… gunpowder, treason, and plot!
Guy Fawkes, notorious English traitor, is commemorated on this day for his failed attempt to blow up Parliament. From a Guy Fawkes website:
To carry out their plan, the conspirators got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder – and stored it in a cellar, just under the House of Lords.
But as the group worked on the plot, it became clear that some innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th. Was the letter real?
The warning letter reached the King, and the King’s forces made plans to stop the conspirators.
Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th, was caught, tortured and executed.
The supposed plot was part of the post-Elizabethan wrangling over the treatment and status of Catholics in England, as Andrew Sullivan notes in his posting on the matter today.
I remember Guy Fawkes Day from when I was living in Manchester during my graduate research; it’s now a day for burning bonfires and effigies, and in November is quite festive and colorful.