Remember, Remember the 31st of January?!

Black-and-white drawing
Image of Guy Fawkes. Taken from Wikipedia. Published in William Harrison Ainsworth’s 1840 novel ‘Guy Fawkes’.

Remember, Remember the 31st January, Brexit, Europe and Guy Fawkes?!

Confused? Sound familiar? A modern take on the old Guy Fawkes poem perhaps? Well you are correct, that is just what it is! So why am I talking about Guy Fawkes today? It isn’t the 5th of November after all. For a lot of you, your news feeds, instagrams and televisions will all be talking about Brexit. Whether you like it or not (not) in my case, it is happening. So I thought, to distract people from the inevitable, I would discuss something from the past! This is a blog about history after all!

So let us leap from one parlimentary drama into another!

Cast your mind back into the mists of time to the well known date of the 5th of November 1605. This date is of course the fateful date that Guy Fawkes and his not so merry men were found with barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament, attempting to assassinate the Protestant King James I and parliment with it. Makes Brexit look a bit lame in comparison really doesn’t it!

The basis of their plot was to remove James I and replace him with his daughter, the Princess Elizabeth. The conspirators began storing gunpowder in the undercroft beneath the House of Lords from as early as July. However, due to the threat of plague, parliament was delayed until November. They would have perhaps been successful if not for an anonymous tip off on the evening of the 26th of October to Lord Monteagle. The conspirators, thinking the tip off a hoax, continued as normal, yet on the 5th of November Guy Fawkes was caught leaving the cellar containing the incriminating gunpowder and arrested– oops!

For most of my life I just automatically assumed that Guy Fawkes was executed there and then, or at least by the end of the year as by the 9th of November he had admitted everything to the authorities. However, the trial of Guy Fawkes and the plotters didn’t begin until the 27th of January, and their execution wasn’t scheduled until the 31st of January. Guy Fawkes was sentenced to death as a traitor to be hung, drawn and quartered. However, luckily? if you can call this lucky, Guy Fawkes’ neck broke during the hanging and as such he did not have to be alive whilst he was drawn and quartered- which was still carried out after his death- ew. Following this his body was sent to the four corners of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland as a warning to would be traitors.

So! When you’re feeling sad or down about Brexit, remember that it could be worse; you could be Guy Fawkes. 

P.S. For any Northern people out there Guy Fawkes was born in the beautiful city of York, hence the picture of a pub there!


Allen, Kenneth (1973), The Story of Gunpowder, Wayland

Haynes, Alan (2005) [1994], The Gunpowder Plot: Faith in Rebellion, Hayes and Sutton

Sharpe, J. A. (2005), Remember, Remember: A Cultural History of Guy Fawkes Day 

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