This week has see the anniversary of 3 deaths 2 of which were executions which have played a big part in British history both her in the UK and one assassination that impacted our old empire.
Today is the anniversary of the execution of Guy Fawkes the gunpowder plotter. In our modern lives we live with the heightened sense of a terror threat, but in the 17th century the gun powder plot, if it had been successful would have been one of the biggest terror attacks in history. It would have taken out not just King James I of England but his heir and most of the aristocrats leaving England and the UK venerable and unruled both by monarchy and government. The course of our history would have been very different; would we have had a revolution, become a quasi communist country, or would the monarchs of Europe have fought over us?
The next death and second execution that was remembered this week was that of King Charles I. After the roundheads won the English civil war (the details of which are many posts worth of explaining) Charles Stuart King of England was put on trial, the outcome was of course predictable. Cromwell and his cronies set about doing the unmentionable executing an anointed king of England, and making a mockery of the idea of the Divine right of Kings. On the 30th January 1649 Charles stepped out on to platform erected in Whitehall London from a window of Banqueting Hall. The ceiling painted by Rubens one of the last things the fallen monarch saw on is way to his death. He wore 2 shirts to stop himself from shivering; he did not want to appear afraid in front of the crowd gathered to watch him die.
As a consequence the Cromwell ruled England and Wales as a republic (however he lived in royal palaces and he hoped his would inherit power after him, a king in all but name) thankfully less than a decade and the death of Cromwell and the incompetency of his son meant that the monarchy was restored. Again if Cromwell had lived longer our history and heritage would have been very different.
The last anniversary that fell this week was that of the
assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. As a young man he was a product of the empire. He came to the UK to train as a lawyer. Before he returned to India he went to another part of the old empire, South Africa and it was her that he found his political and views and his philosophy of non violent protest. He was in South Africa for 21 years before he returned to India and become a leading figure in the independence movement. He preferred way to fight was through non violence and protest he called Satyagraha. I spent periods of time in Jail and but kept leading many around the country to not co-operate with the British. He adopted the dress of the poor. (the life and times and many acts of Gandhi is again worth several posts hence the basic and rushed paragraph here)
His assassination happened on 30th January 1948 in New Delhi. It was 5.17 pm and he was going to a prayer meeting when assassin Nathuram Godse fired a gun at point blank range. Gandhi had played a leading role in the independence movement and history. Would the separation of India and Pakistan been less violent if he had lived. would he have become prime minister or president? Who knows but his legacy of non violence speaks to many not just Indians and Hindus
One week 3 deaths that did and could shaped history in a very different way. Never under estimate the power of the individual.