Thursday

What is 'Guy Fox' Day?

The truth be known, it's actually called 'Guy Fawkes' Day. Every year in England, on the fifth of November, people celebrate something which did NOT happen. And my oh my, do they celebrate!

What did NOT happen? A large explosion, that's what. A large explosion on 5th November 1605 at the State Opening of the Houses of Parliament. A large explosion which the plotters had intended to kill the newly-crowned King James I along with other members of the Royal Family and the aristocracy. You see, the plotters wanted England to be a Catholic country. Or at least to be a country which did not persecute Catholics.

(A quick recap of 17th century religious ping pong: Henry VIII had separated from the Roman Catholic Church over his divorce(s) and created a Protestant religion; his heirs, in turn, were Catholic (Mary I) and Protestant (Elizabeth I). Whenever a Catholic was in charge, the Protestants were persecuted; and vice-versa. Not particularly friendly behaviour on either part!)

So when Elizabeth I died, leaving behind no heir, the throne went to James (of Scotland) who was a Protestant; this made Catholics itchy. Of course, most of them did NOT plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but that is what Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters did.

It was known as the Gunpowder Plot. They rented a cellar beneath the Houses of Parliament, which they filled with kegs of gunpowder. You'da thought someone might've been suspicious when that delivery was made, but no. The gunpowder in the cellar idea was actually Plan B.  Plan A had been to dig a tunnel under the building and to fill the tunnel with explosives.

On the evening of 26th October 1605, someone (and we will never know who) sent a letter to Lord Monteagle (a Catholic) to warn him to stay away from the Houses of Parliament on 5th November.

He showed the letter to King James I who ordered Sir Thomas Knyvet to search the cellars. And A-ha! They found the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes.

Guy Fawkes was tortured, tried and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. He and other plotters met their end on 31st January 1606.

Many people believe that Guy Fawkes was set up by fellow plotter Robert Catesby. Catesby, in fact, was the mastermind of the Gunpowder Plot. But it is his name which was given to the date. If you think about it, 'Robert Catesby Day' doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

"Remember, remember, the 5th of November." Every year, people remember the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot by building bonfires and burning Guy Fawkes in effigy. There are also fireworks displays in many parts of the country.

And now you know the story behind my name: I was born on the 5th of November 1998, and, enjoying the pun, my parents named me 'Guy Fox'. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.