Friday, 2 November 2007

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November...

“Remember, remember, the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I know of no reason,
why Gunpowder Treason,
should ever be forgot…”

It is at this time of year that we, in the UK, celebrate ‘Guy Fawkes night’, November the 5th. Though more often at the weekends either side of it. In remembrance of a plot to blow up parliament in 1605.

It is said that that Fawkes was: "The only man to ever enter parliament with honourable intentions"

These days it sometimes seems we celebrate it, almost as much for the fact that someone actually had a go in the first place - as for the foiling of the attempt.

Guy Fawkes (13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606), b. 13 April 1570 in Stonegate, in the city of York and former centre of power of Richard III.

Christened 'Guye Fawxe and raised a Protestant Anglican he became a Roman Catholic at 16, possibly because his tutor at school was Roman Catholic possibly because his stepfather was.

He joined the army of Archduke Albert of Austria and went to fight alongside the armies of Catholic Spain, against the Protestant United Provinces in the Netherlands.

It around then that he took to calling himself Guido, the Spanish version of Guy. He served for many years as a soldier and in the process gained became an explosives expert.

A group of English Roman Catholics, lead by Robert Catesby, hatched a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, during the state opening when all the movers and shakers would be there.

The plan being, killing King James I of England and ending Protestant ascendancy by wiping out everyone crowded into parliament. They probably picked Fawkes, as much for his expertise with explosives, as his muscular devotion to Roman Catholicism.

James was a moderate for the time, criticising both fundamentalist Puritans and Catholics. So there was little assistance on offer from an over extended Spain.

The plan was due to be carried out on November the 5, 1605. Guy was looking after the explosives hidden in the cellars of Parliament in the early hours when he was caught red handed and arrested.

One of the plotters had let the cat out of the bag by warning William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, not to attend the sate opening. William Parker went to the authorities and that was the end of that.

Fawkes was made of pretty stern stuff and refused to reveal who his fellows were, even under torture – until they did the job for him. Realising it had all gone wrong they rather gave the game away by taking up arms against the authorities.

Fawkes was found guilty and executed.

The BBC ran a poll in 2002, to find out who the public thought were the ‘100 Greatest Britons of all time’. Guy came in at No 30…