British Monarchist League
 
By:
Matthew James Follows
Member, The British Monarchist League
In the year 1605 a plot was hatched to take place on the 5th of November with the intent of blowing up the House of Lords, the murder of its members, of King James I of England and VI of Scotland, and of most of the Royal Family. The scheme was designed by thirteen principle plotters who sought the establishment of Catholicism as the central religion of the realm. The band of extremists had links to Catholic Spain and had longed wished for a Spanish invasion of England. They were led not, as it is commonly thought, by Guido ‘Guy’ Fawkes - but by a religious fundamentalist Robert Catesby.

The plan was that the attack, which would take place during His Majesty’s State Opening of Parliament, would act as the first stage of a large scale takeover. It was to involve a popular revolt emanating from the Midlands, with the ultimate goal of kidnapping the nine year old daughter of the King, Princess Elizabeth, and establishing her as a Catholic Head of State, eventually seeking support from the European powers to maintain a new regime.

The role of the infamous Guy Fawkes himself was to take charge of the gunpowder. Thirty five barrels of gunpowder were stored in an undercroft beneath the Palace of Westminster by Fawkes and his associate.  Fawkes was to be the one to commit the act itself – to light the explosives beneath the House of Lords, and flee across the Thames.

The circumstances of the discovery of the plot revolve around a letter allegedly written by one of the conspirators to his brother-in-law who was a member of the Lords and thus a potential victim. He warned his relative not to attend Parliament on the 5th because; “they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament”.

The cryptic details of the letter were eventually shown to King James who ordered a search of Parliament ‘both above and below’. The first of two searches took place on the 4th November. Yet they merely discovered a large amount of firewood in the undercroft beneath the Lords and a man presumed to be a servant. Thankfully the King, intent on discovering the threat, ordered a further search. Late that night the investigators returned to the undercroft and found the ‘servant’ Fawkes dressed in his now infamous cloak and hat - carrying a lantern and matches. The hidden barrels of gunpowder were unearthed from beneath their camouflage, and the plot was foiled.

To this day it is tradition during every State Opening of Parliament to search the Palace of Westminster ‘both above and below’ before the arrival of the monarch. This honour is carried out by the Yeoman of the Guard – which are the ceremonial bodyguard of Her Majesty the Queen.
From 1605 to present day we have celebrated the failure of the Gun Powder plot. An official Act of Parliament was passed (and remained in force until 1859) to appoint 5th November as a day of thanksgiving for ‘the joyful day of deliverance’.  Celebrations are known in Britain variously as ‘Bonfire Night’, ‘Fireworks Night’ and ‘Guy Fawkes Night’. Today we celebrate with enjoyable social commemorations, bon fires and firework displays. It remains tradition to burn an effigy of a ‘Guy’ and in doing so we commemorate the prevention of an act of terrorism and of regicide.
Remember, remember the fifth of November, 
Gunpowder treason and plot. 
We see no reason 
Why gunpowder treason 
Should ever be forgot! 

Guy Fawkes, guy, t'was his intent 
To blow up king and parliament. 
Three score barrels were laid below 
To prove old England's overthrow. 

By god's mercy he was catch'd 
With a darkened lantern and burning match. 
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring. 
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.

And what shall we do with him? 
Burn him!