Thursday 5 November 2009

Black Powder Terrorist

Today is the 5th of November and if you are a Brit you already know the significance of that date. But for the benefit of my overseas readers here's why tonight we will be celebrating the prevention of a plot to blow up Parliament and the King (who would have been present at the time as part of the State opening of Parliament) over 400 years after the event.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

So why are we still celebrating the failure of this plot when it is now firmly in our past? Maybe its the symbolism of this attack on democracy itself that is so significant. But it might also be that until 1859 it was actually LAW (Royal Decree) that we celebrate the event. Ironically in 2002 Fawkes was ranked 30th on a list of the 100 Greatest Britons, voted on by the general public. Indeed Fawkes has been described as "The only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions". However it should be noted that he intended to do this with 1,800 pounds (or 36 barrels) of gunpowder.

The explosion Fawkes and the other conspirators planned would have destroyed everything within 40 metres and partly destroyed everything within 110 metres. Buildings would have been damaged anything up to 900 metres from the epicentre and the resulting fires would have effectively destroyed the centre of London and many of its inhabitants along with it.(Source: New Scientist)

In 2004 a BBC documentary created a mock up of the explosion which revealed its full and deadly potential. I guarantee you will be amazed at the power of Gunpowder.

There are plenty of What If? scenarios but check out the BBC History site and the Gunpowder Plot Society website for further reading.

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