Who Was Guy Fawkes?

~~ Paul V. Hartman ~~

November 5 is celebrated in England as "Guy Fawkes Day" and derives from an attempt to destroy the Parliament that King James was due to open on that day in 1605. The plot to level the building along with its occupants was the work of outraged Catholics responding to new restrictions placed on their religion by James. This James was James the First of England although he was James the 6th as King of Scotland. He succeeded his cousin, Elizabeth 1, (who died childless and without living sibling) and was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, who Elizabeth had executed in the (reasonable) fear that Mary was after the throne of (Protestant) England.

Thirty six barrels of gunpowder were secreted in a rented room beneath the House of Lords. The plan, in existence for more than a year, eventually involved more people than was practical to maintain secrecy, and when a couple of the members of the House of Lords were warned away from Parliament on that day by well-intentioned plotters, an investigation followed. Guy Fawkes, a soldier and probable minor but willing player in the drama, went to the rented room, presumably to ignite the powder, and was arrested. Other conspirators were captured, interrogated, imprisoned or killed, some immediately.

The English, always willing for a holiday (this one is not official), still celebrate the day with bonfires and fireworks. With the passage of almost four centuries, the fireworks have become the issue and the memory of Guy Fawkes and his failed rebellion a rapidly fading one.

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