November 5, 2012

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Explosives placed under a government building by  a group of religious extremists? Sounds like something we'd see on the news. 

On the night of October 25th,1605 an anonymous letter was sent to Baron William Parker during dinner alerting him of a plot to blow up the House of Lords in an attempt to assassinate King James I and his daughter Princess Elizabeth.

Nine year old, Princess Elizabeth was scheduled to become the Catholic head of state on November 5th which angered a group of English Catholic extremists who feared that there was little chance of increased religious toleration under the reign of King James I.
However, this wasn't the first attempt of English Catholics at harming King James I, in 1603, there was a plot called the "Bye Plot" in which Catholic priests and Puritans had planned to kidnap the king. The whole thing was fouled before it even began but nevertheless made the king take threats seriously which worked against the November 5th plotters.   

Guy Fawkes is now the poster child for the plot, although he was only one of many conspirators in "The Gunpowder Plot." He earned his notoriety because on the night of November 4th, 1605, he was found in the House of Lords guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder which was enough to level the building. He was wearing his now iconic, hat, cape and boots with spurs. Fawkes was arrested immediately, while the other conspirators fled.      

Punishments included  dragging behind a horse and having genitals removed and burned in front of their still living owner, the removal of bowels, dismemberment by quartering and leaving the pieces at the mercy of animals. The conspirators ended up suffering a variety of cruel deaths, many of which started at the gallows. Fawkes managed to break his neck at the gallows, which alluded many of the other conspirators, but was still quartered.

The plot inspired a poem:

"Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
the Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent to blow up King and Parliament.

Three score barrels were laid below to prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s mercy he was catch’d with a dark lantern and lighted match.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!"

King James I also immortalized the event by commissioning a sermon to be given on November 5th, 1606 to make sure everyone remembered the punishments. It became tradition to commemorate the day every year. 

1 comment:

  1. It's always so interesting to think where "children" verses come from and then learning that they are not so "childish" after all!


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