Dateline Newcastle upon Tyne - Friday 1st December, 2023 09:33
EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT GUY FAWKES IS WRONG
by Jim Butler, November, 2015
The events of the night of November 4/5, 1605 still endure, though, and so do countless misapprehensions about the man many people assume to be the Gunpowder Plot's mastermind. Here's what you need to remember, remember about Mr 5th of November
"Guy Fawkes was the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions"
A nice aphorism for the anti-politics crowd, but somewhat removed from the truth. Fawkes and his Catholic cohorts were fed up of Protestant persecution - in particular the paying of fines if they avoided parish services - and wanted to blow England's Protestant establishment, with King James I as its figurehead, out of existence. The plan was that following the death of the King, a puppet Queen - James' daughter Princess Elizabeth - would be installed alongside a Lord Protector sympathetic to Catholicism. In effect, one authoritarian regime would replace another.
"He was the ringleader of the Plot"
Not so. Fawkes has become the face of Gunpowder Plot but the brain behind the operation was Robert Catesby, a devout and charismatic Catholic who refused to take the Protestant Oath of Supremacy. Despite neither convincing Philip III of Spain to invade England, nor receiving Papal blessing for his plans, he at least had the courage of his conviction. Fawkes, an explosives expert and former soldier, came to the Plot relatively late.
"If the Plot had succeeded, we'd have become a Catholic country"
Some scholars maintain that the gunpowder would never have exploded due to decay caused by a delay to the opening of Parliament that year. But if it had succeeded, rather than ushering in a new age of Catholic rule, it would have resulted in violent retribution against a section of society that was very much the minority. Any toleration of Catholicism would have vanished in an instant.
"Guy Fawkes Night isn't a religious celebration"
It might be a secular event today, but for centuries after the foiling of the plot, Bonfire Night was a religious service of thanksgiving which celebrated the fact God had spared England from the Catholics. We were horribly sectarian back then.
"Those masks are an authentic symbol of anti-capitalist resistance"
The Guy Fawkes masks worn by anti-capitalist protestors? The image might have come from the anarchist comic book V For Vendetta but the plastic masks themselves come from the Warner Bros movie adaptation. Time Warner, one of the world's biggest corporations, receives a handsome slice of profits from every sale - and original writer Alan Moore doesn't get a bean. An uncomfortable countercultural irony wouldn't you say?