Guy Fawkes has been described as Britain’s most notorious traitor. He is the most famous and most remembered of the men involved in the Gunpowder Plot but he did not act alone and he was not the leader. Guy Fawkes, along with a few like minded men, planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament, using gunpowder on the 5th November 1605.
The group were Catholic and had strong beliefs about the way he Protestant King and the government of the day were treating Catholics. They felt Catholics were being badly mistreated and saw violence as the only way to bring the mistreatment to an end.They wanted to destroy parliament and the King, James I.
The group today might be described as extremists or terrorists. Things did not go to plan for them. Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars of Parliament, sent to the Towers of London, tortured and executed. Parliament declared November the 5th as national day of thanksgiving. Over the years traditions developed so that bonfires were lit with an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top and set alight. Fireworks were set off to signify the gunpowder exploding.
An old tradition of carrying “the Guy” they have just made, and ask for “a penny for the Guy.”
For some, the 5th of November may have been a day of thanksgiving but for others Guy Fawkes may have been a celebrated figure in the fight against oppression. This may be the reason why some people marked the 5th of November.
At some bonfires “the guy” is now portrayed as unpopular contemporary figures, including members parliament or disgraced ‘celebrities’.
A film for the 5th of November –
Alan Moore’s dystopian ‘V for Vendetta’, the 1988 graphic novel, is loosely based on the story of Guy Fawkes.
This was later made into a film – V for Vendetta. ‘V’, an anarchist freedom fighter attempts to ignite a revolution in a dystopian UK.
I love this film.
It portrays a very different sort of character than the history books. For some, Guy Fawkes is an anti-government/establishment icon. The ‘V’ mask is now worn by some anti-government protesters.
Times have changed in the UK. Many people still mark the 5th of November with a host of activities but for the majority of us it’s no longer about the thwarting of the Gun Powder Plot or seen as a day of thanks giving in the same way
I refer to the the of November as Bonfire Night and it has a very different symbolic meaning for me now. See my post on Bonfire Night – coming soon.
Interesting history links –