Learn the story behind the mask
"Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder, the treachery, the ruse
I know of no reason why the treachery of gunpowder
Shall ever be forgotten."
Shortly after midnight on November 5, 1605, a platoon of royal soldiers stormed into the basement below the House of Lords, in a part of the Houses of Parliament complex in London. In the dark, damp room, the soldiers noticed a figure hidden behind the wooden beams by torchlight. It soon became apparent that the red-haired man with a Spanish beard, Guy Fawkes, was hiding in the cellar about to blow up the House of Lords, where the monarch, King James I, was to open the session of Parliament. Had he not been found in time, the thirty-six barrels of gunpowder hidden behind wooden stakes would have blown up the Houses of Parliament, destroying the monarch and the English political elite of the time.
On March 24, 1603, Elizabeth I died, and during her long reign, England became one of the most powerful powers in the world today. With the death of the 'virgin queen', the Tudor dynasty died, and James, the unfortunate son of Mary Stuart, who had been executed by Elizabeth, sat on the throne of England as the founder of the new dynasty, the Scottish Stuart dynasty. Elizabeth I's father, Henry VIII, one of the most eccentric monarchs in English history, broke with Rome in 1531 under tumultuous circumstances because the Holy See refused to agree to annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Henry, to free himself from the tutelage of the Vatican, founded the Anglican Church independent of papal authority and became the head of the new church. But Henry's intentions were still not enough for a radical Protestant turn, and it took many years of long bloody battles in order to break the resistance of the Catholics.
Furthermore, Henry's daughter in her first marriage, who as Mary I sat on the throne of England in 1553, tried to violently eradicate the Anglican "heresy" as a fanatical Catholic, and it was no accident that she earned the unflattering nickname "bloody" from her contemporaries. After the death of Mary Elizabeth, who came to the throne in November 1558 as Henry VIII's daughter, Anne Boleyn crushed Catholic attempts at restoration with a heavy hand. During her long 45-year reign, she used violence to aid the triumph of Anglican Protestantism; leading Catholics were removed from court or forced into submission, and "Papists" were heavily fined, imprisoned, or sentenced to death.
Years later, upon occupying the throne, Elizabeth I saw the Catholic Church as a political enemy of England, and this creed was reinforced when the Pope excommunicated her in 1570 and the "more Catholic" King Philip II of Spain attempted to invade the island nation in 1588. The not insignificant Catholic community in England, which had been subjected to severe persecution, was therefore deeply relieved by the news of the Queen's death and hoped that her successor would restore religious peace.
At first, the growing expectations of the Catholic community in England toward the new monarch did not seem unfounded. Although James I was himself a Protestant, his mother, Mary Stuart, who had been executed by Elizabeth I, was revered by the Roman Church as a Catholic martyr for her refusal to renounce her faith. But they were also encouraged by the fact that the new king's wife was also a Catholic, professing her faith.
James I, who came to the throne on March 24, 1603, did not disappoint at first, as he abolished Elizabeth's decrees against Catholics and elevated many Catholic nobles to the high court, including one of the most prestigious Roman princes, the Earl of Northumberland. But the peace was temporary, for the king was slandering the "Papists," and this deeply angered the Puritan majority. The opposition of the Puritans made James backtrack and, like his predecessor, turn against the Catholics in late 1603.
In February 1604, the king restored Elizabeth I's privation and prepared to expel the clergy, which led some Catholic nobles, disappointed in the monarch, to resist. A Warwickshire nobleman, Robert Catesby, became the mastermind of the conspiracy, which went down in history as a gunpowder plot. Catesby swore revenge against the Anglican court because of his career, which had been shaken by his Catholic faith, and the suffering of his imprisoned father. He conceived the plan to "send to hell" the sworn enemies of Catholicism, led by the "heretic" king, by blowing up the parliament building and, after the destruction of the Protestant elite, restore Catholicism to England, where the then nine-year-old Elizabeth Stuart is enthroned.
In this spirit, the chief conspirator, Robert Catesby, secretly sent one of his men, Thomas Wintour, to the continent in the spring of 1604. Wintour won over Guy Fawkes, who had a strong military background and experience, not to mention good Spanish connections, to the conspirators' cause in the German Lowlands, and returned to England with him. They stockpiled gunpowder in a dark, musty cellar.
"Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, this was your intention
To blow up the king and the parliament.
Guy Fawkes was a soldier since 1591, fighting as a Spanish mercenary in the Netherlands. According to contemporary recollections, Fawkes was a tall, extremely well-liked man of good deeds. He proved to be an excellent soldier, and in the Spanish army he rose to the rank of captain, so it is no coincidence that he represented military expertise in the group of conspirators. In May 1604, Catesby, Wintour, and Fawkes, with two other associates, Thomas Percy and John Wright, took the oath to carry out their plan.
