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Episode
45

Guy Fawkes // The Man Who Tried To Blow Up Parliament

Apr 17, 2020
History
-
17
minutes
London
Kings & Queens
Terrorism
UK politics
Life in the UK

In the early hours of November 5th, 1605, a man was found in a cellar under The Houses of Parliament. He was moments away from blowing everything up, killing the King, and changing the course of British history forever.

Today we tell the story of Guy Fawkes, and how we went from religious terrorist to anti-establishment icon.

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Transcript

[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:23] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to tell the story of Guy Fawkes, the man who almost managed to blow up the British parliament. 

[00:00:36] Before we do that though, let me just quickly remind you that you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this episode over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:00:49] The transcript is super helpful for following along with every word and the key vocabulary helps you build up your vocabulary at the same time as listening to the podcast. 

[00:01:02] So that is definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:01:08] Okay then, let's talk about gunpowder, treason and plot.

[00:01:15] On November the Fifth every year in the UK, there is a celebration called bonfire night, Guy Fawkes night. 

[00:01:25] Up and down the country this evening is celebrated with people making a huge fire, a bonfire

[00:01:35] On top of that fire is placed an effigy, a fake copy of a man called the guy. 

[00:01:46] And then there's normally a big fireworks display.

[00:01:51] This is a tradition that stretches back over 400 years now, to November 1605, to an event that nearly changed the fate of British history forever. 

[00:02:08] Before we go into exactly what happened, let me just paint a picture of the situation in Britain at that time. 

[00:02:18] On the throne was a man called King James the First.

[00:02:24] He had inherited the throne from Queen Elizabeth the First who was a Protestant, and she had fiercely persecuted the British Catholic population for almost the entirety of her 45 year reign

[00:02:45] When James the First took over the throne the Catholic population thought he might be a little kinder to them, and that they would finally be allowed to do things like practice their religion in the open.

[00:03:03] However, this was not to be the case, and Catholics continued to be persecuted by the new King James. 

[00:03:13] So a group of them decided to take matters into their own hands

[00:03:20] A group of activists, I guess we could call them, activists, led by a man named Robert Catesby got together and formed a plot

[00:03:34] They plan to sneak under the Houses of Parliament, to sneak their way into the Houses of Parliament, where the British government meets. 

[00:03:45] And on the day that King James would officially open parliament, they would blow it all up.

[00:03:55] The plot was meticulously planned, it was very carefully planned. 

[00:04:00] The men managed to smuggle over two tonnes of explosives into a cellar below parliament. 

[00:04:11] This was 36 barrels full of explosives. 

[00:04:17] They were ready to go. 

[00:04:19] All they needed was for the day to arrive, for the King to come, then they would light a match and boom, the entire building would be blown to smithereens, completely blown up. 

[00:04:34] The King and everyone inside the building would be killed instantly.

[00:04:41] Then they could install a new Catholic monarch on the throne, and of course, British history would be changed forever. 

[00:04:53] However, it wasn't to be. 

[00:04:57] Shortly before the King was scheduled to open the Houses of Parliament an anonymous letter was sent to a man named William Parker, the fourth Baron Monteagle, and it warned him to avoid the building on that day.

[00:05:16] Now, William Parker was a Catholic and he reported this letter to the authorities saying that he feared there was a plot of some sort, that there was going to be an attack on the building. 

[00:05:32] So in the early hours of November the Fifth the building was searched and a man was found in the cellar

[00:05:43] He was ready with enough explosives to blow the entire building up and destroy everything within a 40 metre radius

[00:05:56] And that man was Guy Fawkes.

[00:06:01] Although some people mistakenly think that he was Spanish or Italian because he signed his name "Guido Fawkes", he was actually an Englishman. 

[00:06:12] He was born in York, in the North of England, in 1570. 

[00:06:19] He was born a Protestant, but he converted to Catholicism when he was a teenager. 

[00:06:29] And he spent quite a lot of time fighting in Europe with the Spanish Catholic army and gained a reputation for being smart and good with explosives.

[00:06:43] And it was during his time fighting in Europe that he met some fellow Englishman who longed to rid Britain of its Protestant King,  and they invited Guy, or Guido, they invited him into their plot.

