After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had had a rough time under her reign had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. Alas, he was not, and this angered a number of young men who decided that violent action was the answer.
One young man in particular, Robert Catesby suggested to some close friends that the thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics.
To carry out their plan, the conspirators got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder - and stored it in a cellar, just under the House of Lords.
But as the group worked on the plot, it became clear that some innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th.
The warning letter reached the King, and the King's forces made plans to stop the conspirators. Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th, was caught, tortured and executed. [...]
As a tool for the king's men, the letter was ideal. It made it easy to explain how the King found out about the Plot and stopped it just in time before his untimely death. At the same time, the letter was vague enough to give the officials all the latitude they wanted in falsifying confessions and to pursue their own anti-Catholic ends. In fact, we could go further and suggest that the entire plot was a set-up, a 17th-century "false flag", if you will.
So while the British today misguidedly celebrate the execution of a man whose main aim was to liberate them from injustice, the mask that has come to represent that man via the movie V for Vendetta is today a symbol of that same desire to liberate the ordinary citizen from the grinding, relentless death machine that is civilization in the modern age.