Wednesday, August 05, 2009

20. Guy Fawkes

The unfortunate Fawkes was only one of a group with some grudge against James I, the grouchy Scot brought in to take over when Bess died. And wouldn't you know it, it's the Catholics' turn again, so now it's the turn of the Protestants to get repressed... or was it the Catholics who were angry, about not getting a fair crack of the whip when they finally had their own man in charge again? Probably both. you just can't please people.
Anyway - Fawkes and his pals decided to do away with the whole ruling force with the aid of a cellar full of gunpowder, thereby providing us with an excuse to set fireworks off every November ever since.
The religious and political motivations behind the whole deal are now so vague in the popular memory - well, mine at least - that it just proves that what people really want is an excuse for a party, which is why it's a waste of time telling us heretics that we shouldn't celebrate Christmas if we don't believe in Jesus... after all, if there's one thing people like better than a party it's presents.

19. Elizabeth I

After Henry 8 died, having founded his own church and kicked out the Pope, his successor Bloody Mary invited him right back in again, having fallen for the charms of Philip IV of Spain, who made it a condition of their marriage, which never happened. If she was anything like she was in the film "Lady Jane" it's hard to blame him.
Good Queen Bess came next and kicked the Pope out again. If you were at all religious in those days you wouldn't have known which way to turn from one monarch to the next... and of course everyone was, since no-one had yet thought of a credible origin for the world that didn't involve it being made by someone.

By all accounts Bess was a high-powered queen. The word "Elizabethan" still has about it a ring of glamour and adventure. A bit of an enigma as well... she's often referred to as 'The Virgin Queen' -though if you were a monarch and weren't getting your oats one would think that all it would take would be a discreet word to a desirable servant who wanted to keep his head attached to his shoulders even if he didn't fancy you. He'd have much the same motivation for not bragging about it afterwards.
On the other hand, any undesired consequences would be practically impossible to cover up and the thought of all the political problems it would cause would surely be enough to cool even the royal ardour.
Either way, she had enough of a reputation that one of the many explorers she no doubt charmed into impressing her by going off and conquering new lands - probably Drake or Raleigh - was inspired to name a big tract of land "Virginia" after that rather (one would think) personal detail. It's a bit like naming a planet "Fatty" after Patrick Moore.