While there is no doubt that Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators plotted to blow up the King and his Parliament, the evidence suggests that the Government knew about the scheme from the very start.
There once was a guy name of Fawkes
who thought King James MPs were dorks.
So he borrowed some cash
for a Gunpowder stash
to blow up such heretic talks.
J W Slog, anon
That doesn’t even rate as classic doggerel, but it does sum up the way most of us see what is still variously called Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night or Fireworks Night in Britain.
Long story short (the legend goes), King James was felt by the Church of Rome to be something of a disappointment when it came to the treatment of English Catholics: not only did he not favour Catholic believers over Protestant infidels may they burn in Hell, he banished Catholic clergy and pushed their religion underground across much of Britain.
So it was that nasty foreign git Guido Fawkes – not the current incarnation, a snoozy old-before-his-time drunk who predictably these days cleaves to the Establishment – was hired by Catholic conspirators to be the explosives expert in a plot to kill James and all his Lords during the opening of Parliament.
Or so we’ve been led to believe.
But I’ve been doing some digging. And I’m bound to say, I have my doubts. There are definitely some 9/11 and/or Reichstag false fire flags in there. And as it happens, there are others in the historian space who suggest that the plotters were pawns in the hands of James’s First Minister Robert Cecil…..who (they claim) orchestrated the whole affair in his bid to get James to ban Catholics altogether.
Cecil hated Catholics, viewing them as agitproppers. He suspected that James would be soft on them. His mission was to eradicate Catholicism as a sect in England.
Robert Cecil was also acutely aware of James’s terror of violent death – so a threat to blow the King up would surely galvanise the insecure King’s vengeance.
But there is also one further established fact that most historians overlook: there was a government monopoly on Gunpowder. So one is left asking how the residents of Cato Street gained access to nearly 40 enormous barrels of said explosive without officials asking questions like, “Um, what do you want it for?” One gets the feeling that “Um, it’s bonfire night FFS” wouldn’t have cut it.
Guido was conveniently caught just as he was about to light the fuse. Enough explosive to vapourise the Palace of Westminster was delivered into the cellars beneath that self-same building without the blinking of an eye…..but one bloke carrying a well-hidden fuse starter was jumped on the minute he got inside.
Seems to me that this may well have been a classic case of knowing nutters were about their business, but deciding to give them ample rope for the hanging thereof.
This being 1605, the sentences meted out were more brutal: Fawkes was tortured in the Tower of London and then – along with most of his fellow dupes – hung drawn and quartered in public.
Curiously, nobody called Guy (or anything else for that matter) was burned to death. That, we must presume, had been designated far too humane a punishment. But tonight across the UK, Guy effigies will be burned by lots of excited kids who have not the scintilla of a clue what they are remembering.
When I was a kid, begging a “penny for the guy” was standard behaviour in the run-up to November 5th. In the mid 1970’s, I lived in Clapham Old Town – ‘a rapidly improving area’ – with my first wife. One Friday night, as she exited Clapham Common tube station, she heard this urchin at the top of the stairs advising, “Penny for de Guy”.
Arlene looked down and observed the absence of a Guy.
“Where’s your Guy, then?” she asked. The kid looked surprised, and then answered, “Fucked off early, annee?”