Last night was Bonfire night. As usual, we contemporary people tend to celebrate holidays as a result of our habits, self-attributed festivities we do not even realise what they mean. Yes, most of us know the meaning behind every celebration we participate in, but do we really think about the actual significance of our rejoicing?
Guy Fawkes Night is one of those holidays only the United Kingdom celebrates. Because it is strictly connected to its history and tradition. But why do contemporaries celebrate a failed attempt at blowing up the Parliament which took place in 1605? So many years have passed and to be fair, Guy Fawkes and his mask are today a symbol of revolution and equality. Does then Bonfire night still make sense?
Why Guy Fawkes and not Robert Catesby, John Wright, Thomas Wintour or Thomas Percy? Because, apparently, it was Guy who was going to light the fuse the barrels of gunpowder which were to blow up the House of Lords in the afternoon of 5th November 1605. Despite having been established as a Thanksgiving holiday, it has nothing to do with the American association we might think of as we hear the word “Thanksgiving” and quite frankly, every celebration still emphasises on the original real life event which caused it.
However, had Guy Fawkes and his companions been successful, King James I would have died on that day, and next in line would have been the Prince of Wales, Henry Frederick Stuart, accessing the British throne as King Henry IX. This could have changed the Monarchy and the line of succession forever. Maybe, Prince Charles, Duke of York, would have never been King James I.
That’s what it is. The importance of Guy Fawkes night is closely connected to the importance of the Monarchy and its legitimacy to reign over the British people. That’s why it never goes out of fashion. However, in recent years, and thanks to the movie “V For Vendetta“, Guy Fawkes has turned into an icon for the revolutionaries and for anti-government rallies and protests. He has come to symbolise the power of the people against the unjust politics that caused the current economic impasse. So one could say Guy Fawkes a symbol for both good and bad intentions depending on how you look at it, who you are, and what part of the world you come from. Under a historical perspective, a comparison comes to mind: isn’t it at least a bit curious to think the French celebrate an event which overthrew the King’s powers whereas the British celebrate the failed attempt to overthrow their own King?