Mostly I was looking at an excuse to share this marvelous cartoon from two years’ back. Some things never change, eh?
Before we believe V, let’s decide whether Mr. Fawkes (pronounced “forks”) was a hero or not.
On November 5, 1605, Guy (also, Guido) Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening. The aim was to kill the members of both Houses and the king, James I, who would have been in attendance.
Why? Fawkes and his pals were Catholic and wanted to undo the Protestant reformation in England and install a Catholic monarch.
It’s fun to play a little bit of historical make-believe with the Gunpowder Plot. Had Fawkes been successful, one can only imagine what would have happened to English history. A return to Catholic rule? A radical shift in Ireland’s course? Not just Catholic emancipation but Catholic supremacy? Unlikely. The backlash against Catholics would have been extreme (or one could say, extrem-er). A wave of patriotism would have strengthened the English throne, perhaps producing an absolute monarch, or at least one that could have avoided the Civil War.
As it is, Fawkes failed. He was tortured and executed and every year his effigy is burnt on top of bonfires across the Commonwealth.
Hero? No. Catholics certainly had many grievances in Jacobean England, but Britain’s Protestant character — all other things being equal — was preferable to a return to papacy. Is it outrageous to say that the modern world has largely benefited from Britain’s benign Anglicanism and Constitutional Monarchy, things under serious threat in Fawkes’ vision of England? I have a great deal of holy envy for the Catholic religion, but as a political power, it’s rubbish. I have to agree with John Derbyshire on this one:
[Catholicism was the] religion of Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, chaotic and communist-trending Italy, recently-keenly-pro-Nazi Austria (don’t let The Sound of Music fool you — the Anschluss was more a wedding than a rape), Latin America as then personified by the buffoonish Juan Perón and his sinister wife, and, yes, Éamon de Valera’s nasty, corrupt, willfully under-developed, people-exporting Ireland. That’s not even to mention France. As I looked out on it from the England of the 1950s and 1960s, Catholicism was the religion of poverty, fascism, obscurantism, and bad government; and I don’t think you can say that this was a wildly distorted picture.
And now for something really controversial. How much better developed would Latin America be had the British beat the Spanish to colonisation?
Hee hee. Burn, Guy, burn.