Monday, September 4, 2017

The Gunpowder Plot Blows Up Again

BBC One will broadcast a miniseries about the Gunpowder Plot this fall. The cast announced so far is Kit Harington as Robert Catesby, Liv Tyler as Anne Vaux, and Tom Collin as Guy Fawkes. No word yet on who will play Fathers Henry Garnett and John Gerard.

The actor Kit Harington says that he is related on his mother's side to Robert Catesby, according to this article:

In 2016, Harington revealed that he was a direct descendant of Robert Catesby on his mother's side — and that the Catesby and Harington families had previously had a humorous interaction years (sic) before Kit's parents were ever even born.

"When (Catesby's) head was marched past the houses of Parliament on a pike, John Harington on my father's side, who was in the houses of Parliament at the time, looked at him and is quoted as saying, 'He's an ugly fellow, isn't he?" Harington said on The Andrew Marr Show in 2016. "Isn't that brilliant?"

Instead of "years", perhaps the word "centuries" would be more appropriate.

Harington is referring to his ancestor Sir John Harington, who was a courtier in both Elizabeth I's and James I's reigns. According to History Today he was:

A witty and erudite figure at the court of Elizabeth I, John Harington is now remembered mainly for two things. One is his cynical epigram on treason: ‘Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.’ The other is his invention of the flush water closet. He installed one at his country house at Kelston, near Bath in Somerset, and described it in a Rabelaisian manner in his A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax of 1596. Ajax was a pun on ‘jakes’, which was slang for a privy, where people could simply use a bucket. Wealthy households might have a close-stool, which had a padded seat with a metal or porcelain container beneath it that still had to be emptied.

Harington’s device emptied itself. It had a pan with a seat and water was pumped up into a cistern above. When a handle on the seat was turned, the water swept the pan’s contents into a cesspool underneath. There was a picture of it in his book and he proclaimed that it ‘would make unsavoury Places sweet, noisome Places wholesome and filthy Places cleanly’. He installed one for Elizabeth I at Richmond Palace. She does not seem to have been impressed, but then like other rich people she did not have to empty her own close-stool.

More about Robert Catesby here; more about John Harington here (also from History Today).

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