Since parliament had already adjourned, they decided to carry out their plan to blow up the House of Lords at the next session of parliament in February 1605. But in February, contrary to the conspirators' expectations, parliament was cancelled,
because the King, faced with the threat of a plague epidemic, postponed the convening of the Council until November. The rebels, with the help of Thomas Percy, managed to rent a disused cellar directly under the block of the House of Lords in the summer of 1604.
"Three heaps of powder kegs down
To bring down poor England"
The dark, deserted, and unprotected cellar seemed like the perfect place to hide the barrels of gunpowder that would be used to blow up the building. Guy Fawkes traveled to the continent again in May 1605 to rally support for the conspirators' cause. Previously, he had even been to the court of King Philip III of Spain, where he was politely listened to, but received no concrete help. Fawkes returned to England in August 1605.
When they inspected the cellar with Thomas Wintour in early September, they discovered that some of the gunpowder stored in the barrels had been destroyed by the damp air in the cellar. Thus, new barrels of gunpowder were smuggled into the room, leaving a total of 36 barrels waiting to be exploded. The conspirators finalized the assassination plan in October, just as it became certain that James I would deliver his inaugural speech to the throne on November 5. Fawkes undertook to light the fuse and jump on a boat to escape down the River Thames. At the same time, there would have been a rebellion and plans to kidnap Princess Elizabeth.
The carefully prepared and well disguised assassination could have succeeded, but there were conspirators who were concerned that some Catholics would be present at the meeting of the House of Lords on November 5. It is still unclear which of them wrote an anonymous warning letter to William Parker, the fourth Baron of Monteagle, on October 26.
"Sir, out of the love I feel for some of your friends, I want to look after your physical welfare. I advise you, therefore, if your life is dear to you, to find some excuse to keep out of Parliament; for God and man have joined together to punish the depravity of the present times."
said, among other things, the anonymous letter to the Baron. The author of the letter presumably hoped that the Catholic lord would keep the warning secret, but Baron de Monteagle asked the king for an urgent audience.
"By divine providence he was captured
With an unlit lantern and a lighted wick"
James took the letter very seriously, and immediately ordered a search of the parliament complex, including the cellars below. Guy Fawkes hid in the cellar on November 4, armed with a fuse and a watch. The watch was given to him by Percy, so he could keep track of time in the darkness of the cellar, to time the explosion.
The Royal Guard arrived at the cellar under the House of Lords a few minutes after midnight on November 5, 1605, as it had not yet been investigated. They broke down the door, and by the light of the torches soon discovered Fawkes hiding behind the wooden structures, who was immediately captured, and under the wooden posts they found 36 barrels filled to the brim with gunpowder.
Fawkes behaved with great courage, never denying for a moment that he wanted to blow up the House of Lords, and even regretting that his plan had failed. The captured assassin was interrogated by members of the Royal Privy Council, to whom Fawkes was very defiant, for example, when asked why he wanted to blow up the House of Lords, he told them, "My explosion will throw all you Scottish beggars back to your native hills."
"Hail, lads!, let the bells ring
Hail, lads, God save the King!"
This determined courage even won the admiration of Emperor James I, who said that Fawkes was behaving "like a Roman." But even this admiration did not stop the king from ordering the torture of Fawkes, who refused to give the names of his associates. The first tortures got nothing out of him, but with the intensity of the remaining days Guy Fawkes finally loosened his tongue and gave up his associates. The eight accused in the gunpowder conspiracy were brought before the royal court on January 27, 1606.
The outcome of the trial was not in doubt, after a jury found all the defendants guilty of treason, and Chief Justice John Popham sentenced them all to death. The execution of the death penalty was considered particularly cruel by the customs of the time: the condemned were dragged to the public execution site in the courtyard of the Palace of Westminster, tied up and drawn by horses. There they were hanged one by one, but before they could be drowned, the half-dead condemned was removed from the gallows, his genitals cut off and set on fire, then beheaded, disemboweled, and quartered.
Guy Fawkes was left last, having watched his fellow soldiers torture him. Even in this situation, Fawkes did not recant, for when the executioner pushed him up the ladder, he suddenly broke free from the clutches of the executioner, jumped up and died instantly from a broken neck.
"A crumb of bread to feed the Pope.
A slice of cheese to make him choke.
A mug of beer to bring it down.
A bundle of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tar bath.
Burn him like a shining star.
Burn his body from the head up.
Then we will say that the Old Pope is dead.
Already on the day of the execution, Londoners were encouraged to light bonfires to celebrate the monarch's lucky escape. The failed assassination attempt was followed by a terrible reprisal; the court launched a regular hunt for Catholics, which resulted in many innocent victims.
November 5 was an official holiday until 1859, but in Britain November 5 is still known as Guy Fawkes Night or Guy Fawkes Day.
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