Remember, remember the fifth of November. Yes, it’s Guy Fawkes Day, when the common folk of England celebrate – or used to anyway when history and religion was more to the fore in people’s minds – the foiling of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ of 1605, when a group of Catholic conspirators planned to blow up the Parliament building with all the legislators inside, including King James I, the staunchly Protestant son of the lovely and Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. The latter had been beheaded by decree of her cousin Queen Elizabeth two decades prior, in 1587. Her new-born infant son, James, was henceforth raised in the ‘new religion’. The injustice Mary’s beheading on trumped-up charges, along with devotion to the one, holy, Roman, Catholic, Apostolic Faith, was still fresh in minds of those who held to the ‘old religion’.
Some of the conspirators developed qualms of conscience – since a few of said legislators about to be blown to British bits were, after all, Catholic – and they sent at least one of them a warning, which was intercepted. The King’s Men searched under the building, and discovered 30 or so barrels of gunpowder in an unused, subterranean room, guarded by a certain Guy Fawkes, a staunchly Catholic soldier-at-arms who had helped mastermind the whole fiasco, ready to light the fuse and escape by swimming across the Thames.
All rather daring but, as much as I love a good adventure story, likely immoral. Guy, a robust man of red hair and commanding mien, but who in all probability looked little like the ‘masks’ seen in such Hollywood swill as ‘V for Vendetta’, was duly tortured, eventually confessed, and, as the story goes, implicated other. He was of course sentenced to death, but, as witnesses account, escaped being hung and quartered by falling (or some say, jumping) off the scaffold and breaking his neck.