Tuesday 5 November 2019

Please to remember the 5th of November

Guy Fawkes Night is a big event in the UK, when people let off fireworks and burn a guy.

It is extremely anti-zeitgeist: sectarian, a fire and safety hazard and patriotic.

All Soul's Eve or Hallowe'en, shorn of its religious and cultural significance and reinvented as an imported American marketing idea, is much safer, but still not very safe as it involves the dear little kiddies knocking on neighbours' doors.

Years ago I accidentally met Father Francis Edwards, who wrote a book arguing convincingly that the Guy Fawkes plot was set up by Cecil, the Peter Mandelson of his age. Father Edwards' ideas are summarised here.

I quote him:

Cecil promised the conspirators they would be allowed to escape or pardoned and then broke his promise. How could he convince Catesby and co they would not be executed? There was the precedent of the “Main Plot” three years previously. The conspirators in that had reached the scaffold and were kneeling in the straw and about to put their heads on the block when a royal messenger with the king’s pardon dramatically revealed himself. Cecil could have assured the gunpowder conspirators that the same thing would happen to them.
....The other conspirators were lodged in the Tower in exceptionally comfortable conditions, which was odd, because they were supposed to be murderers and traitors of the worst kind. They had plentiful food and drink and
were allowed an unlimited supply of tobacco, which was then a luxury. At their trial in Westminster Hall they looked nonchalant... (read more here).
Guy Fawkes Day was a big thing in America too before the revolution, but there it was
known as Popes' Day. George Washington banned it so as not to offend Canadian Catholics whose aid he wanted and seemingly because he disapproved of anti-Catholic sectarianism.

This is an extract from Washington's General Orders for November 5,1775:

""As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of the ridiculous and chidish custom of burning the efficgy of the pope – He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, thefriendship and alliance of the people of Canada, wh om we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause, the defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Cirumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused..."

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