William Lilly Novel The Great Fire of London Prediction

“The Astrologer’s Apprentice” a novel by Julian J. Venables

In 2015 I published my first novel “The Astrologer’s Apprentice” about William Lilly, the most famous British astrologer of the 17th century.

As I studied the life of William Lilly I thought about how his colourful adventures would make him a great character in a novel!

I also adapted my story into a feature screenplay which is called “The Prediction.”

Brief Synopsis

When seventeen-year-old Tom meets Martha, his plan to study at Oxford no longer seems as attractive. And when he meets the renowned William Lilly, Master Astrologer, a new world beckons him. Against the backdrop of plague and the Great Fire in seventeenth century London, Tom’s adventures lead him ever closer to the love he seeks – and his fated role as an apprentice astrologer.

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The Astrologer’s Apprentice is available on Amazon as Kindle or paperback.

“The Astrologers Apprentice is set in the 1660s during the Plague and the Great fire of London. It is a great mix of facts and fiction, and is gripping from the very start. It follows the story of young Tom, wh

Tom Coley meets renowned Astrologer William Lilly (who he later on becomes apprenticed to). A tragic tale of love and loss, Tom has to push himself through some very tough times

“I couldn’t put down this book and would recommend it to any reader, young or old.”

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Amazon Review

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The Prediction – The Screenplay

What’s this Screenplay About?

In 2016 I adapted my novel about William Lilly into a screenplay called The Prediction. Like the book, it is a biopic historical drama based on a true story.
Click the button to read The Prediction in PDF format.

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The Love Story

The story is also seen through the romantic eyes of supporting characters Tom and Lilly’s charge, Martha (think Cara Delevignue).
When Tom falls in love with Martha, Tom’s plans to study at Oxford no longer seem as attractive. ​Against the backdrop of the plague and the Great Fire in seventeenth century London, Tom’s adventures lead him further from his planned future, but ever closer to the love he seeks – and his fated role as an apprentice astrologer. Tom’s affections for Martha, leads to an unexpected series of new conflicts with L’Estrange.

The Climax

The story climaxes with Lilly and Tom fighting for their lives and professional reputations in the Great Fire Royal Commission when L’Estrange accuses them of deliberately starting the fire to seek fame and to promote the ‘dark art’ of astrology. In a surprise move, a person close to L’Estrange testifies in Lilly’s and Tom’s defence at the trial, resulting in their acquittal.

The Twist and the Ending

The story completes with a dramatic twist when Lilly predicts that a person from both men’s past will return. The consequences are life-changing for L’Estrange. After the trial L’Estrange discovers Martha is his long lost and undiscovered daughter, but she disowns L’Estrange due to his relentless persecution of Lilly and her lover Tom.

The Theme

The play juxtaposes inner conflict and outer rivalry, played out between two former friends turned enemies. The key theme of the film is that despite our talents and ambitions, we all suffer from human weaknesses and failings. We, like the central characters, can also find ways to overcome them (Lilly) or at least recognise and regret them when we hurt those we care most about (L’Estrange). Threads of science, politics, ambition, love and betrayal weave intricately through a story that resonates as well today as in 1666.

For Interest in this Screenplay please contact Julian:

Why was William Lilly’s Astrology Different?

William Lilly was the first British astrologer to properly translate and research the work of the classical astrologers such as Ptolemy, Marcus Manilius and Dorotheus of Sidon and then formulate his own system.

He perfected the style of divinatory astrology known as Horary astrology, or ‘asking questions of the hour’, and published a book on it in 1647 called Christian Astrology.

Once I had learnt William Lilly’s style of Horary astrology, I found horoscopes came much more alive, almost as if they had a life of their own.

William Lilly

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William Lilly Plaque

In 1634 he began teaching astrology and set himself up as a professional astrologer from his Corner house in Strand Lane, very near to Temple tube.​

William Lilly (1602-1681) is the only astrologer in London to have a green plaque set up in his honour. It’s located on the Strand.

If you’re in the area, you can find the plaque on the wall beside the old Strand Underground Station, opposite St. Mary-Le-Strand church.

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Plaque on The Strand marking ​William Lilly’s House

  • Discovered why the Great Fire of London could have been and wasn’t prevented.
  • The story is about William Lilly, master astrologer who foresees the future and predicted the Great Fire of London. 
  • He’s a flawed genius who is warned to keep quiet and threatened with imprisonment by his nemesis – Roger L’Estrange of the Royal Society, the official censor of mathematical publications. 

The Rivalry

The two men have intense personal rivalry based on three things:

  • ​Professional jealousy over the competing sciences of Astrology and mathematics.
  • L’Estrange’s personal hatred of Lilly – blaming him for the rejection by his fiancée.
  • Political ambitions in the court of Charles II.

The Struggle

Lilly struggles with the burden of hiding a terrible truth but finds a way to overcome his moral conflict through his apprentice Tom Coley who he hopes can save the city on his behalf.

​Together they publish a cryptic picture to warn of the impending fire of London.

​Throughout the story, Lilly struggles with his dilemma:

  • ​Do I save myself or do I save London?
  • Do I defend my science of Astrology against politically motivated attacks?
  • Is it right to expose apprentice Tom to the dangers of association with me?

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Roger L’Estrange

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The Original woodcut of Lilly’s cryptic picture indicating London burning (London is ruled by the zodiac sign of Gemini)