This blog contains spoilers for BBC One’s ‘Gunpowder’ series.
One of the most satisfying parts of BBC One’s ‘Gunpowder’ series is seeing the critical role that letters play in the discovery, and manipulation, of the plot by government officials. Letters were an insecure medium in this period as they were conveyed to the recipient by a servant, a paid carrier, or a friendly contact willing to deliver the letter. They could easily be intercepted and tampered with. In ‘Gunpowder’ we see how Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, exploits these possibilities to discover the plot: he intercepts and decodes correspondence written in invisible ink concerning the negotiations of the peace treaty with Spain; later he creates and plants the letter to Lord Monteagle that leads to the discovery of the plot.
Although the Monteagle letter is given a fictional back-story in this series, the producers have taken care to ensure that the appearance and content of the letter are authentic (see an image of this letter here); many of the covert tactics depicted in the series were really used in the period and evidence for these can be found our collection. Continue reading »