Guy Fawkes – The Powder Treason: Reading Review

Remember, remember the 5th of November . . . but just who was this Guy Fawkes fellow who is burnt as an effigy all over the world? 


Guy Fawkes History

New Years Fireworks Celebrations 2013, across the river from the Houses of Parliament.

Oh the irony.


In England this year, the first ten days of November are action packed. Recovering from Halloween on the 31st, Diwali, the festival of lights is being celebrated on the 3rd of November, Guy Fawkes on the 5th, and Remembrance Sunday on the 10th. It’s an action packed calendar of celebration, recognition and best of all, fireworks!


Guy Fawkes is as English as May Day and eating Turkey whilst watching the Queen’s Speech at Christmas. We all know the vague basics of the story – right?  



In 1604 Fawkes became involved with a small group of English Catholics, led by Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate the Protestant King James I and replace him with his daughter, third in the line of succession, Princess Elizabeth.


A group of five central conspirators including Guy Fawkes decided to blow up parliament an killing the King, by leasing a small room under the House of Lords to which an underground tunnel was dug. A servant of the King became suspicious of activity and searched the chamber, only to find Guy Fawkes (known as John Jonhson) holding a fuse and matches.


Under evidence taken by torture Guy Fawkes was convicted of his role and subsequently executed. On 5 November 1605 Londoners were there after encouraged to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, “always provided that ‘this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder“.Cheers Wikipedia!


This fascinating novel takes copious research undertaken by the author to look deeply into the plot and the reasons behind the conspirators decision to hatch it in the first place. Each chapter is told from the point of view of the characters lending a real air of involvement and empathy for the world and situation that London was in 1604.

“This is the story of the Gunpowder Plot, as told by the people who were there.”


The Powder Treason, by Michael Dax
is a fictionalised version of the story, but I suspect that somewhat like the two contrasting novels of Lady Emma Hamilton, this is a much better read than drier non-fiction texts. It’s a swift and tantalising read, vivid and very entertaining.



I suspect that 98% of people celebrating Guy Fawkes are just doing it for the sake of being able to blow up stuff themselves, but it is a fantastic excuse. I’d really recommend the above though – just for a second thought about why you’re buying jumbo boxes of explosive materials.

On a very last note, Guy Fawkes is sometimes toasted as “the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions”. Just sayin.

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