remember remember

Remember remember the 5th of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

should ever be forgot.


The irony is, I can tell you much more about V for Vendetta than I can remember about the gunpowder plot.

Guy Fawkes’ journeys through pop culture are pretty spectacular. He began as a Catholic terrorist, became an anti-fascist symbol, then an anarchist hero, then the logo for a club of computer hackers (by the way, Anonymous has plans to hack facebook today, start panicking). Guy Fawkes is no longer the villain but an anti-establishment  hero; interestingly of both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, depending on whether you think government or the financial fat cats are the enemy.

In my procrasti-googling I found out a little about this mysterious character and the collateral damage of the Reformation.

Luther nailed his theses to the church door in 1517, then Henry the 8th started his own divorce-friendly church in 1534. From 1559 Catholic mass became illegal in England and you could get fined for skipping church.

In 1586 Guy Fawkes was 16, living with his mum and stepdad in York. There were moves to install the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, prompting a big crackdown on Catholics.


Margaret Clitherow was one of the Catholics. She was arrested either for ‘not attending church’ or for ‘harboring Catholic priests’.  Knowing that if her case went to trial her children would be tortured into giving evidence against her, she refused to plead her case. So she was executed by ‘pressing.’

Pressing Margaret Clitheroe to Death

The story of Clitherow’s execution spread across the country. She became a household name. Her death was enough to radicalise the young Fawkes. He went off to fight for Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch.

Fawkes’ constructed his terror plot in 1605 when he was 35.  He wanted to blow up parliament, kill King James and install a Catholic. This is the King James of the King James Bible (and also the guy who, a year earlier, put a tax on tobacco because he thought smoking was bad for you).

It was more of the fall out of the Reformation.

Guy Fawkes isn’t a hero. But that doesn’t mean his grievances weren’t real. I propose that perhaps instead of hacking websites (I know it’s tempting) or burning effigies or wearing silly masks, we should do something else to remember 5th November. If you’re an Anglican, hug a Catholic! Make it a day for Protestants and Catholics to give each other a hug and remember what we’ve done and how far we’ve come.

Because we’ve got a pretty messed up history.

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