Guy Fawkes: Remember Remember…

Post by Darci Clark

Bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night 2010 by S. Marshall
Bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night 2010 by S. Marshall

Guy Fawkes is a little off topic for this blog, but I felt compelled to write about it since today is November 5th, and the 406th anniversary of the infamous Gunpowder Plot. The first time I heard of the British tradition of Guy Fawkes Night, I was reading Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy in high school. For some reason that detail in the novel fascinated me, and later I loved the graphic novel and film V for Vendetta, about a Guy Fawkes masked vigilante who blows up Parliament to rebel against a fascist government.

Guy Fawkes and twelve other English Catholics conspired to assassinate Protestant King James I and place a Catholic monarch on the throne in what became known as the Gunpowder Plot. The conspirators planned to blow up Parliament on November 5th, 1605 during the State Opening of Parliament which the King was traditionally required to attend. An anonymous letter led authorities to search below Parliament where they discovered Guy Fawkes guarding the barrels of gunpowder. He was arrested and eventually found guilty of high treason, the penalty which was to be hanged then drawn and quartered. Fortunately for him, he was able to jump from the gallows and break his neck, so he did not have to endure the agony of the final part of his execution. Even though many of the conspirators were arrested, tried, and executed, Guy Fawkes is most identified member of the Gunpowder Plot.

The tradition of lighting a bonfire on November 5th celebrated the King’s escape from the plot. Eventually fireworks and effigies of Guy Fawkes, or other unpopular public figures, were made to burn on the bonfires and became part of the festivities of Guy Fawkes Night.

I’ll end with the rhyme synonymous with Guy Fawkes:
“Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder, treason, should ever be forgot”.

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