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One wonders how many Catholics in the UK tonight will be celebrating Guy Fawkes night or Bonfire night as it is commonly known, and how many really know the true history of November 05 or if you know that Guy Fawkes night is a Protestant celebration of the failed gunpowder plot to kill the Protestant King and his parliament and make England a Catholic nation once again. I wonder do we really care!
Guy Fawkes (13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606), also known as Guido Fawkes, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish in the Low Countries, was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Fawkes was born and educated in York. His father died when Fawkes was eight years old, after which his mother married a recusant Catholic. Fawkes later converted to Catholicism and left for the continent, where he fought in the Eighty Years’ War on the side of Catholic Spain against Protestant Dutch reformers. In 1603 Fawkes travelled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England. He used the occasion to adopt the Italian version of his name, Guido, and in his memorandum described James I as “a heretic”, who intended “to have all of the Papist sect driven out of England.” He denounced Scotland, and the King’s favourites among the Scottish nobles, writing “it will not be possible to reconcile these two nations, as they are, for very long”. Although he was received politely, the court of Philip III was unwilling to offer him any support.
He later met Thomas Wintour, with whom he returned to England.
Wintour introduced Fawkes to Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plotters secured the lease to an undercroft beneath the House of Lords, and Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder they stockpiled there. Prompted by the receipt of an anonymous letter, the authorities searched Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and found Fawkes guarding the explosives. Over the next few days, he was questioned and tortured, and eventually he broke. Immediately before his execution on 31 January, Fawkes jumped from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of the mutilation that followed.
Fawkes became synonymous with the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been commemorated in Britain since 5 November 1605. His effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, commonly accompanied by a firework display.
In 1604 Fawkes became involved with a small group of English Catholics, led by Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate the Protestant King James and replace him with his daughter, third in the line of succession, Princess Elizabeth. Fawkes was described by the Jesuit priest and former school friend Oswald Tesimond as “pleasant of approach and cheerful of manner, opposed to quarrels and strife … loyal to his friends”. Tesimond also claimed Fawkes was “a man highly skilled in matters of war”, and that it was this mixture of piety and professionalism which endeared him to his fellow conspirators. The author Antonia Fraser describes Fawkes as “a tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard”, and that he was “a man of action … capable of intelligent argument as well as physical endurance, somewhat to the surprise of his enemies.”
The first meeting of the five central conspirators took place on Sunday 20 May 1604, at an inn called the Duck and Drake, in the fashionable Strand district of London. Catesby had already proposed at an earlier meeting with Thomas Wintour and John Wright to kill the King and his government by blowing up “the Parliament House with gunpowder”. Wintour, who at first objected to the plan, was convinced by Catesby to travel to the continent to seek help. Wintour met with the Constable of Castile, the exiled Welsh spy Hugh Owen, and Sir William Stanley, who said that Catesby would receive no support from Spain. Owen did, however, introduce Wintour to Fawkes, who had by then been away from England for many years, and thus was largely unknown in the country. Wintour and Fawkes were contemporaries; each was militant, and had first-hand experience of the unwillingness of the Spaniards to help. Wintour told Fawkes of their plan to “doe some whatt in Ingland if the pece with Spaine healped us nott”, and thus in April 1604 the two men returned to England. Wintour’s news did not surprise Catesby; despite positive noises from the Spanish authorities, he feared that “the deeds would nott answere”.
One of the conspirators, Thomas Percy, was promoted in June 1604, gaining access to a house in London that belonged to John Whynniard, Keeper of the King’s Wardrobe. Fawkes was installed as a caretaker and began using the pseudonym John Johnson, servant to Percy. The contemporaneous account of the prosecution (taken from Thomas Wintour’s confession) claimed that the conspirators attempted to dig a tunnel from beneath Whynniard’s house to Parliament, although this story may have been a government fabrication; no evidence for the existence of a tunnel was presented by the prosecution, and no trace of one has ever been found; Fawkes himself did not admit the existence of such a scheme until his fifth interrogation, but even then he could not locate the tunnel. If the story is true, however, by December 1604 the conspirators were busy tunnelling from their rented house to the House of Lords. They ceased their efforts when, during tunnelling, they heard a noise from above. Fawkes was sent out to investigate, and returned with the news that the tenant’s widow was clearing out a nearby undercroft, directly beneath the House of Lords.
