By Nathan Lee, TLE Correspondent
Historians have revealed what London would have looked like today had Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot not been thwarted by the spies of the past.
The images show how intelligence and espionage during the Tudor and Stuart times shaped Britain’s culture, religion and even architecture.
Events such as the famous Gunpowder Plot, several plots to kill protestant Elizabeth I and Henry VIII’s new religion could all have led to a very different city were it not for the spies of the past.
Different outcomes of the Spanish Armada, the Battle of Trafalgar and Mary Queen of Scot’s plot to dethrone Queen Elizabeth could also have meant the country as we know it today would not have existed.
The images were produced to mark the launch of History’s Ultimate Spies, which airs on Yesterday tonight (Friday) at 10pm.
Dr Tracy Borman, Chief Curator for Historic Royal Palaces, who put together the report said “In the Tudor and Stuart periods, England was under tremendous pressure from the Catholicism of mainland Europe, and was a country in transition.
“These religious tensions birthed scores of assassination attempts from within and declarations of war from elsewhere, and the role of Britain’s spies should not be underplayed when discussing how history eventually unravelled.
“History’s Ultimate Spies on Yesterday shows just how integral spies were to both domestic affairs and foreign wars, and the huge repercussions their work had for our country and the City of London alike.”
The report found London could now be home to a number of grand monasteries were it not for a network of spies created by Thomas Cromwell to steer Henry VIII through his troubles with Rome, divorces, assassinations attempts and the establishment of a new religion.
While he is now famous for the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries as part of his move towards his new Church of England, if Cromwell had failed, these would not only have grown in number, but London’s skyline would have been home to grand versions of the grand buildings as well.
The plan to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I, and put Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne of England was foiled by fierce Protestant Francis Walsingham and his team of spies.
Had the plot been carried out, and Mary Queen of Scots became the Queen of England, she would have likely built Scottish-style castles, in keeping with the look of Edinburgh or Sterling Castle, along the banks of the River Thames.
As Mary had been raised in the French Court, it could also have been our culture, cuisine and street scenes become more French-inspired.
It also emerged, that had the Gunpowder plot not been foiled by Robert Cecil and his spies, James I would have been replaced on the throne by his young catholic daughter Elizabeth.
And in place of the destroyed Houses of Parliament, the young princess, who was known to be ‘spoilt and have extravagant taste’ would probably have built an opulent castle.
If Guy Fawkes had succeeded and assassinated James I, it’s also likely the English Civil War would have been avoided as his son, Charles I would never have become King.
Historians also revealed a different result in the Battle of Trafalgar could have seen Nelson’s Column and the Wellington Arch replaced with buildings in Napoleon’s honour, while an English loss in the Spanish Armada could have bought England under Spanish rule.
This could have seen the country’s cultures and cuisines with our beloved fish and chips replaced by Paella.
Shakespeare’s plays could never have been seen with the nation spending their time at bull fights instead. In fact, it is likely Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre might never have even been built.
General Manager for Yesterday, Adrian Wills said: “Londoners are rightly proud of our city’s most famous landmarks, but it is staggering just how different the capital’s skyline might have looked had it not been for the work of the James Bond’s and M’s of yesteryear.
“History’s Ultimate Spies on Yesterday shows how these men and women altered the course of history in the shadows and behind the scenes.”