Posts Tagged ‘Great Britain’
On January 31, 1606, four men were dragged by horses (drawn) through the streets of London to the place of their execution. One by one, they were hanged by the neck until nearly dead and, while still alive, cut into four pieces (quartered). After having watched the three men before him suffer so horribly, Guy Fawkes was spared the agony by either falling or jumping from the scaffold and breaking his neck.
Fawkes, Robert Catsby, Thomas Percy, Thomas Wintour and John Wright, along with a number of others, had planned to blow up the House of Lords and King James I on the opening day of Parliament in November of 1605. They had hoped that the Gunpowder Plot, as it became known, would spur a revolt that would bring a Catholic monarch back to the throne and end a long period of persecution against Catholics.
The conspirators had managed to place 36 barrels of gunpowder in the basement of the House of Lords, but Fawkes was discovered guarding the powder and the assassination was foiled. Authorities had acted on an anonymous letter that tipped them off to the plan. Fawkes was tortured into giving up his associates, and all were tried and found guilty of treason. Somewhat ironically, the incident only spurred increased pressure on Catholics.
The foiling of the plot was celebrated with an official national holiday until 1859, and the tradition of Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night) on November 5 persists to this day. Traditionally, the revelry included the burning of a Guy Fawkes effigy made from old newspaper-stuffed clothes and a grotesque mask. Children would go through town asking for “a penny for the Guy” to pay for the effigy and for fireworks. The word “guy” eventually entered everyday language, coming to refer to any male person.
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Ireland had been under some form of English rule since the 12th Century. Fast-forward to 1800 where passage of the Act of Union made Ireland an official part of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This Act resulted in Ireland losing its parliament in Dublin and its people being ruled from Westminster in London. Irish nationalists naturally came to resent this arrangement. Many of the more moderate nationalists suggested that Ireland remain part of the United Kingdom but have a form of self-government. The British parliament finally passed a bill in 1914 that gave Ireland home rule, but, due to the outbreak of World War I, implementation of the bill was suspended.
By 1916, England was bogged down on several fronts in a war that was taking more and more of its soldiers and equipment and money. While Great Britain was distracted, members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (who thought home rule didn’t go far enough) saw their chance to gain complete freedom for Ireland and began planning what would be known as the Easter Rising. They even sought support from Germany, England’s enemy in the war. On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, rebel leaders and about 1,600 followers took control of the Dublin General Post Office and other locations. From the steps of the post office, one of the rebel leaders, Patrick Pearse, declared Ireland to be an independent republic and said that a provisional government had been appointed.
The public, however, did not rise up to help the rebels. The Easter Rising was intended to take place across all of Ireland, but Dublin seemed to be the focal point. The British government declared martial law in Ireland and put down the rebellion in less than a week. During the fighting, over 400 people were killed and 2,000 injured. Much of Dublin’s downtown district was destroyed. Many Irish citizens resented the rebels and blamed them for the destruction and deaths.
But in May, 15 leaders of the uprising were executed. Thousands of people were arrested and jailed without trial. These actions by the British government helped fuel support for the independence movement in Ireland. Two years later, the Sinn Fein party won a majority of Irish seats in the UK parliament. They then convened their own Irish Parliament and declared independence. This led the Irish Republican Army to start a guerrilla war against the British government. In 1921, a treaty was signed that called for an Irish Free State. The fully independent Republic of Ireland was proclaimed on Easter Monday, April 18, 1949.
Learn more about this event in Irish History by searching the many resources in eLibrary.
British Monarchy (Research Topic)
Easter Rising Plan (Map)
Irish America (Magazine)
Irish Times (Newspaper)
Northern Ireland (Research Topic)
Sinn Fein Campaign, 1918-1922 (MPI Video)
A Young Nationalist in the Easter Rising (Magazine Article)