I’m sure we all know this famous quote from the movie “V for Vendetta”. I have never watched the film myself, but I had a childhood friend who used to quote it all the time on the 5th of November. You see, the 5th November is my birthday. Anyway, this is not about me. This is about Guy Fawkes.
Let’s start by asking ourselves one simple question: “Why?” Why would someone be driven to such a drastic act? Well, let’s examine the background Guy Fawkes would have been born into.
Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth Catholicism was quite heavily repressed, this repression intensified after her excommunication in 1570. She then went on to massacre dozens of bishops, priests and forbid many of the Catholic practices during her reign of terror. When King James I took the throne there were many who hoped that this would change. To their dismay in the year 1603, when King James I took over they soon discovered that this was definitely not the case. In fact King James I oppression only increased towards Catholics, despite his wife, Anne, being a Catholic. He was strongly protestant and would fine any person refusing to attend Protestant services. It was also under his strict observations that the King James Bible, used by Christians today, was translated. In the years between 1604 – 1612, there was understandably much unrest among the Catholics.
So, now we ask: “How?” How did this take place? Who planned it? Well, let’s see how they planned all this.
One night in an inn called the Duck and Dragon, 5 men met and discussed plans to destroy the Houses of Parliament in England. These 5 men were none other than Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby, Tom Wintour, Jack Wright and Thomas Percy. The plan was proposed by Robert Catesby. They planned to plant bombs using gunpowder in an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. After all their planning, they swore an oath on a prayer book to never speak of this to anyone else. It was only later that 8 other men joined what came to be called the “Gunpowder Plot”. Catesby may have been the leader of this plan, but it was definitely Fawkes that has always been remembered.
It was clear from the very beginning that not only was Guy anti-Scottish and pro-Catholic, but also that he sought aid from the Spanish government to help him start a rebellion in England to dethrone James. He claimed that James would drive out the Catholics, declaring them heretics. In the year 1605, he also took to calling himself Guido instead of Guy. He took on an alias in aid of this plot–John Johnson. He worked as a caretaker in the cellar just below the House of Lords. It was in this cellar that they stockpiled their gun powder. It was this gun powder that, on the 5th of November 1605, Fawkes would light upon the opening of Parliament. King James I, his eldest son, the House of Lords and the House of Commons would go up in flames. While all this was happening Guy would escape across the Thames, while his other 12 conspirators would start instigating an uprising in the English Midlands. They planned to kidnap Elizabeth, James I’s daughter, and install her as a puppet queen after which they would marry her off to a Catholic. They hoped that this would eventually re-install the Catholic rule they wanted.
But before this plot could even come to fruition, an anonymous letter was sent to a Catholic sympathizer warning him not to attend the Opening of Parliament. This caused the authorities to suspect something was about to happen. There is still no name to the letter that was written and sent on October 26 warning of this plot. Some have said that the authorities knew in advance and had designs to use it as a means to cause further restrictions on Catholicism.
Why A Guy, though?
Simply put. Fawkes was caught on the 4th November the night before with a match at the ready to light the bombs the next day. They caught him and tortured him in the Tower of London under James I’s orders, while his other conspirators were arrested and given similar treatment, except for four men among which was Catesby who died in a shootout with English troops.
The next year 1606, all the conspirators were hung and drawn and quartered for their treason. After this great victory, the English started lighting bonfires in celebration of the great victory they had won. The government then declared November 5th as a day of thanksgiving (I suppose you could call it their version of Thanksgiving). Children would go around with an effigy of Guy asking for “a penny for the old Guy” something very similar to trick-or-treating.
Guy Fawkes has undergone many changes over the years. In America, it was celebrated as Pope Day, but soon died out around the 19th century when Catholics were finally emancipated. In the 1980s, the graphic novel “V for Vendetta” was released completely over-hauling Fawkes’ look and turning him into a hero. We all know the DC movie by the same name released in 2005 based on the graphic novel.
I originally planned to have this out yesterday, but if you want to know what happened to stop me yesterday you can access my Ko-fi account, I have it all down there. In fact, I write daily what’s happened. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad, but if you want a look into who I am, you’ll find it all there.
God bless all of you, my darling avidReaders. Keep safe. 👧🐰