The 5th of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!”
But what exactly shouldn’t be forgot? If you’ve watched DC’s V for Vendetta or read the comics, you might have an idea of what the fuss is all about over one night and one happy-faced guy that has been celebrated for over 400 years.
While they are various good adaptations of the historic event, they serve more as thrilling entertainment than fact.
The true 5th of November marks the anniversary of The Gunpowder Plot that was spearheaded by a group of Catholic conspirators, one who is well known as being Guy Fawkes.
The anarchy took place at Westminster, London in 1605. This historical account makes Guy Fawkes real, but probably nothing like the plastic mask you’d buy at a party store for a couple of pounds.
The Gunpowder plot was a failed attempt to blow up the parliament and king at that time, James I. The main motivation was due to religious conflict.
The perpetrators, led by main organiser, Robert Catesby, hoped to oust the current rulers to reestablish a Roman Catholic led government and cease Catholic persecution. Since 1534, England had been a Protestant leadership under King Henry VIII’s reign.
The switch in religious authority was because Pope Clement VII would not recognise the King’s annulment to Catherine of Aragon. Since then, England’s history has been filled with religiously charged tension.
Guy Fawkes’ infamy came from the fact that he was the conspirator that ruined the whole gig by being caught in the cellar under the House of Lords where all the explosives were being held.
It’s a less glamorous image than V’s mysterious allure in the film and comics, V for Vendetta. Before his public appearance, Guy Fawkes fought with the Catholic Spanish against the Dutch Republic during the Eight Years’ War.
He hoped his assistance with Spain would provide a fruitful relationship and result in their support of their rebellion against King James I, but that was not so. The end of Guy Fawkes was as gruesome and grandiose as his explosive schemes.
When discovered, Fawkes was arrested but remained unapologetic about his course of action. For this, he was tortured severely into giving up the identities of the rest of the conspirators and sentenced to death by hanging.
At the time, the failure of the Gunpowder Plot was severe, which resulted in harsher persecution against Catholic subjects and restriction against their right to vote, but today November the 5th is remembered as a celebration of failures and English history.
Though the 5th has passed, there are still bonfires being held throughout the week. Check this TimeOut article for information of when and where to attend the next celebration.