Guy Fawkes Night | Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Remember, remember the 5th of November

OK, a lot of us saw V for Vendetta, but people were commemorating Guy Fawkes’ Night  (November 5th) a long time before the movie came out, and certainly before the graphic novel (that the more sophisticated and discerning among us have read) that the movie was based on came out.  On a side tangent, if you haven’t read the book, just go out and spend some fast cash on it.  (It’s better than the film, and it makes it clear why Alan Moore HATES Hollywood.)

Time for a History Lesson.

“Remember, remember the 5th of November,

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.

I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot was a (nearly successful) plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, England, and thereby killing King James I.  (The Houses of Parliament thing is a dead giveaway, isn’t it?)  The next phase was to kidnap the king’s children, hold them for ransom, and start a rebellion.  Why were they so agitated? Well, the Gunpowder Plotters were all Catholics.

Incidents like these are why the Constitution has that Establishment Clause and why the Separation is necessary, BTW.

The Reader’s Digest version:  Henry the 8th (I am, I am) separated the English Crown from the Catholic Church, because the Pope was tired of his marital shenanigans.  (Beheading your ex-wife is wrong, though understandable!)  He created the Church of England, with the Monarch as the Head of the Church.  Afterward, Catholics were discriminated against (putting it mildly), until a group of wealthy Catholics decided they’d had enough, and if the King wasn’t going to listen to reason and be fair about things, they were going to do something about it, and get someone on the throne more friendly to their plight.  (This was also one more excuse for the British to abuse the Irish, although English Catholics didn’t have a problem with that.)

In 1604, a group of conspirators got together (I’m leaving the names out – this is the quick version) to come up with a plan to remove the government, and then to execute it.  They decided to burrow under Parliament, plant explosives over a long period of time (the gunpowder barrels were planted over more than 6 months) and get alibis together.  The person in charge of executing the plot was Guy Fawkes, aka Guido Fawkes, a veteran soldier.  He was about to set the whole thing off on November the 5th, 1605, when an anonymous letter tipped off the guards.  He was caught, tortured, and as they were beginning to hang, draw and quarter him, he jumped off the gallows and committed suicide.

The Aftermath

Afterward, English Catholics faced even further discrimination.  (Irish Catholics got it worse, and then came lord Cromwell. He’s getting a small “l” for a reason.) Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated in England and other territories, by lighting fireworks and/or bonfires, and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes to commemorate the Deliverance of the English King. It took 2 centuries after the events for the crown to repair credit with British and Irish Catholics, and end discrimination.  (3 more centuries to free Ireland.)  Now, don’t go setting off fireworks if it’s illegal – but take pause to remember, remember the 5th of November.