It was during 1605 that Robert Catesby and four others devised a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in Britain. The reason for their attack on the government at the time was due to the persecution of Catholics by King James 1. Their intention was to replace the dead king with his daughter whom they believed would return Britain to Catholicism.
The plot was foiled by one of the group who was the brother-in-law of Lord Monteagle. He sent an anonymous letter to his brother-in-law warning him not to attend the opening of Parliament. This letter was passed on to Robert Cecil who ordered a search of the Houses of Parliament and this is when Guy Fawkes was arrested. He was found under the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder, fuses and matches.
He was tortured for two days in the Tower of London before he eventually succumbed and confessed all. Even though Fawkes had been arrested, the remaining members of the group of plotters attempted to continue with their plan. They made a stand in Staffordshire where many of them died during a shoot-out with the king’s forces. The survivors were returned to London to face trial.
The surviving members of the plot were interrogated and during January 1606, eight of them, including Guy Fawkes were hanged. On the night of November 5th, 1605, which is when the Gunpowder plot was to take place, bonfires were made to celebrate the King’s safety. This was known as Bonfire Night when effigies of Fawkes would be burned on a fire and fireworks set off.
Over the years the image of Guy Fawkes has changed from terrorist to freedom fighter. The movie ‘V for Vendetta’ is loosely based on the Gunpowder Plot, although it is set in futuristic England. The main character ‘V’ wears a mask during his attacks on the ‘powers that be’ and it is his fight for freedom from the government of the day that has inspired millions to use this mask as a symbol of protest.
Wearing a mask offers the wearer a sense of freedom as they are able to express themselves in ways that they would not normally do if they could be recognised. They have freedom of speech and actions without the judgment of those close to them.
Guy Fawkes’ mask has become a symbol of protest and resistance. The truth about misconduct and greed on Wall Street which was responsible for the downward spiral of the economy has led many people to wear these masks in protest. Groups such as Anonymous and Julian Assange from Wikileaks have worn this mask in protest. Many protesters have taken to wearing the mask at events in Denver, Oakland, Montreal and London.
The final scene in the movie is what has prompted many to take up these actions. Millions of masked citizens march fearlessly through military barricades to witness ‘V’ blowing up parliament. Guy Fawkes’ mask is symbolic of a message to the citizens of the world to stop living in fear and reject the ideas and restrictions that they are being force fed.