My glorious and revolutionary Citizens! It is rare indeed when TFD speaks from on-high, but today is such a day – one guaranteed to cause stunned silence amongst you all! As such, attend and pay heed whilst my melifluous baritone booms commandingly from the Empyrean heavens with my latest missive!
It has been a very long, very difficult, very divisive 24 hours here in the United States due to our hotly-contested Presidential elections – even TFD resorted to a sleeping pill to get through the evening and while the country strains at the breaking point, let us turn instead a curious eye to another early November date with deep political significance – at least in the UK!
I speak of nothing less than November 5 – Guy Fawkes Day!
If you ever saw the movie ‘V For Vendetta’, then you are already familiar with the infamous Guy Fawkes mask, worn by anarchists and the politically-active alike – if not, here is a clip for your enjoyment!
To go into more historical depth: Guy Fawkes Day, also called Bonfire Night, is celebrated on November 5 in Great Britain and several other countries, commemorating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The Gunpowder Plot conspirators, led by Robert Catesby, were zealous Roman Catholics enraged at King James I for refusing to grant greater religious tolerance to Catholics.
They planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) during the state opening of Parliament, intending to kill the king and members of Parliament in order to clear the way to reestablishing Catholic rule in England.
The plan failed when the conspirators were betrayed. One of them, Guy Fawkes, was taken into custody the evening before the attack, in the cellar where the explosives to be used were stashed. On 31 January 1606, Fawkes and three others – Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes – were dragged (i.e., “drawn”) from the Tower on wattled hurdles to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, opposite the building they had attempted to destroy.
His fellow plotters were then hanged and quartered. Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his “crosses and idle ceremonies” (Catholic practices). Weakened by torture and aided by the hangman, Fawkes began to climb the ladder to the noose, but either through jumping to his death or climbing too high so the rope was incorrectly set, he managed to avoid the agony of the latter part of his execution by breaking his neck.
His lifeless body was nevertheless quartered and, as was the custom, his body parts were then distributed to “the four corners of the kingdom”, to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.
On 5 November 1605, Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, provided that “this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder”. An Act of Parliament designated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for “the joyful day of deliverance”, and remained in force until 1859.
In Britain, 5 November has variously been called Guy Fawkes Night, Guy Fawkes Day, Plot Night, and Bonfire Night (which can be traced directly back to the original celebration of 5 November 1605). Bonfires were accompanied by fireworks from the 1650s onwards, and it became the custom after 1673 to burn an effigy (usually of the pope) when heir presumptive James, Duke of York, converted to Catholicism.
Effigies of other notable figures have found their way onto the bonfires, such as Paul Kruger and Margaret Thatcher, although most modern effigies are of Fawkes. The “guy” is normally created by children from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask. During the 19th century, “guy” came to mean an oddly dressed person, while in many places it has lost any pejorative connotation and instead refers to any male person and the plural form can refer to people of any gender (as in “you guys”).
James Sharpe, professor of history at the University of York, has described how Guy Fawkes came to be toasted as “the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions”. William Harrison Ainsworth’s 1841 historical romance Guy Fawkes; or, The Gunpowder Treason portrays Fawkes in a generally sympathetic light, and his novel transformed Fawkes in the public perception into an “acceptable fictional character”.
Fawkes subsequently appeared as “essentially an action hero” in children’s books and penny dreadfuls such as The Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes; or, The Conspirators of Old London, published around 1905. According to historian Lewis Call, Fawkes is now “a major icon in modern political culture” whose face has become “a potentially powerful instrument for the articulation of postmodern anarchism” in the late 20th century.
Today Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom, and in a number of countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, with parades, fireworks, bonfires, and food. Straw effigies of Fawkes are tossed on the bonfire, as are—in more recent years in some places—those of contemporary political figures.
Traditionally, children carried these effigies, called “Guys,” through the streets in the days leading up to Guy Fawkes Day and asked passersby for “a penny for the guy,” often reciting rhymes associated with the occasion, the best known of which dates from the 18th century:
Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
We see no reason
Why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot….
Fireworks, a major component of most Guy Fawkes Day celebrations, represent the explosives that were never used by the plotters. Guards perform an annual search of the Parliament building to check for potential arsonists, although it is more ceremonial than serious. Lewes, in southeastern England, is the site of a celebration of Guy Fawkes Day that has a distinctly local flavor, involving six bonfire societies whose memberships are grounded in family history stretching back for generations.
Now – with all that historical data shared with you, I hereby exercise my sacred and Divine right as the Leader of TFD Nation – who ALONE speaks with authority here – to make the following proclamation!
The next several recipes here on TFD will be of British origin, and will further have amusing, nonsensical or otherwise odd names!
Given the insanity causing a slow-motion, potentially lethal crash of our political system, this bit of levity will be most welcome by myself and all of TFD Nation I assure you! I respectfully ask that since TFD is a safe haven for all of its Citizens to remember that no political comments will be tolerated on this or any other post. We are all one cohesive whole, united by a singular vision of true cuisine and true history – let’s keep it that way, shall we? 🙂
I HAVE SPOKEN!
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