The plotters purchased the lease to the room, which also belonged to John Whynniard. Unused and filthy, it was considered an ideal hiding place for the gunpowder the plotters planned to store. According to Fawkes, 20 barrels of gunpowder were brought in at first, followed by 16 more on 20 July. On 28 July however, the ever-present threat of the plague delayed the opening of Parliament until Tuesday, 5 November.
In an attempt to gain foreign support, in May 1605 Fawkes travelled overseas and informed Hugh Owen of the plotters’ plan. At some point during this trip his name made its way into the files of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, who employed a network of spies across Europe. One of these spies, Captain William Turner, may have been responsible. Although the information he provided to Salisbury usually amounted to no more than a vague pattern of invasion reports, and included nothing which regarded the Gunpowder Plot, on 21 April he told how Fawkes was to be brought by Tesimond to England. Fawkes was a well-known Flemish mercenary, and would be introduced to “Mr Catesby” and “honourable friends of the nobility and others who would have arms and horses in readiness”. Turner’s report did not, however, mention Fawkes’s pseudonym in England, John Johnson, and did not reach Cecil until late in November, well after the plot had been discovered.
It is uncertain when Fawkes returned to England, but he was back in London by late August 1605, when he and Wintour discovered that the gunpowder stored in the undercroft had decayed. More gunpowder was brought into the room, along with firewood to conceal it. Fawkes’s final role in the plot was settled during a series of meetings in October. He was to light the fuse and then escape across the Thames. Simultaneously, a revolt in the Midlands would help to ensure the capture of Princess Elizabeth. Acts of regicide were frowned upon, and Fawkes would therefore head to the continent, where he would explain to the Catholic powers his holy duty to kill the King and his retinue.
A few of the conspirators were concerned about fellow Catholics who would be present at Parliament during the opening. On the evening of 26 October, Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter warning him to stay away, and to “retyre youre self into yowre contee whence yow maye expect the event in safti for … they shall receyve a terrible blowe this parleament”. Despite quickly becoming aware of the letter – informed by one of Monteagle’s servants – the conspirators resolved to continue with their plans, as it appeared that it “was clearly thought to be a hoax”. Fawkes checked the undercroft on 30 October, and reported that nothing had been disturbed. Monteagle’s suspicions had been aroused, however, and the letter was shown to King James. The King ordered Sir Thomas Knyvet to conduct a search of the cellars underneath Parliament, which he did in the early hours of 5 November. Fawkes had taken up his station late on the previous night, armed with a slow match and a watch given to him by Percy “becaus he should knowe howe the time went away”. He was found leaving the cellar, shortly after midnight, and arrested. Inside, the barrels of gunpowder were discovered hidden under piles of firewood and coal.
Fawkes gave his name as John Johnson and was first interrogated by members of the King’s Privy chamber, where he remained defiant. When asked by one of the lords what he was doing in possession of so much gunpowder, Fawkes answered that his intention was “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.” He identified himself as a 36-year-old Catholic from Netherdale in Yorkshire, and gave his father’s name as Thomas and his mother’s as Edith Jackson. Wounds on his body noted by his questioners he explained as the effects of pleurisy. Fawkes admitted his intention to blow up the House of Lords, and expressed regret at his failure to do so. His steadfast manner earned him the admiration of King James, who described Fawkes as possessing “a Roman resolution”.
James’s admiration did not, however, prevent him from ordering on 6 November that “John Johnson” be tortured, to reveal the names of his co-conspirators. He directed that the torture be light at first, referring to the use of manacles, but more severe if necessary, authorising the use of the rack: “the gentler Tortures are to be first used unto him et sic per gradus ad ima tenditur [and so by degrees proceeding to the worst]”. Fawkes was transferred to the Tower of London. The King composed a list of questions to be put to “Johnson”, such as “as to what he is, For I can never yet hear of any man that knows him”, “When and where he learned to speak French?”, and “If he was a Papist, who brought him up in it?” The room in which Fawkes was interrogated subsequently became known as the Guy Fawkes Room.
Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower, supervised the torture and obtained Fawkes’s confession. He searched his prisoner, and found a letter, addressed to Guy Fawkes. To Waad’s surprise, “Johnson” remained silent, revealing nothing about the plot or its authors. On the night of 6 November he spoke with Waad, who reported to Salisbury “He [Johnson] told us that since he undertook this action he did every day pray to God he might perform that which might be for the advancement of the Catholic Faith and saving his own soul”. According to Waad, Fawkes managed to rest through the night, despite his being warned that he would be interrogated until “I had gotton the inwards secret of his thoughts and all his complices”. His composure was broken at some point during the following day.
The observer Sir Edward Hoby remarked “Since Johnson’s being in the Tower, he beginneth to speak English”. Fawkes revealed his true identity on 7 November, and told his interrogators that there were five people involved in the plot to kill the King. He began to reveal their names on 8 November, and told how they intended to place Princess Elizabeth on the throne. His third confession, on 9 November, implicated Francis Tresham. Following the Ridolfi plot of 1571 prisoners were made to dictate their confessions, before copying and signing them, if they still could. Although it is uncertain if he was subjected to the horrors of the rack, Fawkes’s signature, little more than a scrawl, bears testament to the suffering he endured at the hands of his interrogators.
Trial and execution
The trial of eight of the plotters began on Monday 27 January 1606. Fawkes shared the barge from the Tower to Westminster Hall with seven of his co-conspirators. They were kept in the Star Chamber before being taken to Westminster Hall, where they were displayed on a purpose-built scaffold. The King and his close family, watching in secret, were among the spectators as the Lords Commissioners read out the list of charges. Fawkes was identified as Guido Fawkes, “otherwise called Guido Johnson”. He pleaded not guilty, despite his apparent acceptance of guilt from the moment he was captured.
The outcome was never in doubt. The jury found all of the defendants guilty, and the Lord Chief Justice Sir John Popham proclaimed them guilty of high treason. The Attorney General Sir Edward Coke told the court that each of the condemned would be drawn backwards to his death, by a horse, his head near the ground. They were to be “put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both”. Their genitals would be cut off and burnt before their eyes, and their bowels and hearts removed. They would then be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of their bodies displayed so that they might become “prey for the fowls of the air”. Fawkes’s and Tresham’s testimony regarding the Spanish treason was read aloud, as well as confessions related specifically to the Gunpowder Plot. The last piece of evidence offered was a conversation between Fawkes and Wintour, who had been kept in adjacent cells. The two men apparently thought they had been speaking in private, but their conversation was intercepted by a government spy. When the prisoners were allowed to speak, Fawkes explained his not guilty plea as ignorance of certain aspects of the indictment.
On 31 January 1606, Fawkes and three others – Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes – were dragged (i.e. drawn) from the Tower on wattled hurdles to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, opposite the building they had attempted to destroy. His fellow plotters were then hanged and quartered. Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his “crosses and idle ceremonies”. Weakened by torture and aided by the hangman, Fawkes began to climb the ladder to the noose, but either through jumping to his death or climbing too high so the rope was incorrectly set, he managed to avoid the agony of the latter part of his execution by breaking his neck. His lifeless body was nevertheless quartered and, as was the custom, his body parts were then distributed to “the four corners of the kingdom”, to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.
On 5 November 1605 Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, “always provided that ‘this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder'”. An Act of Parliament designated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for “the joyful day of deliverance”, and remained in force until 1859. Although he was only one of 13 conspirators, Fawkes is today the individual most associated with the failed Plot.
In Britain, 5 November has variously been called Guy Fawkes Night, Guy Fawkes Day, Plot Night and Bonfire Night; the latter can be traced directly back to the original celebration of 5 November 1605. Bonfires were accompanied by fireworks from the 1650s onwards, and it became the custom to burn an effigy (usually the pope) after 1673, when the heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, made his conversion to Catholicism public. Effigies of other notable figures who have become targets for the public’s ire, such as Paul Kruger and Margaret Thatcher, have also found their way onto the bonfires, although most modern effigies are of Fawkes. The “guy” is normally created by children, from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask. During the 19th century, “guy” came to mean an oddly dressed person, but in American English it lost any pejorative connotation, and was used to refer to any male person.
