Guy Fawkes Night
“Remember, remember the fifth of November”

Halloween has come and gone. All the trick or treaters have come and gone. This gave Ginger time to talk to the pumpkin on the front step of our home. They discussed Halloween, but this essay isn’t about that holiday.

This essay is about Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night, which is just a couple days from now on November 5th. That being said, Guy Fawkes Night isn’t much of a holiday in America. Actually, hardly anyone, unless they are British historian buffs, knows who he was. The only exception would be those who watched the movie over a dozen years ago, V for Vendetta.

The movie was essentially a more modern version of Guy Fawkes. Hence the quote, “Remember, remember the fifth of November of gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.”

Guy Fawkes Night

The English holiday relates to the attempt to blow up the House of Parliament, which raises the obvious question, why would someone want to blow up Parliament? Basically, it was the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, which morphed from the issue of whether the Roman Catholic Church governs the people or whether governments are to rule people. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church occupied the vacuum of governing the population of Europe. Apparently, they didn’t want to be replaced by secular governments.

This battle between the Catholic Church and secular governments waged throughout most of Europe. However, this is one of the stories of conflict, which played out in England. Initially, Elizabeth I decreed The Act of Settlement of 1558, which essentially stated that she ruled England, not the Catholic Church. Additionally, the Church of England was the correct church.

Elizabeth I in Parliament

Elizabeth I caused Pope Pious V to issue a papal bull, Regnans in Excelsis, which is Latin for reigning on high. He also excommunicated Elizabeth I declaring that “Elizabeth, the pretended Queen of England, and the servant of crime.”

When Elizabeth I died, James VI, the Scottish king, became James I, the king of England. It seemed that James I wasn’t sure how to address the bickering between Catholics and Protestants. For a while, he eased up on the strict laws of his predecessor, which didn’t do much to lessen the conflict. As a result of the fighting, James I returned to the Elizabeth I forcing Catholics to become Protestants.

Interestingly, Guy Fawkes’ life mirrored what was happening in England. He was born in 1570. His father was Protestant and his mother converted to Protestantism. However, his father died when Fawkes was around eight. His mother married a Catholic and Guy Fawkes was then baptized at St. Michael le Belfrey in York. Fawkes was now a Catholic.

By the age of twenty-one after having trouble with his employer, off Fawkes went to Flanders to fight in the Eighty Years’ War. Here again, the war was between Catholic Spain and their rule in Netherlands, which was the locals’ attempt to have freedom of religion. Hence, another name was the Netherlands War of Independence. Fawkes met Robert Catesby and Thomas Winter who had gone to Flanders also to fight for the Spanish. However, they wanted the Spanish to invade and overthrow James I. The Spanish didn’t want to get involved in a war in England. Catesby, Winter, and Fawkes realized that they had to take on James I and the Protestants on their own.

Catesby and Winter created a group of conspirators to blow up the Parliament while it was in session, which would kill James I.

The conspirators

Guy Fawkes collected and stored 36 barrels of gunpowder and hid them in the basement of Parliament.

Parliament

However, the gunpowder plot was discovered early on the morning of November 5th, and the conspirators were arrested, including Guy Fawkes.

I think that is an actual photo of Fawkes getting arrested.

There was a trial, and on January 31, 1606, all conspirators were hung, drawn, and quartered, which was a gruesome means of execution for treason.

This type of execution consisted of being dragged by a horse to the gallows. Then they hung the person, which isn’t quite the same as hanging the person. Hanging results in death within a couple of minutes. When a person was hung, the process took much longer. Before the guilty person died, they would take him down from the gallows and cut off his arms and legs. This type of an execution caused a great deal of pain and suffering.

However, Guy Fawkes didn’t want to go through all that suffering. When they put a rope around his neck, he jumped from the gallows and died quickly.

While Guy Fawkes Night is a big deal in Merry old England, I don’t think that I will tell Ginger about it.

This is an interesting video.