AT the weekend, the UK once again remembered Guy Fawkes by creating him in effigy and burning him atop bonfires which also badly scorch the neighbours’ fence and shed.
But most Britons are ignorant that the notorious Gunpowder Plot was barely a plot worthy of the name, and would be more accurately remembered as banter that got out of hand with the real culprit the unwise decision to start drinking on empty stomachs.
And while historians have previously focused on a hatred for King James I, they are now considering the role of Fawkes’ desire to look like a proper legend in front of the lads.
A clearer picture of the night’s proceedings is given in a letter of appeal written by the caught and imprisoned Guido: “I beseech thee, have mercy on my soul.”
“Who among us has not awoken after festivities with an aching head, lain in the undercroft of the House of Lords, with a phallus etched on our brow and 36 barrels of gunpowder at our feet?
“I only intended a flagon or two of ale. My senses were lost not due to overconsumption but because I had an upset stomach at several points in the night in addition to the bouts of attempted regicide, which never normally happens for I hold my brews well.
“Forsooth, events took a sinister turn when Thomas Tresham brought along his weird brother. It hastens one’s drinking when one is having to battle through a discussion of agricultural practices.
“Before long Catesby was trying to milk a cow, Keyes requesting if the landlord knew where he could score fly agaric and Tresham proclaiming he did not recognise the divine right of the King of England. I remember little else.
“The next I knew I awoke, a burning brand in hand, in the aforementioned undercroft trying to remember why it would be so hilarious to blow up Parliament. I admit I fail to see the humour now.”
King James did not pardon to any of the plotters, primarily because of treason but also due to his not being invited on the night out. All were hung, drawn and quartered and the mirth of their banterous acts lost to this very day.
Next week: to 51AD, when the first ever gammon complained that political correctness was ruining Christmas.