William Harrison Ainsworth‘s 1841 historical romance Guy Fawkes; or, The Gunpowder Treason portrays Fawkes in a generally sympathetic light, and transformed him in the public perception into an “acceptable fictional character”. Fawkes subsequently appeared as “essentially an action hero” in children’s books and penny dreadfuls such as The Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes; or, The Conspirators of Old London, published in about 1905. Historian Lewis Call has observed that Fawkes is now “a major icon in modern political culture”. He went on to write that the image of Fawkes’s face became “a potentially powerful instrument for the articulation of postmodern anarchism” during the late 20th century, exemplified by the mask worn by V in the comic book series V for Vendetta, who fights against a fictional fascist English state.
Guy Fawkes is sometimes toasted as “the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions”.
Today, the Guy Fawkes mask is worn around the world by the organisation known as ‘Anonymous’
Dr. Safdar Dushan Tappeh
Once in a while the news are filled about a group of radical, extremist Muslims who slaughter people and commit the most unthinkable crimes under the name of Islam. ISIS is a recent example. If you ask such people that why they are committing such obvious wrong deeds and still consider it the command of the God, they would answer that they are trusting a Muslim scholar and that they receive the commands of the God through him. Based on this trust they consider the scholar’s commands equivalent to the God’s commands and blindly follow the scholar’s instructions to make the God happy. But does not this method sound too similar to shirk, the exact opposite of Islam’s primary message, which is not following anybody except the God? How did this happen? How did that origin with the most clear message came to this obvious contradictory point?
In the “Belief vs. Trust” article, we show that in the current understanding of Islam believing in God is interpreted as trusting a religious package preached by the local religious scholars. After analyzing the roots of such interpretation, the article shows that key element that legitimizes the incorporation of trusting scholars into religious practice is considering Hadith as a pillar of Islam. The current Islam which is mixed with Hadith has become so complicated that leaves an ordinary Muslim with no solution but seeking the advice of some Hadith experts (or scholars) about “what Islam says”.
Then in the “Islam without Hadith” article, we list the pros and cons of existence of Hadith in the current Islamic practice, and show that by eliminating Hadith not only we do not lose any of the core Islamic values but also we are given the chance to rediscover the Simple Islam, the religion which guides us to nothing but reasonable, beautiful deeds. In Simple Islam, which is free from the complexities of Hadith, there is no space for religious scholars to instruct their blind followers to such unbelievable crimes.
I don’t know about you but I am sick to death of hearing of every Tom, Dick or Harriet blaming society for the failures of its people; most seem to have the impression that ‘society’ is the group of men and women who make up the government when in fact it is all of us who reside in these beautiful and free group of countries we call the United Kingdom, we are all part of society whether we feel like it or not.
First there was the white ‘disadvantaged’ living on council estates around the country, many living on state benefits, who said ‘society had failed them’ as the reason that they turned to drugs and crime, then there were the ethnic minorities who said ‘society failed them’ for the reason for their failures and now we have some religious leaders singing from the same song sheet! Society has not failed you! If anything, you have failed society.
I am only talking about a small minority of our population here as I’m sure many of you are aware that most people of all colours and religious backgrounds thrive in our society, this is what has made Britain great.
I am not a religious person, though I do believe in good and evil, and any religion, be it Catholicism, Islam or any of the many others that says a man must kill another because they do not share your beliefs, then it does not belong in any civilised society, religion should be about love for one another and not hate, if there is a ‘god’ then surely it is for him (or her) to punish or judge and not man, we do not have the right to judge a person because of who they are, or what they believe in so long as they are not hurting anyone else. We are after all equal!
And it is up to us ‘old’ people to teach our young from an early age, that at times life is tough but together we can build a better place for ALL men, women and children to live in peace regardless of our religious beliefs (or lack of them).
So enough of this ‘society had failed me’ crap the only one who has failed you is YOU! We are all in control of our own destiny, and if you feel let down, you need to pick yourself up, dust off your feelings, and try again, failure is not an option!
Peace to all!
You thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated