Thursday, November 19, 2015

Guy Fawkes and a Passing of a Legend

Remember, remember the fifth of November.

This is the beginning of the Gunpowder Treason Plot poem.  It tells the story of how Guy Fawkes was foiled in his attempt at destroying the English Parliament.

Americans, who do not know much about history, most of us were introduced to Guy Fawkes by a graphic novel and movie, V for Vendetta.  If you are not familiar with the graphic novel or movie, it is about a future where a dictator has taken over power in England after a war and a biological attack. V was experimented on and as a result has enhanced abilities. It is revealed in the story that the biological attack, was actually done by a political group, and they have used that attack to win the upcoming election and then to curb people’s rights in order to control them. The anti-hero of the story seeks revenge wearing a Guy Fawkes’ mask.

Now back to the real Guy Fawkes.

Since the 5th of November has recently passed, I wanted to inform you about who the original Guy Fawkes was, and also compare how his alternate future counterpart was portrayed in the movie.

We must go back to a time in England when there was protestant king, and the people who wanted to replace him with a Catholic one.

Guy Fawkes was actually born a Protestant. His father had passed away and his mother had married a recusant Catholic. Recusancy is in reference to England and Wales, and refers to those who refused to attend the Anglican services.  Guy Fawkes converted to Catholicism, and went off to fight in what is referred to as the Eighty Years’ war.  While in Spain he sought out others in supporting a Catholic rebellion in England. In Spain he referred to himself as Guido.

After the war, the Gunpowder Plot was formed. A group of individuals decided to assassinate King James 1 and restore a Catholic to the throne of England. They would do this by exploding the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament.

An anonymous letter was sent informing the authorities of the plot. On November 5th, in the cellar of Parliament, they found Guy Fawkes guarding the gunpowder. When he was integrated (meaning tortured) he gave his name as John Johnson. However, after much more interrogation, he finally revealed his correct name; he also revealed the names of the other conspirators.

Guy Fawkes and the other conspirators were found guilty, and the sentence was for them to be hanged, drawn and quartered. This meant they would be dragged behind a horse to a point where they would be hung, but not to the point of death. After retrieving them from this pseudo gallows, they would then have their genitals cut off, and disemboweled while they were still alive. Finally, they would be beheaded and then their body cut into 4 pieces. The reason for 4 pieces was that each piece was then sent to the 4 corners of the country as a warning to others.

The other conspirators went through their agonizing torture and death. Guy Fawkes was then sent to be hung, and unlike who was portrayed in the movie V which showed him being hung by his neck, he never made it. He threw himself off the scaffold and broke his neck killing himself.  This point is in some contention, some say he indeed threw himself off the scaffold (which is not a true gallows as we know it, but a ladder set up at an angle where the rope was tied around your neck), while others say he climbed too high and when he fell, the rope snapped his neck, either way he was not alive for the rest of the procedures to follow.

November the 5th was then known as Guy Fawkes Night, or now bonfire night, a day of thanksgiving for the fact that the Gunpowder Plot was thwarted. Many people in England celebrate by lighting fires, sometimes accompanied by fireworks.

Another legacy of him is his name itself. Guy was a usual name in England but was more popular in York, the place of his birth. He may have been named after Sir Guy Fairfax of Steeton, a local nobleman. In England the name guy was attributed to any strange, oddly dressed man, while in America it refers to any man.

Now with the story of the movie, “V for Vendetta”. This is truly one of my favorite movies, it was released in 2006 (vital it was made after 911) and I believed it was more than mere entertainment.  It is set in the future where a totalitarian regime is in power in England; they came to power after a terrorist attack. Offering citizens safety and protection, they were soon elected into power.

Once in control, this government then enforced martial law. Everyone in the country is monitored.  People are arrested for any speaking anything against the government and are labeled as a terrorist and sent to camps.

This movie is a warning, and why it was so vital to be released after 911. We gave up many of our rights away for the sake of security. We continue to do to this day, to the point we no longer care. We even give up our privacy to internet companies and other businesses without even a 2nd thought.

If we allow ourselves to give away little bits of our freedom over time, for the purpose of being safe, or for convenience, we will find that our entire freedom has eroded away. We should be vigil about our security and safety, but we must be vigil to ensure that we have our freedom and privacy as well.

What are we, if we are safe, but incapable to enjoy freedom? We should rather be free than safe. I am reminded by Ben Franklin who said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

I wrote this article before the Parish and Beirut attacks, I waited until I posted it until more details came out about these attacks. This warning I mentioned about giving up your freedoms, or pursing scapegoats, for the sake of safety is more important than ever.

I also wanted to mention this week about the loss of a friend and wrestling legend, Nick Bockwinkel who passed away on November 14, at the age of 80.

Mr. Bockwinkel was a very skilled and talented wrestler in the ring. More than this he knew the skill of psychology of wrestling. Outside the ring, during interviews he was known for giving articulate, and calm interviews.  Compare that to what you normally think of a wrestling interview today.

I can go on and on about his wrestling accomplishments, but what I want to write about is the man. I met him at the Professional WrestlingHall of Fame; he would spend hours talking to fans about wrestling. He was an intelligence, and friendly man to anyone he met, and I must say it was a privilege to have known him.

He was a rare commodity in wrestling, he was a champion in the ring, and a gentleman outside. He will be missed by his family, friends and fans throughout the world.


  1. Thoughtful post. Inspired partly by a trip to England, my recent reading has included historical fiction from around the same time period as Guy Fawkes. I learned more about that period through some of the places I visited and could see parallels between then and now. I like how you've linked the Guy Fawkes story, the movie, and present day events. I knew some of the Guy Fawkes story, but was unaware of the brutal details of his co-conspirators' deaths.

  2. Sorry to hear about your loss, William.

    Thanks for the easy explanation of Guy Fawkes. I've read about him (I'm a fan of history) before, but you outlined the details in a much easier to follow fashion. I'm not a huge scifi fan, so have avoided watching V...that said, it's not really scifi anymore, is it? Too much truth in there in what happens when we give up freedoms.

  3. Ah, relionion. The source of how many wars? Maybe this is also a good reminder for those folks who think only Muslims can be brutal.

  4. Glad to see this post bring together so much background info. As with many others, my intro to Guy Fawkes night came about via the movie V for Vendetta, which I now count among my favorites.

  5. Great lesson William - interesting how the more things change, the more they stay the same. We have been giving up so many of our rights and freedoms that it's rather scary. People don't seem to realize that the more the government does 'for them' the more freedom we give up. We do need to feel safe but at what price? Excellent post.

  6. Have loved the Guy Fawkes concept ever since I was a child reading William books. During the 15 years I lived in London I loved it when it was Guy Fawkes day. Catch is you have a lot of undesirables causing all kinds of problem in memory of him. Sad but unfortunately that's the case.

  7. I have another quote for everyone to chew on:

    "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."
    - Learned Hand

    You are sadly right about Americans trading in their liberty for security. I sincerely wish I could bring America's founding fathers back from their graves and then take them to an airport so they could see the TSA in action: their jaws would drop to the floor and they would say, "We fought a revolution for you to do THIS?"

  8. You've covered a lot here, William. It is so scary in the world right now with all the terrorism and increased security. I'm glad I live in the boonies and am not really affected by it unless I travel. And thx for the mention of Nick B. I remember him from the days when my Dad and brother used to watch wresting.

  9. Wow what a story William. And I have to admit that even though I've seen the term drawn and quartered countless times, I never really knew what that entailed - yikes!!! I must admit - like Doreen - I appreciate living in the boonies (or in my case an Island in the middle of the Pacific).