Sunday, 6 November 2011

Guy Fawkes

I know the internet is currently swimming with posts about the historical(and potentially largely fictional) heroic image of a freedom fighter who, four hundred years ago tried to strike a blow for freedom by blowing up an evil king. Its a nice story, I appreciate the importance of tales of heroes, they inspire us and add value to our national identity.

What I dont understand is this: When did Guy Fawkes become a national hero?. He was a frontman for an organisation who wanted to replace the protestant king James with his daughter, the Catholic princess Elizabeth. To me that smacks of religious poltics not freedom fighting. King James may have been a tyrant, history is a bit fuzzy  when it comes to labeling our former monarchs. However he comissioned an official translation of the bible into english so it was more accessable for the general public. I am not a religious man(as such) but that doesnt sound like the work of a monotheistic tyrant. I am given to understand Guy Fawkes was brutally tortured for some weeks before breaking and given the names of his co-conspirators, I am willing to give testiment to a strong man, he was a soldier, and clearly very strong in his beliefs. King James however enjoyed a long(as far as rulers at the time went) reign in which england prospered. He started the tradition of bonfires and effigies of Guy Fawkes to celebrate the failed attempt on his life. At some point these celebrations have become linked with a pseudo-fawksian freedom idea and I have not a clue why. Also we set off fireworks to imitate the explosion that didnt happen.

Throughout British(and probably world) history the victors are painted as the heroes and the losers are painted as evil, So how has the reverse happened with the Fawksian legend?

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