Rings actress, Liv Tyler, is a three-part series focused on the chain of events that led up to the attempted assassination of King James and the lives of the men involved in the plot.  

Dr Hannah Greig, from the University’s Department of History and historical advisor for the series, said: “We are very familiar in modern-day culture with the name Guy Fawkes, particularly here in York where he was born, but perhaps less familiar with the lives and motivations of his fellow plotters. 

“Our role as historical advisors is not simply to fact check for anachronisms but to find historically-informed solutions that enable the story to reach the screen in a way that is meaningful to the audience and extends public knowledge of real historical events.”

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The Gunpowder Plot is set against a backdrop of a country at war with Catholic Spain, English Catholic persecution, and a new Scottish King on the throne of England.  The BBC drama focuses on the driving force behind the plot, Robert Catesby, a Warwickshire landowner who wants to see the King overthrown and replaced with Princess Elizabeth. 

The plot, and subsequent failure, became legendary and retold every 5th November as part of ‘Bonfire Night’ celebrations across Great Britain for more than 400 years. 


Liv Tyler plays Anne Vaux

Dr John Cooper, from the University’s Department of History and historical advisor for the series, said: “It was a great opportunity to work with Kudos productions in bringing this famous story to life for the small screen.  We were able to ask and suggest potential answers to the motivations of these men at a time in our history were risk, threat, and fear were part of daily life. 

“What you see on screen are all of the choices that producers, writers, directors, and actors have made in order to tell an engaging story.  Dr Greig and I were brought in to present the historical choices that the production team had, and ultimately to empower them to make decisions that are appropriate for their story to avoid the post-production challenge of trying to rectify any mistakes.”

The series, which was filmed in several locations around Yorkshire including Leeds and Bradford, will be screened on Saturday, 21 October on BBC One at 9:10pm. 

For more information about the series visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/gunpowder

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