Guido ‘Guy’ Fawkes was not a hero from a comic, not a face to be worn by the anonymous. He was a Papist. In 1605 along with 13 conspirators he attempted to blow up King James I at his state opening at the Houses of Parliament. Fawkes aimed to return England to the governance of Rome and the King of Spain. Just 50 years earlier, 300 protestants had been burned to the death for heresy against the pope, during Queen Mary’s purge. No doubt the scourge of ‘Bloody’ Mary was still strong in the minds of the English.
England had been thrown into conflict between Papists and Protestants since Henry VIII, but the fact remains, the Purges of Bloody Mary, against layman and commoners, deserved a heavy handed response. The protestant reformation, as harsh as it was, placed the British Isles under British control and away from Europe. The judgement against those who would have seen Britain bow to foreign masters sent a strong message.
Foiled in his plot, Fawkes was tortured, hanged and quartered, his parts being sent to the four corners of the land.
Now every fifth of November, the British mark the occasion with ‘Bonfire night’. Although the tradition of ‘A Penny For The Guy’ is waning, children still create a grotesque likeness of Fawkes and wheel him about the town, collecting money from those who would give it, before burning him atop the bonfire that evening.
As per tradition, folk will be lighting fireworks, eating and drinking, playing music and enjoying what would seem to all outside viewers to be a perfectly nice Pagan celebration. Deep in our primordial souls, I believe we are happiest when celebrating around a fire with friends, and need little reason for it. If one has to have a reason though, this is a good one.
Tonight, across Albion, bonfires will be lit and effigies of Guy Fawkes burned. Let the story of Britain’s traitor be told, not in whispers, but with pride. While children warm themselves in the glow, let there be a chill in the spines of those who plot still.
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!