Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Heroic Traitor?

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, this country's rough equivalent to our Fourth of July, though of course, this being England, it's necessary that the very nature of today's celebrations be wracked with a certain perversity and come couched in a cloud of uncertainty. In fact, rather than equating it to our Independence Day, a better analogy would be a cross between Halloween and if we were to celebrate, say, "Lee Harvey Oswald Day".

You see, the holiday commemorates the night in 1605 when the country's most notorious traitor, Guy Fawkes, and twelve other men snuck 36 kegs of gunpowder into the House of Parliament in order to blow it up, thereby attempting to kill King James and the Prince of Wales. The plan was thwarted, and Guy and his co-conspirators were duly hung. On the night of the foiled plot, November 5th, 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King and the event has been commemorated every year since with fireworks and the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.

Theoretically, these festivities are to celebrate Fawkes' execution, but many of the English themselves seem ambivalent about whether they are indeed celebrating his downfall or in fact honoring his attempt to do away with the government. On the occasions where the holiday has been explained to me, the latter is far more often the reason cited, usually along with a devilish gleam of pride.

In any case, even today's monarchy seems uncertain as to the exact sentiments of their English subjects, because ever since 1605, the reigning monarch only enters Parliament once a year, for "the State Opening of Parliament". Better safe than sorry, apparently.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"devilish gleam of pride" ...nah...not pride just the British sense of humour.

4:54 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home