Remember, Remember – a poem that, as children, we learned off by heart. But in class today, whilst doing some fireworks inspired art – one of the children asked me, why we have to remember Guy Fawkes. ‘He didn’t actually do anything,’ finished the child.
As a kid we used to head to my local park, pay a wee donation and get into where there was a huge bonfire set up, the effigy of Guido on top and ready to be lit. It was always cold, I remember being wrapped up warm but we had to take our gloves off to deal with sparklers! The bonfire would be lit, and then we would all gather round to watch the most amazing fireworks display. Then later, the fire brigade would come along and put the bonfire out, covering the town in a blanket of smoke.
“Remember, Remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.“
But what is the point of celebrating Guy Fawkes, and why would we ‘celebrate’ someone who tried to kill the King and his parliament.
For those who don’t know the history it is as follows:
The Gunpowder plot was an attempt to assassinate King James I, who was a Protestant. Many people had hoped that he would fall to the Catholic faith after his mother’s execution in 1587 but this was not the case. At first James was quite tolerant towards those who were Catholic, but eventually, with a threat of catholic assassinations, James became stricter in the treatment of Catholics.
The Gunpowder plot’s main aim was to kill King James, along with a lot of protestant aristocracies. It was the mastermind of Robert Catesby. He had been part of a plot to assassination Queen Elizabeth in 1601, but he had been injured and caught. Though Elizabeth allowed him to leave with his life, though fined him 4oo marks (which in 2008 was the equivalent of £6,000,000.) He was aided by Thomas Wintour, who was responsible for recruiting Guy (Guido) Fawkes.
As the group prepared to move ahead with their plan, a letter was sent anonymously. It warned of the plot and that the intention was to blow James up. After receiving the letter guards went to investigate and found Guy Fawkes ‘protecting’ 36 barrels of gunpowder. He was arrested and taken to the king who asked what why he needed such a large amount of gunpowder, to which Guy Fawkes responded that it was to blow him back to Scotland!
For four days Guy was tortured on the rack and eventually gave up the names of his co-conspirators. Fawkes and the others were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered.
As for the answer as to why we still celebrate it – it’s because we celebrate the fact that they did NOT manage to blow up the King, celebrating his escape from assassination.
Anyway, come back on Thursday to read all about National Novel Writing Month. See you there!