[00:07:03] However, in the early hours of November the Fifth 1605, Guy was captured just in the nick of time. 

[00:07:15] He was unable to light the fuse to blow up the explosives, and he was taken to the Tower of London where he was interrogated

[00:07:28] Finally, after repeated days of torture, he revealed the names of his conspirators, most of whom were captured by the King's troops.   

[00:07:41] The punishment for attempted murder of the King was, as you'd expect, pretty serious. 

[00:07:51] This was what was called high treason, and the punishment for that was being hung, drawn, and quartered. 

[00:08:01] Now this is obviously pretty nasty.

[00:08:05] It involved being hung by your neck. 

[00:08:08] Then they would cut open your stomach and eventually cut you into four pieces. 

[00:08:16] Really something you want to avoid if you can possibly avoid it. 

[00:08:21] Luckily, I guess sort of luckily for Guy Fawkes, he managed to throw himself off the platform just before he was going to be hung, so he broke his neck and died before this horribly painful death that awaited him.

[00:08:41] His body was still cut into four pieces and was sent to different corners of the country as a warning of what happens to anyone who commits treason against the King.

[00:08:58] After the rest of the gang was found and they were executed, King James declared that November the Fifth was to be a celebration of his survival. 

[00:09:11] And it was actually illegal not to celebrate November the Fifth until 1959. 

[00:09:20] For almost 400 years you legally had to celebrate it.

[00:09:27] So that is the story of Guy Fawkes, but there are a few interesting things that are worth adding to this little story. 

[00:09:38] Firstly, there is quite an interesting conspiracy theory about what actually happened. 

[00:09:45] Some people believe that it was actually a deep state set-up

[00:09:54] That someone within the circle of King James had enlisted the Catholic gang to blow up the King, but they knew that they would be stopped before they did it. 

[00:10:08] So it was only an excuse to blame the Catholics so that the King could have an excuse to be even tougher on the local Catholic population, which he then was.

[00:10:25] Although this theory is quite enticing, there are quite a few problems with it, and most serious historians have discredited it. 

[00:10:35] Secondly, this story has left a lasting linguistic mark on the English language.  

[00:10:44] You probably know the word guy, like he's a nice guy, or have you seen that guy over there?

[00:10:52] What you probably don't know though is that this word comes from Guy Fawkes. 

[00:10:59] It originally meant someone who was poorly dressed, but now it's just a generic term for a person. 

[00:11:08] So next time you say the word guy or someone calls you a guy, says Hey guys, or whatever, you'll know that this comes from probably Britain's most famous terrorist. 

[00:11:25] And for those of you who have spent much time in Britain, you probably know that there are lots of slightly strange traditions. 

[00:11:34] Keeping a tradition, no matter how weird, is something that seems to be quintessentially British.

[00:11:43] And so it should come as no surprise to you that there are some weird traditions that still apply to November the Fifth. 

[00:11:53] Firstly, the Houses of Parliament are still searched by guards before the state opening, before they are opened by the King or Queen. 

[00:12:04] The logic behind this is that they are looking for a modern day Guy Fawkes hiding in the cellars with his barrels full of explosives. 

[00:12:16] Although of course now it's just tradition.

[00:12:20] Secondly, there is only one place in the UK where November the Fifth is not celebrated, and I'd be very impressed if you can guess where it is. 

[00:12:34] It is at a school called St Peter's in York, which is Guy Fawkes' is old school. 

[00:12:42] The school says that it refuses to burn one of its own students, which I think is actually quite loyal of them.

[00:12:52] While all of these things are interesting and fun, one thing that I think is even more interesting to think about is how the perception of Guy Fawkes has changed over time. 

[00:13:07] The real Guy Fawkes, as we know, tried to commit what would have been the biggest terrorist attack in British history. 

[00:13:17] And no matter what your religious or political beliefs are, blowing up parliament and the monarch and thousands of people would most definitely classify as a pretty nasty terrorist attack.

[00:13:33] Yet he has morphed, Guy Fawkes has changed into this sort of aspirational, anti-establishment figure and is associated with general rebellion and anarchy

[00:13:51] So the hackers group Anonymous wear these Guy Fawkes masks, as did the Occupy Wall Street movement. 

