On this day in 1605 the very Protestant King James I of England learns of the infamous plot to explode the Parliament building. The scheme was foiled hours before he was scheduled to sit with the rest of the British government in a general parliamentary session, autograph copies of his new version of The Bible and pose for pictures.
Near midnight on the fateful evening Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace, found Guy Fawkes lurking in a cellar under the Parliament building and ordered the premises searched. Some 36 barrels of gunpowder were found, enough to reduce Parliament to rubble, and Fawkes was taken into custody. During a grisly torture session on the rack, Fawkes revealed that he was a participant in an English Catholic conspiracy to annihilate England’s Protestant government and replace it with Catholic leadership led by James’ nine-year-old daughter Princess Elizabeth.
Plot leader Robert Catesby and 10 confederates fled from London when they learned of the plot’s discovery, trying to enlist support along the way. Several made a stand against the pursuing Sheriff of Worcester and his men at Holbeche House; in the ensuing battle, Catesby was one of those shot and killed.
At their trial on the following January, eight of the survivors, including Fawkes, were convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Moments before the start of Fawkes gruesome execution, on January 31,1606, he jumped from a ladder while climbing the gallows, breaking his neck and dying instantly.
For centuries since, on this very day English school children recite as one:
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!”
And so to quote the late Hon. Richard D. Kuhn, school is out.