406 years ago, a man named Guy Fawkes was fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point a view) found beneath the houses of parliament, guiding gun powder which was going to be used to blow up the king and parliament. Guy fawkes and his co-conspirators were rather violently protesting against the treatment of roman catholics in England. Since Henry the eighths split from rome, religion had been a rather turbulant issue in England; catholics had hoped that when James the 1st took the throne he would repeal some of the previosuly made laws such as fines against those who didn’t attend a protestant church on sundays and holy days. This didn’t happen so the gunpowder plot was born.The plan was to blow up parliament on the day of its reopenning, which would mean that most MPs and the King would definitely be there. If this took place then they could reinstate a catholic monarchy. Unfortunately, some of the conspirators warned family members who would be in parliament that day and word got to King James, who ordered the basement to be searched. Guy Fawkes was found and broke his silence under torture several days later revealling his true identity and those of his conspirators. He jumped to his death before being hanged the following january, so he could avoid being hung, drawn and quartered (which was a particularly nasty fate).
Since then us Brits have been celerbating the failiure of this dastardly plot (quite ironically in my case, as I am from a Catholic family!) There are several rhymes that we know have been around in different variations since around the 1700s. Including this delightful ditty:
Remember, remember the fifth of November Gunpowder, treason and plot I see no reason why gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent To blow up the King and the Parliament Three score barrels of powder below Poor old England to overthrow By God's providence he was catched With a dark lantern and burning match Holloa boys, holloa boys God save the King! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! A penny loaf to feed ol' Pope A farthing cheese to choke him A pint of beer to rinse it down A faggot of sticks to burn him Burn him in a tub of tar Burn him like a blazing star Burn his body from his head Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead. Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!
Nowadays its more of a chance to watch fireworks and warm ourselves by a big blaze rather than rouse anti-Catholic spirit but its certainly a big part of English history and one, thanks to its rather good propaganda programme (who can reists a bonfire and fudge?) I think probably will remain in very much in the public consciousness.
And just because the horrible histroies really shouldn’t be missed: