Friday, November 4, 2011

Guy Fawkes Night

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot...
The mask pictured here has become "an international symbol for rebellion and anonymity." An estimated 100,000 were sold last year. It's been spotted in Occupy protests from Oakland to Hong Kong and is the face of the Hacker group Anonymous.

Most Americans associate the mask with the comic and movie, "V for Vendetta"  but its history is 400 years older than that. In 1605 conspirators in London plotted to kill King James (a Protestant) and his two sons as they attended Parliament. The conspirators planned to kidnap Jame's daughter, convert her to Catholicism, and put her on the throne. On 5 November 1605 Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was discovered guarding dozens of barrels of gunpowder explosives in a basement beneath the House of Lords.

Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life,  Londoners lit bonfires, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot's failure. Gradually, Gunpowder Treason Day became Guy Fawkes Day with Guy Fawkes burned in effigy and people wearing "Guy Fawkes" masks.

Bottom Line

While Britons still remember the 5th of November, after 400 years Fawkes has changed from traitor to folk hero. As they say, "Guy Fawkes was the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions."

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