Sunday, 4 November 2007

Remember, Remember

The Fifth of November,

Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

"On the 5th November 1605 Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with several dozen barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes was subsequently tried as a traitor with his co-conspirators for plotting against the government. He was tried by Judge Popham who came to London specifically for the trial from his country manor Littlecote House in Hungerford, Gloucestershire. Fawkes was sentenced to death and the form of the execution was one of the most horrendous ever practised (hung ,drawn and quartered) which reflected the serious nature of the crime of treason.

The Tradition begins...The following year in 1606 it became an annual custom for the King and Parliament to commission a sermon to commemorate the event. Lancelot Andrewes delivered the first of many Gunpowder Plot Sermons. This practice, together with the nursery rhyme, ensured that this crime would never be forgotten! Hence the words " Remember , remember the 5th of November" The poem is sometimes referred to as 'Please to remember the fifth of November'. It serves as a warning to each new generation that treason will never be forgotten. In England the 5th of November is still commemorated each year with fireworks and bonfires culminating with the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes (the guy). The 'guys' are made by children by filling old clothes with crumpled newspapers to look like a man. Tradition allows British children to display their 'guys' to passers-by and asking for " A penny for the guy".

The picture is of the 'Gunpowder Plot' conspirators. Starting with Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Wright, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby and Thomas Wintour
In a local town to hear, Lewes, they have a load of Bonfire celebrations. The whole town is closed to cars, and they have lots of processions and burnings of the Guy and of course Fireworks.


Thea said...

See I am not sure that you are right that the 5th of November "serves as a warning to each new generation that treason will never be forgotten."

What struck me while standing in the November chill up on Blackheath Common watching the fireworks, is that the 5th Nov is actually a public celebration. And that although fireworks displays are increasingly run by local councils, for reasons of public safety -- and I suspect, because the recent increases in public liability insurance make organised events by small community groups untenable -- but nevertheless, it is the people themselves who get together to build bonfires and set off fireworks in rememberance of Fawkes and his co-conspirators -- not the government or the monarchy.

You might well see the burning of the Guy as a stark warning to the British public about how the authorities will deal with treason, but then you might choose instead to see it as a rememberence of a Catholic martyr who died in his attempt to bring about justice for an oppressed minority. And notice that in October/November each year, British adults are given the opportunity - if not actively encouraged by popular tradition - to go into shops and legitimately buy explosive devices that they set off in back gardens and public spaces all over the country. Filling the sky with a message of the potential power of the people to take matters into their own hands and threaten the political stability of the nation, should their voices not be legitimately heard by those in power.

In this present day and age, the yearly rememberance of a terrorist plot that was only narrowly averted, seems less like a warning to the people, and more like reminder of the contested nature of political rule. And a graphic demonstration of the potential power of British Citizens to defy their leaders, and to declare war on their sovereignty.

craftyclaire said...

Thank you for your incedibly well thought out comment, which to a degree I agree with you. It has mutated into a public celebration, with little rememberence for the history. Whether the British public will take arms with the Catherine Wheels and Sparklers against our Monarch is another thing.

Thea said... be fair, they prefer rucksacks full of semtex, car bombs and kamikaze hit and runs.


Thea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thea said...

I suppose my point is though, that it always was a public celebration, it hasnt mutated exactly.

I believe, James I (or James IV depending on who you ask) declared it a day of celebration, but it was ordinary folk who went out into the streets and built bonfires etc. And you have got to ask yourself why Catholics would participate in that celebration, if it was seen as a 'warning'.

I'm only guessing that they might have reinterpreted it as a celebration of martyrdom, since that is such a large part of Catholic religion.

Though, I admit its all a bit tenuous when you realise that they don't celebrate Bonfire night at all in Northern Ireland (I don't think) -- for obvious reasons.