Who was Guy Fawkes Anyways?

"Guy Fawkes in Ordsall Cave"

Guy Fawkes in Ordsall Cave

Remember, remember, the 5th of November…

It was a good movie. Don’t get me wrong. Plus it’s one of the few movies that did a good job of translating graphic novels to a movie. I am of course talking of V for Vendetta. The film came out in 2006 and grossed $70 million. It became an instant cult hit and annoyed me in the following ways:

  1. Everyone in America know the lines: “Remember, remember, the 5th of November…” but have no idea what the rest of the lines are or what the poem means.
  2. The “Guy Fawkes Mask” from the movie has become a symbol of anyone wanting to call themselves “anonymous” and cause havoc. Although they did cause problems for Scientology for a while which was amusing.
  3. People (I’m talking Americans here. The English know the history.) seem to think Guy Fawkes was some sort of cult hero. The most detailed explanation I’ve been able to drag from people is: “The guy tried to blow up Parliament.” While true, no one knows why and to add to it, everyone thinks he did it alone.

November 5th, known as Guy Fawkes day, Guy Fawkes Night and Bonfire Night in Great Britain celebrates the capture of Guy Fawkes.  Not the “Gunpowder Plot” he and his co-conspirators were plotting.  The plot in and of itself was to use gunpowder to blow up the House of Lords (the parliament building) and King James I of England and VI of Scotland along with it and replace him with. Essentially forcing a Catholic monarchy onto England. If the Treason attempt had been successful, James’ nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was to be installed as the Catholic head of state.

The Gunpowder Plot was supposed to happen at the State Opening of Parliament on November 5th 1605. There were 13 conspirators involved in the plot, John Wright, Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Grant, Sir Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham. They were led by Sir Robert Catesby.

The plot was revealed when the group sent a letter to English Catholic and Parliamentarian William Parker, warning him to not attend the opening that day and to instead remain at home and safe. The House of Lords was searched around midnight on November 4th and in an undercroft the authorities found Guy Fawkes guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder. Which would have been enough to reduce Parliament to rubble.

The Guy Fawkes Day celebration itself consists of an effigy of Fawkes, also known as a “Guy”, is burned in a bonfire. Which is followed by fireworks.

By the way, the next time you are talking about or asked about some “guy”, this is where the term came from. I still find the term “son of a gun” more amusing personally…

So the next time you see a Guy Fawkes mask or hear “Remember, Remember…” you should instead let them know what really happened and maybe ask them, very nicely, if you could possible burn them in effigy.

You can read more about Guy Fawkes Night here.

Oh, and if anyone wants to know the whole Rhyme, here it is. EDIT: Reddit just pointed out that I missed the second verse. So I am adding it.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d (or by God’s mercy*)
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!
A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!


One Response to “Who was Guy Fawkes Anyways?”

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