Forgotten fifth's amen

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The fireworks tonight will unite hundreds of thousands of children in delight, tinged with just a little fear. Yet Guy Fawkes Day was once a deeply divisive festival, which mingled religion and nationalism in a way that now seems very foreign.

The Church of England would hold services on 5 November. The congregation would pray: "We yield thee our unfeigned thanks and praise for the wonderful and mighty deliverance of our gracious sovereign King James the First, the Queen, the Prince, and all the Royal Branches, with the Nobility, Clergy, and Commons of England, then assembled in Parliament, by Popish treachery"

We have come a long way. Last month the Catholic Bishops of England instructed the faithful how they should approach the vote, but not once did anyone call them agents of a foreign conspiracy. That accusation is now reserved for believers in the European Union.

Fatal attraction, page 15