Gunpowder Plot - The Howcott connection


Princess Elizabeth, aged 7 [1]

Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators are well-known for their attempt to blow up King James I and Parliament at Westminster on 5 November 1605. But that was only part of their scheme. They planned also to seize the King’s nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth and use her as a puppet to assist in taking control of the Kingdom and restoring a Roman Catholic government.


At the time, Elizabeth was resident at Coombe Abbey, about five miles east of the centre of Coventry, in the care of Lord and Lady Harrington of Exton. [2] The princess was therefore conveniently located to be kidnapped as most of the leading plotters were Warwickshire men.


When news of the plot reached the area, Elizabeth was moved into the walled city for safety and placed in the house of Mr Hopkins. [3] On 7 November, arms to protect her were distributed to some of the aldermen, including “Mr Howcott”, who was allocated three pikes, one corslet, three bills and a partisan. [4] [5] The precise identity of “Mr Howcott” is not clear as there was almost certainly more than one adult male with the surname resident in Coventry at the time.


Coombe Abbey [6]

Palace Yard [7]




[1]      Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth of Bohemia, 'The Winter Queen'), 1596–1662, aged seven, by James Peake the elder. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

[2]      The building at Coombe Abbey survives, but has been considerably altered since 1605.

[3]      Mr Hopkins lived at Palace Yard, a picturesque building that was totally destroyed in the blitz in 1940.

[4]      “The Gentleman’s Magazine”, April 1840, page 349; also Coventry Archives: A14(a) Council Book, p.70 column A.

[5]      A partisan was a spearhead mounted on a long shaft with protrusions on the sides to help ward off sword thrusts.

[6]      Coombe Abbey in 1797 by Maria Johnson. Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

[7]      Photograph taken about 1910. Image courtesy of Historic Coventry.