Gunpowder at Compton Verney!

With Guy Fawkes celebrations underway, the historic story itself is one which resonates very much with Compton Verney…

Robert Catesby himself was Warwickshire-born, and the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament was supposed to have led to a Catholic uprising in Warwickshire and surrounding counties.

But one of the star attractions in the galleries at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park is a splendid portrait of the man who discovered the plotters – Sir Thomas Knyvet.

 Thomas Knyvet or Knyvett (1545-1622) was a member of a prominent Wiltshire landowning family who had risen to the position of Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I. Knighted by King James I in 1604, he shot to national prominence in 1605 when he was ordered by the king to search the cellars below the Houses of Parliament on the evening of 5th November.

There he discovered and apprehended Catesby, Fawkes and their fellow-plotters, thus frustrating the Gunpowder Plot.

As a reward, Sir Thomas was made responsible for the education of the king’s daughter, Mary, and in 1607 was created Baron Knyvet of Escrick in Yorkshire.

 Compton Verney’s fine portrait of Knyvet of c.1569 is one of the most incisive depictions of the courtiers of the time. Sadly, we do not know its author, who is only known by the shorthand ‘Master of the Countess of Warwick’. But it is undeniably a marvellous depiction of one of the leading figures in the Jacobean court – and the man who stopped the Gunpowder Plot!

Blog Prof Steven Parissien


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