Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Article: Guy Fawkes, One man, One figure

Always timely but certainly unknown to most of the world. He came in public because of the movie V for Vendetta.
Who was Guy Fawkes? A conspiracy Catholic who wanted to eliminate the Protestant nobility and the King of England himself. An attempt that became legendary. A story which was empathized with the anarchists. Rightly or wrongly? It isn’t certain that these two words would be sufficient to identify an event or a person.
A Catholic soldier who is preparing to exterminate an entire noble House as part of a conspiracy, along with other 12 conspirators (Robert Catesby, Robert Keyes, Ambrose Rookwood, Thomas Wintour, Sir Everard Digby, Thomas Percy, Francis Tresham, Thomas Bates, Christopher Wright, Robert Wintour, John Grant, John Wright) is not one of those cases that could be associated with anarchy.
However, after it happened in a certain way, it would be useful to identify certain features of this situation and to consider the event in relation to its social implications.
It is true that every event combines the personal characteristics of the people and their issues and may take further extensions from the wishes of those who begun the process.
In this case, the prospect of revolution was considered certain, as long as the conspirators had achieved their purpose. The whole extent of this attempt to blow the House overtook the narrow limits of the intentions of the conspirators. The issue gains wider social dimensions. It becomes a song on the lips of millions of people until today. This is of particular importance in what has to do with anarchy. That it was hugged and established in the hearts of people as an act against the tyranny and the powerful aristocrats.
The distances and the compositions are necessary in order to avoid relations and to indicate those characteristics that through many mantles (religious, political etc.) bring to the surface the passion of the oppressed for freedom, and the immense hostility towards any controller.

Guy Fawkes (13th April 1570 – 13th January 1606) was an English soldier and member of the group of Roman Catholic conspirators, who attempted to implement the so called “Gunpowder plot” in 1605, which ended up with the arrest of Guy Fawkes on November 5th. The plan was to murder King James I of England, of the Protestant nobility and members of both houses of the Anglican Parliament. To achieve this, the Palace of Westminster had to blow up during the official opening of the Parliament session in 1605.
Guy Fawkes was most responsible for the final stages of implementation of the plan because of his military experience and knowledge of explosives. Together with his colleagues he managed to rent a cellar beneath the House of Lords.
Initially they had tried to dig a tunnel underneath the House but eventually that was quite difficult to do because they had to bring out and store the casks of soil and rubble. Their relief was enormous when they found this cellar for rent. In March of 1605, he had filled the cellar with 36 barrels, which are estimated to have contained a total of 2.5 tons of gunpowder. 

However, because of a letter which fell into the hands of the Secretary of State and warned some Catholics of the impending attack; investigations began leading to the discovery and arrest of Fawkes in a raid in the cellar the morning of November 5th.
Fawkes was brought in the Kings room during the morning, where all the ministers were gathered. He was keeping a defensive behavior, but without hiding his intentions. When the King asked why he wanted to kill him, Fawkes answered that the Pope had renounced him (meaning the King) adding that “..the dangerous diseases require immediate treatment…”. He also expressed to the local lords of Scotland his intention to blow up the building of governmental authority in Scotland as well. He was then leaded to the Tower of London, where he was interrogated by torture. The torture at that time were forbidden, but the King had declared that “..initially we will use mild torture, but they can increase to the worse, so God can speed up your good work..”
Fawkes initially endured to the torture, but eventually he succumbed to an oral confession on November 8, and to a written one on November 10. Distinguishing is the quivered form of Fawkes’ signature in the confession, a form that indicated the continuous torture he was into. After more questioning, new data showed that another group was planning on the blowing, but was never discovered.
Many of the conspirators were arrested and died during the interrogations. Conspirators were considered all of who that had even a typical work or formal relationship with any of the 13 conspirators. The trial which followed was quite short (lasted only one day) and the result was predetermined and a foregone conclusion: Fawkes and his associated were sentenced to hang and carving for treason and attempted murder and were executed on January 31st 1606.
The objectives of the conspirators are compared with those that we characterize in our times as terrorists. Yet, their real purpose was nothing less than a full-scale rebellion against the Government of England and the establishment of universal monarchy. At that time, the word “terrorist” was not used.
The conspiracy was simply indentified as a plan of betrayal and not only did not help the Catholics, but many loyal Catholics were in a very difficult position. Before this period, Catholicism was connected with Spain and the hardship of Inquisition, but after the event it was considered treason just to be Catholic. The controversy triggered off many moves against Catholics who would have to wait for another 200 years until they acquired equal rights. Many of those dealing with that period of time claimed that in London “the interest that existed in Satanism and terrorism” which was reinforced by the Gunpowder treason, may have inspired the work of Shakespeare, Macbeth.
According to a representation of the blowup, it was found that the intensity of the explosion would have been enormous. The counters that were placed in the rooms in order to calculate the strength of the blast were destroyed, while the imitation of the King and the Ministers, bishops and others were found at great distance from the site. According to studies, no one would had survived in a 100 meter range while the glass windows of St. Gall as well as the glasses at a great distance from the Palace would had been destroyed, although they were reinforced construction. The force of the explosion was felt from miles away. Even if half of the amount of gunpowder had been used, it would have killed instantly all those who were in the House of Lords and around it.
Nowadays, the legend is still admired. Guy Fawkes is displayed in the list of “100 most famous Britons” of 2002, which was voted by the people. This list ranks him among others such as Churchill, Johnny Rotten and others. He was also included in the list of “50 greatest men of Yorkshire”. Although Fawkes’s actions were considered terrorist, it is said that: “..he was the only man who ever went to the Parliament with honest intentions…” (This phrase was circulated in anarchist posters in the early 20th century).
He has become a reference name in many books, poems, such as T.S. Eliot, as well as songs. It should be noted that the Smiths, in their vinyl “The Queen is Dead”, have “Guy Fawkes was a Genius” engraved near the center of the disc. Finally John Lennon sings in the song “Remember”, the verse “Remember, remember the 5th of November”. The lyrics are followed by the sound of the explosion.
One famous song is often sung at “Guy Fawkes’s Night”, in memory of the “Gunpowder plot”:
Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder treason and plot
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

P.s. The word “guy” appeared in the 19th century and had marked an oddly dressed man, and later passed to American slang as a salutation for any man.

Δημοσιεύτηκε στη ΔΙΑΔΡΟΜΗ ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑΣ, φύλλο 51, Ιούνιος 2006
Published in DIADROMI ELEUTHERIAS, paper 51, June 2006

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