On this date, 407 years ago a group of conspirators were caught attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
As far as I can recall without reference to the excellent “History of the English Speaking Peoples” by Sir Winston Churchill (and because I cannot be arsed to hunt about on the Internet) the target was not Parliament itself but King James the First – the last English Monarch to enjoy, unchallenged, what was known as The Divine Right of Kings.
Mind you, the fact that no-one got angry enough with James I to cut his head off, as happened to his son 44 years later, didn’t mean he was POPULAR.
As I suggested above, I THINK that was the situation – my recollection of being taught about that period of history is somewhat befuddled as it was during my 2nd year at Copleston, the school was undergoing extensive building works and my class was based in an annex about 2 miles away. During the first half of that school year our History lessons were taken by Jack Adams, our form master (and head of the PE Department) in our form room. It was also, I believe, the first lesson of the day which was nice as it meant we didn’t have to go racing off to the main school after registration for it. For the second half of the year, however, Registration was at the annex and the lesson was at a brand new classroom in the main school. This meant that those of us without bicycles (guess who!) were always out of breath and knackered from our 15 minute jog between sites and THAT must have been the part of the year when we covered Jacobean matters!
Anyway, having said all that, I have now looked up a brief summary of the conspiracy, mainly to confirm my suspicion that Guido “Guy” Fawkes (whose name has become synonymous with the whole thing) was not actually one of the ring-leaders. He wasn’t! He was, in fact, the explosives expert hired by Robert Catesby and his crew of minor Roman Catholic noblemen who were disappointed that James had not turned out to be more tolerant of their religion. They hoped, by some strange warped logic, that killing James would make his son MORE tolerant of their faction when he became King!
Maybe it would but it wouldn’t have bloody well worked for me – I’d have wiped them out, root and branch, no hesitation, for blowing up a member of MY family!
After the capture, torture, confessions and executions were all over and done with, King James actually ordered that the English people should celebrate the anniversary of his Yeoman Warders finding the “bomb in the basement” by lighting gigantic fires around the country and we still do it out of sheer inertia to this day with the addition of spectacular pyrotechnics.
A couple of things occur to me about this:
Firstly, I wonder how many people, when they take their children to see a massive organised bonfire\fireworks display, realise that they are effectively still celebrating and condoning the persecution and extermination of Catholics here! I happen to think that all established religions are “bunk” and that it is far more likely that they are ALL wrong rather than any one being right but if people want to believe in them I’m perfectly happy to let them get on with it – provided they extend the same courtesy to me and accept my disbelief. It may, therefore be time to stop this particular anachronism in the same way that the divisive and intolerant Protestant “Marching season” in Northern Ireland should go too.
Secondly, the UK government in Westminster has, over the 30 years or so that I have been noticing its existence, taken more and more steps to interfere in areas of our lives that really are none of its business at all! They have also taken every opportunity available to them to tax us on anything they can think of to the extent that we now have, for example a “Fuel Duty” on Petrol (which HMG can increase at will) on which we then have to pay 20% VAT! A tax on a tax is supposed to be illegal but if you are in power and choose to call one of them a “duty” that’s apparently OK.
Let me just be quite clear on something, it is the politicians and only the politicians who have to endure my wrath here – I KNOW that the awesome Specialist Investigations Department of HMRC (aka The Taxman )is working its little collective socks off to catch the scumbags who don’t feel any obligation to pay their share. The more they succeed the less those of us for whom non-payment is not a choice should have to bear – keep up the good work guys .
Nevertheless it really can’t go on like this and leaves me wondering whether we are actually commemorating Mr Fawkes’ capture or commiserating with his failure – because whoever his target may have been he WOULD have got the MPs too!
Oh, and if anyone ever finds an explosive device of mine in the cellars of the Palace of Westminster and wants to diffuse it, you just cut the blue wire, OK?