Britain is well-known for its varied and fun historical stories and Guy Fawkes inspiration for “Bonfire Night” is a prime example. This blog looks at the history of this event as well as why it’s still relevant and celebrated today.
It’s the night of the 5th of November 1605, and the Gunpowder Plot is set to go off. The plot was led by Robert Catesby who, with twelve others, planned to blow up The House of Lords and overthrow the Protestant King James I and replace him with his 9 year old daughter Princess Elizabeth as a Catholic head of State. As many of the plotters were high flying and aristocratic men, they were concerned for fellow Catholic friends who would have been present in the Lords at the planned time of explosion. One such man whose welfare was of concern, was William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle. The Baron received a letter, widely believed to be from Francis Tresham, one of the plotters, explaining how he should be absent from the House on the night of the 5th. This lead to suspicion and a sweep of the grounds resulted in Guy Fawkes being captured under the house about to light the fuse. This is how he came to be the face of the plot, despite not being its mastermind. Eventually, all were hung, drawn and quartered, other than two who had died trying to escape and whose bodies were decapitated and their heads put on spikes outside the House of Lords.
Initially, Guy Fawkes night was celebrated because of its defeat. The treason was prevented, the King was safe, the perpetrators rightly hung, drawn and quartered. These days however, people mutter under their breaths what a shame it is that it failed, and how they had the right idea. Of course, no one would actually want to blow up Parliament now, these musings are all jumped up, sarcastic ideas based on historical events, but they do prove that there is still a unhappiness between government and people. Seeing as you can’t please all of the people all of the time, there always will be a disdain for those in power. Particularly now, when Britain finds itself with an unelected coalition government that no one is happy with.
Guy Fawkes is still used as the face of resistance to the state. Hacking group “Anonymous“, who’s responsible for the Occupy movements and hacking official websites, wear Guy Fawkes masks as they stand up to what they believe to be corrupt government power.
The cult film “V for Vendetta” from 2005, also betrays a Guy Fawkes figure, and the main character, also donning the iconic Fawkes mask, even tries to reenact the Gunpower Plot.
Any Excuse For A Party
It’s important to say that not everyone who holds Bonfire parties on or around the 5th of November are activists. These days, it’s a good excuse to get to together with friends, have a drink or two and watch the fireworks. There’s a lot of history in Britain and these events have been celebrated for centuries. It’s nice to keep these memories alive and get people interested in its history.
~ Guy Fawkes Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital
~House of Parliament image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spoiltcat