At around midnight between the 4th and 5th of November, one Guido Fawkes was discovered hiding beneath the Houses of Parliament in London, keeping company with a very large quantity of gunpowder (more than enough to reduce the buildings above to rubble). Fawkes was caught due to an anonymous tip to the police, and upon his arrest, the conspiracy for which he was the triggerman quickly disintergrated. Most of the other conspirators fled, but they were either shot down or captured by the authorities.
The Gunpowder Plot, as it became known, was an attempt by a group of pro-Catholic sympathisers to destroy a government that they felt was too Protestant, and install in its place a more Catholic regime in England. They were highly committed to this cuase (Fawkes, for example, would almost certainly have died in the explosions he set off), but ultimately, they failed.
But even today, English speaking peoples everywhere remember Guy Fawkes as the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions.
And welcome to The Centre Cannot Hold commemoration of one of the most misunderstood events in political history.
Like most people, I like it more for the symbolism than what it actually meant to the people behind it – the ideal of overthrowing a repressive government is much better than the reality of mass murder and Catholicism as the state religion.
Following this, you’ll find three posts that each, in their own way, deal with the legacy of Guy Fawkes. I hope you enjoy them, but whether you do or not, Happy Guy Fawkes Day!
Guido “Guy” Fawkes was to some extent the fall guy for his plot – the trigger man for the bombing and the one who got caught, becoming a hero to England and the English (especially Alan Moore and those who read his works). He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to hang – along with seven of his co-conspirators. Fawkes was scheduled to be last to be executed: hung and quartered.
The sentence was carried out at the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, where Fawkes, desiring to avoid the horrific pain of being quartered, leapt from the scaffold and broke his neck, killing himself instantly and with considerably less pain. He remains a martyr, albeit not so much to the cause he himself espoused (he wanted to blow up Parliament for oppressing Catholics, a far cry from the motives of those who wear his mask today).