It's a Guy Thing

There was a terrorist attack today---that is, an aborted one, four hundred and six years ago.  It happened in one of the commercial  centers of the time, London.  It was motivated  by religion.  This was Shakespeare's England,  a Protestant nation since the days of Henry VIII except for the brief  restoration of Catholic hegemony under "Bloody Mary" in the 1550s.  Catholics, called Papists then,  were a persecuted minority in 1605.  A group of them concocted this grandiose scheme, the  so-called Gunpowder Plot.

King James I was on the English throne on that fateful 1605 date. The conspirators planned to blow up the House of Parliament with His Royal Majesty in attendance.  But British spies uncovered the plot and the  authorities caught--- in an undercroft below the building--- Guy Fawkes, whose assignment  had been  to ignite the explosives.

After being subjected to the contemporary version of  'enhanced interrogation' ---manacles and the rack---, Fawkes confessed and named names. His case was heard by the Star Chamber.  Not having of course the benefits of anything  like the  5th Amendment or Miranda rights, he was summarily  found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.  Fortunately in a way, he fell off the scaffold and died instantly of a broken neck.  That didn't stop his executioners  from quartering  his cadaver and displaying its parts across the kingdom as a grisly  reminder to any other potential Guy Fawkes out there.

Merrie Olde England has since celebrated  Guy Fawkes Day with fireworks and bonfires.  Effigies of Fawkes and the pope  have been historically torched.  And in more recent times, even one of  Margaret Thatcher, whose surname  does have an apt combustibility about it.

The Catholic Relief Act of 1829 removed most of the restrictions on Guy Fawkes's religious descendants . Except one:  They cannot be part of the royal succession.  Kate had to renounce her faith to marry William.

So the immortal soul of Guy Fawkes may still  be a bit restless.   Nevertheless, there is another kind of immortality associated with Fawkes.  He lives on in the lexicon of  modern America, a country  originally settled  in part by religious dissenters from England .   Just check out the Trib crossword puzzle today, November 5, Guy Fawkes Day.  3-Down's clue is "guys".  Fawkes has become  one  of the "fellas" .

Leave a comment