Treason: People, Power & Plot

An illustration of a red hand holding a match with a lit flame, with a face seen in the flame, with a wordmark in front in white that reads 'Treason: People, Power and Plot'

Treason: People, Power & Plot – our new exhibition – will open on Saturday 5 November 2022 and close on Thursday 6 April 2023. 

Treason: People, Power & Plot brings iconic and unknown archival documents to life, including the original Treason Act and the Monteagle letter that tipped off the Gunpowder Plot. It showcases a unique selection of history-defining documents and the stories of the lives they condemned.

From the Gunpowder Plot and Anne Boleyn to lesser-known stories of the cook that poisoned the porridge, the girl put on trial for being a witch and the enslaved Baptist preacher, the exhibition considers the changing nature of justice through the ages. It features a unique selection of letters, pamphlets, posters, maps and trial papers from our collections, carefully curated to reveal the motives, actions and consequences of those accused of high treason, many of whom paid the ultimate price for their cause. Read our news story about the exhibition.

Free to visit, the exhibition will be open Tuesday to Saturday and on the first Sunday of every month (excluding January 1) – see our opening hours to plan your visit.

Sign up to our mailing list or follow us on social media (#TreasonSeason) to find out more about the exhibition and our accompanying programme of events and activities.

Iconic documents from history on display

Some highlights of the original documents that you can see at the exhibition:

Section of the Treason Act 1352 - beige parchment roll with French writing on it, the medieval language of law

Section of the 1352 Treason Act that defines the meaning of high treason. The act has been repeatedly expanded and amended, but never repealed and the core remains in force today.

The Monteagle Letter - a beige document with sloped handwriting that tipped off the Gunpowder plot

The Monteagle Letter, the anonymous letter sent to Lord Monteagle warning him not to attend Parliament in 1605 that tipped off the Gunpowder Plot

A section of the declaration signed by Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators - a beige document with many signatures including Guido Fawkes. The document has a stamp from His Majesty's Public Record Office from a time when the archives stamped the documents.

Declaration signed by Guy Fawkes, dated 17 November 1605 in which he names his co-conspirators

A beige manuscript with 16th century embellished writing - the document is a trial record of Anne Boleyn from 1536 for high treason, adultery and incest

The trial record of Queen of England, Anne Boleyn, 1536 who was tried for treason, adultery and incest with her brother.

A section of the United States Declaration of Independence, a typed document with large size type at the top reading In Congress, July 4 1776 a Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America

The American Declaration of Independence made on 4 July 1776, formally rejected the authority of King George III.

Learn the full history of treason

You can pre-order your copy of our brand new book that accompanies the exhibition,  A History of Treason: The Bloody History of Britain Through the Stories of its Most Notorious Traitors, from our online shop. Written by the exhibition’s curators, the book delves into the history of high treason in Britain from 1352 to 1946 in more detail, providing a fascinating insight into more than 650 years of deception and treachery.

Or experience tales of treason in a three part mini-series of our On The Record podcast. Join us as we uncover stories from across the globe, from plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I to enslaved Africans in the Caribbean fighting for their freedom – all explored through a unique selection of history-defining documents, bringing stories of people, power and plot to life.

Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss our first Treason episode, coming very soon…

Listen to the trailer now

Explore our #TreasonSeason events programme

Treason 1485: The demise of Richard III

Friday 28 October at 14:00 (This event has now ended)

At Bosworth Field in August 1485, Richard III became the last English king to die in battle, fighting against the man who would seize the throne as Henry VII, his body interred in a bare grave in Leicester. His death, however, was not the final chapter in Richard’s story – within months Richard had been posthumously charged with high treason…

Join historians Matthew Lewis and Nathen Amin, as they dig deeper into the story of Richard’s final months and demise, and the rewriting of history that took place after his death.

An Evening with Philippa Gregory

Wednesday 16 November at 19:30

Join foremost historical novelist, Philippa Gregory, as she takes you on a journey through the history you thought you knew.

In this limited run of events to mark the publication of her eagerly awaited new novel, Dawnlands, Philippa will be bringing to life the royal court of the Stuarts.

Philippa will be discussing the historical inspiration behind her novels. She will be in conversation with exhibition producer, Hannah Fleming. Their discussion will be followed by an audience Q&A.

Book tickets on Eventbrite

Elizabeth I: A tale of betrayal and deception with Tracy Borman

Wednesday 25 January 2023 at 19:30

Elizabeth I was born into a world of treason.

Before she was three years old, her mother, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded at the Tower after she had been accused of treasonous affairs with Henry VIII’s courtiers. Elizabeth herself was imprisoned eighteen years later on suspicion of collusion in a plot against her sister Mary. After becoming queen in 1558, Elizabeth found herself surrounded by treacherous plots by rival claimants, such as Mary, Queen of Scots and her Catholic supporters.

In this illustrated talk, Tracy Borman will tell the dramatic story of how Elizabeth survived (and ultimately triumphed) against the odds to become one of Britain’s longest-ruling and most celebrated monarchs.

Book tickets on Eventbrite