Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Today, our friends in the UK celebrate Guy Fawkes day, a holiday that most Americans find confusing because, near as they can figure, English history starts in 1585 and largely ends in 1814.

Luckily, scarletdemon wrote a lovely treatise on the history of the occasion a couple of years ago, and it’s still there for you to enjoy now.

In 1605, English Catholics were angry that they did not have equal rights, so their leader (Pope Trevor the Third) signed what Catholics call a “Fatwa” and sent it to Guy Fawkes to be carried out. Fawkes assembled a band of like-minded terrorists and they decided to assassinate King James I, his family, and most of the Protestant aristocracy, in one fell swoop, by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening. They saw themselves as soldiers of fortune, helping people in need. But who were these desperate men? Guy Fawkes had chosen some of the best minds in pyrotechnic history: Himself, George Handel, Arthos, Porthos, Shakespeare, Dogtanian and fuse specialist Artemis Richlieu. Their famous cry of “Penny For The Guy And One For All!” has become a regular catch-phrase for children begging outside corner-shops (with their Guy Fawkes effigies), even today.

Go read the whole post. It’s delightful stuff.


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  1. Guy Fawkes day is one of the holidays I still miss. Even though it is a little barbaric, or perhaps it’s because.

  2. As I’ve said elsewhere, today is the day we celebrate that someone tried to blow up the government, mourn that he failed, and vow to do better next time.

  3. Huh? English history starts in 1585? That can’t be right. Didn’t Good King Richard and Robin Hood fight in the Hundred Years’ War earlier than that? And there was something about Canterbury, I’m sure of it. (I think some Archbishop wrote a book in Chaucerian verse, right?) And I even have a DATE for the Norman Conquest in 1066…good thing England had King Arthur or the British Isles might actually have been defeated!

  4. You actually think most Americans know the significance of 1585?

    • I (UK) don’t know the significance of 1585. Oh, was that when Columbo discovered the West Indies (some 600 or so years after the Vikings had colonies on the mainland)?

      • 1585 was the year of the establishment of the Roanoke colony, which later disappeared mysteriously. Roanoke was the first English colony in North America.

        As to Dave’s original query, I doubt most Americans would know the significance of 1585 if you asked them, but my point was Americans tend to have a very local view of the world, so English history for them starts when the English got here, and ends pretty much when we fight our last war with them. They don’t show up again at all until they pitch in with WWI, which, since they had been doing anything for the past 100 years, they were only too happy to do, just to do something historically important again.

        • Well to be fair I doubt most English have very much grasp on the history of other countries either. OK, we know that they were around because we fought most of them at one time or another (sometimes several times, they wouldn’t stay beaten), but I couldn’t even give you dates of the French revolution except that in 1812 they fought the Russians (because there’s music about it — y’all were having some other dustup at the time and there’s a song about that as well). (And for me history ended in 1603 when they put that Scotsman on the throne after Queen Elizabeth died, it was all downhill from there…)

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