[00:14:01] But of course they would never dream of wearing masks of other kinds of terrorists, Osama Bin Laden, for example.

[00:14:09] Part of this is of course, due to the fact that the attack failed, that Guy Fawkes never actually managed to blow up parliament. 

[00:14:20] And it's partly due to the fact that it happened so long ago and we can disassociate ourselves from it. 

[00:14:29] And partly it's that these events have been romanticised by things like the book and film V for Vendetta, which is loosely based on the Guy Fawkes story and is where the design for the masks come from.

[00:14:48] In any case, it's pretty interesting to think how people's perception of someone changes, how someone who shortly after the event was considered a terrible terrorist and enemy of the people, now 400 years later is a sort of anti-establishment icon, a hero struggling against the system, even if that really wasn't how people thought of him at the time.

[00:15:21] But whatever you may think of Guy Fawkes, and how people now think of Guy Fawkes, the events of November the Fifth 1605 have had a profound impact on British culture and November the Fifth is a pretty fun celebration in the UK. 

[00:15:41] So if you are in the UK on November the Fifth make sure you go to bonfire night, at least now you'll know the story behind why there is a man being burned on a big fire and lots of people setting off fireworks. 

[00:15:59] Okay then that is it for today's episode. 

[00:16:04] As always, if you have thoughts, feedback, questions, I'd love to hear from you. 

[00:16:10] You can email hi - hi@leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:15] And if you want to get all of the latest episodes zooming into your podcast app of choice every Tuesday and Friday, then make sure you hit that subscribe or follow button. 

[00:16:27] And final, final point, as I said at the start of the podcast, if you are looking for the transcript, key vocabulary and even some of the bonus episodes, then the place to head to, if you're not there already, is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:45] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:16:51] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]



Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:23] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to tell the story of Guy Fawkes, the man who almost managed to blow up the British parliament. 

[00:00:36] Before we do that though, let me just quickly remind you that you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this episode over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:00:49] The transcript is super helpful for following along with every word and the key vocabulary helps you build up your vocabulary at the same time as listening to the podcast. 

[00:01:02] So that is definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:01:08] Okay then, let's talk about gunpowder, treason and plot.

[00:01:15] On November the Fifth every year in the UK, there is a celebration called bonfire night, Guy Fawkes night. 

[00:01:25] Up and down the country this evening is celebrated with people making a huge fire, a bonfire

[00:01:35] On top of that fire is placed an effigy, a fake copy of a man called the guy. 

[00:01:46] And then there's normally a big fireworks display.

[00:01:51] This is a tradition that stretches back over 400 years now, to November 1605, to an event that nearly changed the fate of British history forever. 

[00:02:08] Before we go into exactly what happened, let me just paint a picture of the situation in Britain at that time. 

[00:02:18] On the throne was a man called King James the First.

[00:02:24] He had inherited the throne from Queen Elizabeth the First who was a Protestant, and she had fiercely persecuted the British Catholic population for almost the entirety of her 45 year reign

[00:02:45] When James the First took over the throne the Catholic population thought he might be a little kinder to them, and that they would finally be allowed to do things like practice their religion in the open.

[00:03:03] However, this was not to be the case, and Catholics continued to be persecuted by the new King James. 

[00:03:13] So a group of them decided to take matters into their own hands

[00:03:20] A group of activists, I guess we could call them, activists, led by a man named Robert Catesby got together and formed a plot

[00:03:34] They plan to sneak under the Houses of Parliament, to sneak their way into the Houses of Parliament, where the British government meets. 

[00:03:45] And on the day that King James would officially open parliament, they would blow it all up.

[00:03:55] The plot was meticulously planned, it was very carefully planned. 

[00:04:00] The men managed to smuggle over two tonnes of explosives into a cellar below parliament. 

[00:04:11] This was 36 barrels full of explosives. 

[00:04:17] They were ready to go. 

[00:04:19] All they needed was for the day to arrive, for the King to come, then they would light a match and boom, the entire building would be blown to smithereens, completely blown up. 

[00:04:34] The King and everyone inside the building would be killed instantly.

[00:04:41] Then they could install a new Catholic monarch on the throne, and of course, British history would be changed forever. 

[00:04:53] However, it wasn't to be. 

[00:04:57] Shortly before the King was scheduled to open the Houses of Parliament an anonymous letter was sent to a man named William Parker, the fourth Baron Monteagle, and it warned him to avoid the building on that day.

[00:05:16] Now, William Parker was a Catholic and he reported this letter to the authorities saying that he feared there was a plot of some sort, that there was going to be an attack on the building. 

[00:05:32] So in the early hours of November the Fifth the building was searched and a man was found in the cellar

[00:05:43] He was ready with enough explosives to blow the entire building up and destroy everything within a 40 metre radius

[00:05:56] And that man was Guy Fawkes.

[00:06:01] Although some people mistakenly think that he was Spanish or Italian because he signed his name "Guido Fawkes", he was actually an Englishman. 

[00:06:12] He was born in York, in the North of England, in 1570. 

[00:06:19] He was born a Protestant, but he converted to Catholicism when he was a teenager. 

[00:06:29] And he spent quite a lot of time fighting in Europe with the Spanish Catholic army and gained a reputation for being smart and good with explosives.

[00:06:43] And it was during his time fighting in Europe that he met some fellow Englishman who longed to rid Britain of its Protestant King,  and they invited Guy, or Guido, they invited him into their plot.

[00:07:03] However, in the early hours of November the Fifth 1605, Guy was captured just in the nick of time. 

[00:07:15] He was unable to light the fuse to blow up the explosives, and he was taken to the Tower of London where he was interrogated

[00:07:28] Finally, after repeated days of torture, he revealed the names of his conspirators, most of whom were captured by the King's troops.   

[00:07:41] The punishment for attempted murder of the King was, as you'd expect, pretty serious. 

[00:07:51] This was what was called high treason, and the punishment for that was being hung, drawn, and quartered. 

[00:08:01] Now this is obviously pretty nasty.

[00:08:05] It involved being hung by your neck. 

[00:08:08] Then they would cut open your stomach and eventually cut you into four pieces. 

[00:08:16] Really something you want to avoid if you can possibly avoid it. 

[00:08:21] Luckily, I guess sort of luckily for Guy Fawkes, he managed to throw himself off the platform just before he was going to be hung, so he broke his neck and died before this horribly painful death that awaited him.

[00:08:41] His body was still cut into four pieces and was sent to different corners of the country as a warning of what happens to anyone who commits treason against the King.

[00:08:58] After the rest of the gang was found and they were executed, King James declared that November the Fifth was to be a celebration of his survival. 

[00:09:11] And it was actually illegal not to celebrate November the Fifth until 1959. 

[00:09:20] For almost 400 years you legally had to celebrate it.

[00:09:27] So that is the story of Guy Fawkes, but there are a few interesting things that are worth adding to this little story. 

[00:09:38] Firstly, there is quite an interesting conspiracy theory about what actually happened. 

[00:09:45] Some people believe that it was actually a deep state set-up

[00:09:54] That someone within the circle of King James had enlisted the Catholic gang to blow up the King, but they knew that they would be stopped before they did it. 

[00:10:08] So it was only an excuse to blame the Catholics so that the King could have an excuse to be even tougher on the local Catholic population, which he then was.

[00:10:25] Although this theory is quite enticing, there are quite a few problems with it, and most serious historians have discredited it. 

[00:10:35] Secondly, this story has left a lasting linguistic mark on the English language.  

[00:10:44] You probably know the word guy, like he's a nice guy, or have you seen that guy over there?

[00:10:52] What you probably don't know though is that this word comes from Guy Fawkes. 

[00:10:59] It originally meant someone who was poorly dressed, but now it's just a generic term for a person. 

[00:11:08] So next time you say the word guy or someone calls you a guy, says Hey guys, or whatever, you'll know that this comes from probably Britain's most famous terrorist. 

[00:11:25] And for those of you who have spent much time in Britain, you probably know that there are lots of slightly strange traditions. 

[00:11:34] Keeping a tradition, no matter how weird, is something that seems to be quintessentially British.

[00:11:43] And so it should come as no surprise to you that there are some weird traditions that still apply to November the Fifth. 

[00:11:53] Firstly, the Houses of Parliament are still searched by guards before the state opening, before they are opened by the King or Queen. 

[00:12:04] The logic behind this is that they are looking for a modern day Guy Fawkes hiding in the cellars with his barrels full of explosives. 

[00:12:16] Although of course now it's just tradition.

[00:12:20] Secondly, there is only one place in the UK where November the Fifth is not celebrated, and I'd be very impressed if you can guess where it is. 

[00:12:34] It is at a school called St Peter's in York, which is Guy Fawkes' is old school. 

[00:12:42] The school says that it refuses to burn one of its own students, which I think is actually quite loyal of them.

[00:12:52] While all of these things are interesting and fun, one thing that I think is even more interesting to think about is how the perception of Guy Fawkes has changed over time. 

[00:13:07] The real Guy Fawkes, as we know, tried to commit what would have been the biggest terrorist attack in British history. 

[00:13:17] And no matter what your religious or political beliefs are, blowing up parliament and the monarch and thousands of people would most definitely classify as a pretty nasty terrorist attack.

[00:13:33] Yet he has morphed, Guy Fawkes has changed into this sort of aspirational, anti-establishment figure and is associated with general rebellion and anarchy

[00:13:51] So the hackers group Anonymous wear these Guy Fawkes masks, as did the Occupy Wall Street movement. 

[00:14:01] But of course they would never dream of wearing masks of other kinds of terrorists, Osama Bin Laden, for example.

[00:14:09] Part of this is of course, due to the fact that the attack failed, that Guy Fawkes never actually managed to blow up parliament. 

[00:14:20] And it's partly due to the fact that it happened so long ago and we can disassociate ourselves from it. 

[00:14:29] And partly it's that these events have been romanticised by things like the book and film V for Vendetta, which is loosely based on the Guy Fawkes story and is where the design for the masks come from.

[00:14:48] In any case, it's pretty interesting to think how people's perception of someone changes, how someone who shortly after the event was considered a terrible terrorist and enemy of the people, now 400 years later is a sort of anti-establishment icon, a hero struggling against the system, even if that really wasn't how people thought of him at the time.

[00:15:21] But whatever you may think of Guy Fawkes, and how people now think of Guy Fawkes, the events of November the Fifth 1605 have had a profound impact on British culture and November the Fifth is a pretty fun celebration in the UK. 

[00:15:41] So if you are in the UK on November the Fifth make sure you go to bonfire night, at least now you'll know the story behind why there is a man being burned on a big fire and lots of people setting off fireworks. 

[00:15:59] Okay then that is it for today's episode. 

[00:16:04] As always, if you have thoughts, feedback, questions, I'd love to hear from you. 

[00:16:10] You can email hi - hi@leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:15] And if you want to get all of the latest episodes zooming into your podcast app of choice every Tuesday and Friday, then make sure you hit that subscribe or follow button. 

[00:16:27] And final, final point, as I said at the start of the podcast, if you are looking for the transcript, key vocabulary and even some of the bonus episodes, then the place to head to, if you're not there already, is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:45] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:16:51] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]



[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:23] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to tell the story of Guy Fawkes, the man who almost managed to blow up the British parliament. 

[00:00:36] Before we do that though, let me just quickly remind you that you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this episode over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:00:49] The transcript is super helpful for following along with every word and the key vocabulary helps you build up your vocabulary at the same time as listening to the podcast. 

[00:01:02] So that is definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:01:08] Okay then, let's talk about gunpowder, treason and plot.

[00:01:15] On November the Fifth every year in the UK, there is a celebration called bonfire night, Guy Fawkes night. 

[00:01:25] Up and down the country this evening is celebrated with people making a huge fire, a bonfire

[00:01:35] On top of that fire is placed an effigy, a fake copy of a man called the guy. 

[00:01:46] And then there's normally a big fireworks display.

[00:01:51] This is a tradition that stretches back over 400 years now, to November 1605, to an event that nearly changed the fate of British history forever. 

[00:02:08] Before we go into exactly what happened, let me just paint a picture of the situation in Britain at that time. 

[00:02:18] On the throne was a man called King James the First.

[00:02:24] He had inherited the throne from Queen Elizabeth the First who was a Protestant, and she had fiercely persecuted the British Catholic population for almost the entirety of her 45 year reign

[00:02:45] When James the First took over the throne the Catholic population thought he might be a little kinder to them, and that they would finally be allowed to do things like practice their religion in the open.

[00:03:03] However, this was not to be the case, and Catholics continued to be persecuted by the new King James. 

[00:03:13] So a group of them decided to take matters into their own hands

[00:03:20] A group of activists, I guess we could call them, activists, led by a man named Robert Catesby got together and formed a plot

[00:03:34] They plan to sneak under the Houses of Parliament, to sneak their way into the Houses of Parliament, where the British government meets. 

[00:03:45] And on the day that King James would officially open parliament, they would blow it all up.

[00:03:55] The plot was meticulously planned, it was very carefully planned. 

[00:04:00] The men managed to smuggle over two tonnes of explosives into a cellar below parliament. 

[00:04:11] This was 36 barrels full of explosives. 

[00:04:17] They were ready to go. 

[00:04:19] All they needed was for the day to arrive, for the King to come, then they would light a match and boom, the entire building would be blown to smithereens, completely blown up. 

[00:04:34] The King and everyone inside the building would be killed instantly.

[00:04:41] Then they could install a new Catholic monarch on the throne, and of course, British history would be changed forever. 

[00:04:53] However, it wasn't to be. 

[00:04:57] Shortly before the King was scheduled to open the Houses of Parliament an anonymous letter was sent to a man named William Parker, the fourth Baron Monteagle, and it warned him to avoid the building on that day.

[00:05:16] Now, William Parker was a Catholic and he reported this letter to the authorities saying that he feared there was a plot of some sort, that there was going to be an attack on the building. 

[00:05:32] So in the early hours of November the Fifth the building was searched and a man was found in the cellar

[00:05:43] He was ready with enough explosives to blow the entire building up and destroy everything within a 40 metre radius

[00:05:56] And that man was Guy Fawkes.

[00:06:01] Although some people mistakenly think that he was Spanish or Italian because he signed his name "Guido Fawkes", he was actually an Englishman. 

[00:06:12] He was born in York, in the North of England, in 1570. 

[00:06:19] He was born a Protestant, but he converted to Catholicism when he was a teenager. 

[00:06:29] And he spent quite a lot of time fighting in Europe with the Spanish Catholic army and gained a reputation for being smart and good with explosives.

[00:06:43] And it was during his time fighting in Europe that he met some fellow Englishman who longed to rid Britain of its Protestant King,  and they invited Guy, or Guido, they invited him into their plot.

[00:07:03] However, in the early hours of November the Fifth 1605, Guy was captured just in the nick of time. 

[00:07:15] He was unable to light the fuse to blow up the explosives, and he was taken to the Tower of London where he was interrogated

[00:07:28] Finally, after repeated days of torture, he revealed the names of his conspirators, most of whom were captured by the King's troops.   

[00:07:41] The punishment for attempted murder of the King was, as you'd expect, pretty serious. 

[00:07:51] This was what was called high treason, and the punishment for that was being hung, drawn, and quartered. 

[00:08:01] Now this is obviously pretty nasty.

[00:08:05] It involved being hung by your neck. 

[00:08:08] Then they would cut open your stomach and eventually cut you into four pieces. 

[00:08:16] Really something you want to avoid if you can possibly avoid it. 

[00:08:21] Luckily, I guess sort of luckily for Guy Fawkes, he managed to throw himself off the platform just before he was going to be hung, so he broke his neck and died before this horribly painful death that awaited him.

[00:08:41] His body was still cut into four pieces and was sent to different corners of the country as a warning of what happens to anyone who commits treason against the King.

[00:08:58] After the rest of the gang was found and they were executed, King James declared that November the Fifth was to be a celebration of his survival. 

[00:09:11] And it was actually illegal not to celebrate November the Fifth until 1959. 

[00:09:20] For almost 400 years you legally had to celebrate it.

[00:09:27] So that is the story of Guy Fawkes, but there are a few interesting things that are worth adding to this little story. 

[00:09:38] Firstly, there is quite an interesting conspiracy theory about what actually happened. 

[00:09:45] Some people believe that it was actually a deep state set-up

[00:09:54] That someone within the circle of King James had enlisted the Catholic gang to blow up the King, but they knew that they would be stopped before they did it. 

[00:10:08] So it was only an excuse to blame the Catholics so that the King could have an excuse to be even tougher on the local Catholic population, which he then was.

[00:10:25] Although this theory is quite enticing, there are quite a few problems with it, and most serious historians have discredited it. 

[00:10:35] Secondly, this story has left a lasting linguistic mark on the English language.  

[00:10:44] You probably know the word guy, like he's a nice guy, or have you seen that guy over there?

[00:10:52] What you probably don't know though is that this word comes from Guy Fawkes. 

[00:10:59] It originally meant someone who was poorly dressed, but now it's just a generic term for a person. 

[00:11:08] So next time you say the word guy or someone calls you a guy, says Hey guys, or whatever, you'll know that this comes from probably Britain's most famous terrorist. 

[00:11:25] And for those of you who have spent much time in Britain, you probably know that there are lots of slightly strange traditions. 

[00:11:34] Keeping a tradition, no matter how weird, is something that seems to be quintessentially British.

[00:11:43] And so it should come as no surprise to you that there are some weird traditions that still apply to November the Fifth. 

[00:11:53] Firstly, the Houses of Parliament are still searched by guards before the state opening, before they are opened by the King or Queen. 

[00:12:04] The logic behind this is that they are looking for a modern day Guy Fawkes hiding in the cellars with his barrels full of explosives. 

[00:12:16] Although of course now it's just tradition.

[00:12:20] Secondly, there is only one place in the UK where November the Fifth is not celebrated, and I'd be very impressed if you can guess where it is. 

[00:12:34] It is at a school called St Peter's in York, which is Guy Fawkes' is old school. 

[00:12:42] The school says that it refuses to burn one of its own students, which I think is actually quite loyal of them.

[00:12:52] While all of these things are interesting and fun, one thing that I think is even more interesting to think about is how the perception of Guy Fawkes has changed over time. 

[00:13:07] The real Guy Fawkes, as we know, tried to commit what would have been the biggest terrorist attack in British history. 

[00:13:17] And no matter what your religious or political beliefs are, blowing up parliament and the monarch and thousands of people would most definitely classify as a pretty nasty terrorist attack.

[00:13:33] Yet he has morphed, Guy Fawkes has changed into this sort of aspirational, anti-establishment figure and is associated with general rebellion and anarchy

[00:13:51] So the hackers group Anonymous wear these Guy Fawkes masks, as did the Occupy Wall Street movement. 

[00:14:01] But of course they would never dream of wearing masks of other kinds of terrorists, Osama Bin Laden, for example.

[00:14:09] Part of this is of course, due to the fact that the attack failed, that Guy Fawkes never actually managed to blow up parliament. 

[00:14:20] And it's partly due to the fact that it happened so long ago and we can disassociate ourselves from it. 

[00:14:29] And partly it's that these events have been romanticised by things like the book and film V for Vendetta, which is loosely based on the Guy Fawkes story and is where the design for the masks come from.

[00:14:48] In any case, it's pretty interesting to think how people's perception of someone changes, how someone who shortly after the event was considered a terrible terrorist and enemy of the people, now 400 years later is a sort of anti-establishment icon, a hero struggling against the system, even if that really wasn't how people thought of him at the time.

[00:15:21] But whatever you may think of Guy Fawkes, and how people now think of Guy Fawkes, the events of November the Fifth 1605 have had a profound impact on British culture and November the Fifth is a pretty fun celebration in the UK. 

[00:15:41] So if you are in the UK on November the Fifth make sure you go to bonfire night, at least now you'll know the story behind why there is a man being burned on a big fire and lots of people setting off fireworks. 

[00:15:59] Okay then that is it for today's episode. 

[00:16:04] As always, if you have thoughts, feedback, questions, I'd love to hear from you. 

[00:16:10] You can email hi - hi@leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:15] And if you want to get all of the latest episodes zooming into your podcast app of choice every Tuesday and Friday, then make sure you hit that subscribe or follow button. 

[00:16:27] And final, final point, as I said at the start of the podcast, if you are looking for the transcript, key vocabulary and even some of the bonus episodes, then the place to head to, if you're not there already, is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:16:45] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:16:51] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

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