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In an era of religious segregation, when the country is being ruled by a righteous monarchy who oppress the freedom of religion, would you stand for change and be the one to make a difference?

On the 5th of November, 1605, one group of men did just that. Led by little known Robert Catesby, the meticulous planning of 13 men who sought to change the governance of England came to a faltering end. The most famous of these conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was caught red handed and became the very public example of what happens to anyone who dared to defy the crown. Now one of the most infamous figures in our countries illustrious past, we celebrate the story of Guy Fawkes and the 12 other conspirators every November the 5th with the lighting of a bonfire, the burning of the Guy and by setting off fireworks- but who was Guy Fawkes; and why did the failure of one of the most infamous terror plots in history make him such a timeless figure? Born in York, in 1570, Guy Fawkes' upbringing forged an unshakable perception on the way the country he lived in was being ruled. Following the re-marriage of his mother, to a devout Catholic, and with the help of his Catholic grand parents, Guy's eyes were opened to the way in which his religion was shunned at the time. Queen Elizabeth I was on the thrown, and her persecution against English Catholic's was well known. Guy was aware of the ill treatment people of his religion received from the English monarchy- so at 21, he left for Catholic Spain and enlisted in their army. Guy fought the protestant Dutch in Europe under the Spanish banner, and during his successful military career, he took on the Italian version of his name- 'Guido' . Whilst in the army, Queen Elizabeth I died. Guy, along with a lot of other people, hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant to Catholic's in England. No such empathy was shown, with James becoming just as ruthless as the queen before him. Guy had had enough. He traveled to Spain to petition to the king, Phillip III, to help him start a rebellion in England. Despite the two nations still being at war, Phillip refused, leaving Guy's strong feelings against the English monarchy exposed. Guy returned to battle, and continued to fight for Spain in Flanders. By this point, he had become a master of the art of war. He was documented as being a hugely imposing man- intensely intelligent and charming, but with a wit and deadly edge that made him a lethal enemy and a fiercely loyal friend. It was in Flanders that Guy was approached by Thomas Wintour. One of the thirteen conspirators, Wintour told Guy of the plan that would later become known as the infamous 'Gun Powder Plot'. Guy's expertise in war, and specifically gun powder, made him a valuable asset to the plot. He jumped at the chance to change a monarchy that he viewed as wrong- and enlisted himself into Robert Catesby's group of conspirators who were all willing to defy the crown. The plan was hatched, and set into unstoppable motion. 36 barrels of gun powder were taken to the Houses of Parliament in London and laid in the basement underneath the chamber that the King would open Parliament from the next day. Guy was left in charge to ignite the fuse and finish the job. However, during the plots development, it became clear that some people who were supportive of the Catholic cause would be killed along with the conspirator's targets. One member of the group cracked under the pressure of keeping the plot secret from their causes supporters, and sent a letter to Lord Monteagle, revealing the plot to kill the King and warning him to stay away from Parliament on the 5th of November. Thanks to the king's spymaster, Robert Cecil, the crown was alerted to the letter and on the 4th of November, at midnight, Guy Fawkes was caught red handed by the king's soldiers in the basement of Parliament preparing the gun powder for the following day. Guy was tortured for two days before he confessed to his crimes. Torture was illegal at the time, and the king had to sign a special order to subject Guy to tortures such as stretching. After his confession, he was hung, drawn and quartered; his remains were sent to the four corners of the kingdom as a warning to anyone who would dare conspire against the king. On the night of Guy's capture, bonfires were lit across the country to celebrate the kings safety- this tradition is still observed today, on every 5th of November. The tale of Guy Fawkes became one of the most famous propaganda coups in history- his tale was used to repress Catholicism by the English crown for the best part of 200 years, before his name became so entrenched in our folk lore that mock ups of the conspirator, aptly called 'Guys' were burnt as an effigy to commemorate the failure of the plot, and the safety of the monarchy.

Ryan J Gray


Masdings Reviews

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