DESCRIPTION: "I'll tell a doleful tragedy; Guy Fawkes, the prince of sinisters, Who once blew up the House of Lords... That is, he would have blown them up... If only they had let him." Fawkes is betrayed, captured, and executed, and now they repeat it every year
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1826 (Universal Songster, George, and Robert Cruikshank, John Fairburn, Routledge and Jones, Publisher)
KEYWORDS: political execution nobility memorial death
1605 - The botched "Gunpowder Plot"
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
LPound-ABS, 37, pp. 84-86, "Guy Fawkes" (1 text)
cf. "Bow Wow Wow" (tune) and references there
cf. "The Fifth of November (Guy Fawkes Song)" (subject)
Lloyd George, The Prince of Sinisters (The New Guy Fawkes) (Letter to the Editor, London Times, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 1909, p.10)
NOTES [235 words]: Earlier versions of the Index described this as written by Thomas Hudson (per Moffat, English Songs of the Georgian Period). Conrad Bladey informs me that this was "a party piece at vauxhall gardens and thus associated with" Hudson, but is older. There are texts from the 1820s. Personally, I wonder if there isn't a still earlier version adapted to produce the George IV text.
The "Gunpowder Plot" was an attempt by a group of Catholics to regain control of united Britain. The plan was to blow up the British houses of parliament (along with King James I and VI) on November 5, 1605. To this end, several dozen barrels of gunpowder were stashed below the parliament building.
It was in this secret chamber that Guy Fawkes, who was largely responsible for the execution of the plot, was captured on November 4. He and many fellow conspirators were eventually rounded up and hung. Guy Fawkes Day has since been an annual occasion for fireworks and celebrations in England: "Please to remember The fifth of November: Gunpowder Treason and Plot!"
There is, however, some reason to believe that the government was in on the secret all along, and let the plot proceed as far as it did in an attempt to strengthen its shaky position.
This is one of several political pieces set to the tune "Bow Wow Wow" -- a song which hardly exists in its own right, but which makes it very easy to sustain a line of patter. - RBW
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