Guy Fawkes Day History
Queen Elizabeth of England (the last of the Tudor monarchs), who ruled for forty years, passed away just a couple years ago -- not long after the Essex rebellion against her and several of her advisors failed (led by the Earl of Essex, who was executed for his part). Some people consider it significant that when she died, the plague in London reached a peak and killed thousands. The country is still getting used to its new king -- James Stuart, King of England and Scotland -- and his family. His young wife Anne of Denmark, Queen of England and Scotland, and four young children -- Henry Prince of Wales, Princess Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Princess Mary -- make life in the palace very different than it was under the Virgin Queen. James ascended the throne without violence, despite literally dozens of contenders for the throne (including the Catholic Archduchess Isabella of the Spanish Netherlands). With his ascension to the throne of England, James (who had already been King of Scotland for many years) brought the two nations together as the United Kingdom.
Though James is a deeply respected monarch, some people are concerned with his household expenses (especially those of his queen, Anne) and the number of foreigners (that is, Scotsmen) who have the king's ear. One of the few sources of continuity between the reign of Elizabeth and the new reign is Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury and Secretary of State, who worked diligently for Queen Elizabeth, and who has worked hard to assist the new king.
The Anglican church is firmly established, and most Catholic worship has been pushed underground (having been illegal for more than half a century, except for a few years when Bloody Mary ascended the throne -- immediately before Elizabeth -- and tried to force the nation back to Catholicism). The heavy fines for Catholics (against those who practice Catholic rites, and those who fail to attend Anglican Masses) have continued, despite the belief held by some that James would repeal these acts passed in the reign of Elizabeth. As a sign of his support for the Church of England, James has begun to gather together scholars for an ambitious project -- the translation of books of the Bible from Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, into English.
James, of course, does not rule England alone; this isn't France or Spain! James shares power with Parliament. Parliament (a legislative body convened when called by the king; the late Queen Elizabeth called Parliament frequently, but under some monarchs as many as ten or more years can easily pass without a Parliament) is made up of two houses. The "upper" house (the House of Lords) is made up of lords of the realm, and the "lower" house (the House of Commons) is elected by town councilors, yeomen, and other commoners with a significant amount of property (the actual requirements to vote vary widely between the counties, and to some extent the monarchs try to manipulate these rules in order to make a friendly Parliament more likely). The Upper House of Parliament generally has authority over Judicial matters in the realm which affect the aristocratic classes, and to comment on new laws passed by the lower House which change the English Constitution (an unwritten constitution, which is understood to protect the rights of Englishmen, and describe the roles of the various parts of the government). The Lower House of Parliament reserves the right to vote all taxes, and to vote all new laws. If the king wants money raised, or laws passed, he is obliged to call a Parliament and to convince them to vote his agenda -- not always easy because, once called, the Parliament might pass new laws or make appropriations of which the king doesn't approve. James has just called a Parliament to convene (it has been elected, and the members are ready to meet -- and the opening of Parliament and the Parliamentary calendar has already changed at least once because of logistical issues), presumably because he needs more money for his personal household (inflation dramatically reduced the value of the king's personal income, and King James and his large family seem to enjoy a lavish lifestyle unknown during Queen Elizabeth's forty years).
Englishmen also insist upon certain traditional rights, thus preventing James from being a total government unto himself in the fashion of the Spanish kings. No person may be executed, exiled, or otherwise severely punished, without a trial and being found guilty by a jury of his or her peers (in England, this means that noblemen sit on a jury for a nobleman accused, yeomen sit on a jury for a yeoman accused, gentlemen sit on a jury for a gentleman accused, and none may judge the king). The English also have a tradition called "habeas corpus" which means that a person cannot be arrested without a list of the particular laws he is accused of violating being announced for him to defend himself against. The "common law" is a powerful force in England -- the judges (who, it is true, are chosen by the king -- but the judges do serve for life) can invalidate a royal action if they find it to be against the common law (that is, the traditional rights maintained by Englishmen).
William Shakespeare has been writing and performing plays for many years. His most recent play is Measure for Measure. His plays are not quite as popular as Ben Johnson's, and the late Marlowe's Doctor Faustus still sets the standard by which English theatre is judged.
Henry IV is King of France; he was Protestant by birth and training, but agreed to convert to Catholicism in order to be allowed to ascend to the throne of France (as he put it, "Paris is worth a Mass"). Though France is mostly Roman Catholic, Henry has extended official protection of the State to a Protestant minority. According to the Edict of Nantes, the Huguenots (French Protestant Calvinists) are allowed their churches, and allowed to practice their faith in particular lands held as Huguenot protectorates (such as La Rochelle). Some believe that the example set by Henry IV in France could be followed by James -- to be a nation with two recognized faiths, and official toleration of the Catholic minority.
King Philip III of Spain is a relatively new king. Spain is hated by most of the English for their aggressive tendencies towards England. People can still remember the battle against the Spanish Armada -- the huge Spanish fleet sent to invade less than twenty years ago, which was miraculously defeated by the much smaller English fleet. However, some English Catholics seek succor from Spain, and probably feel they would gain a lot by having King James replaced with Arabella Stuart (a Spanish Catholic princess and James's cousin, who would be in line for James's throne if James and all of his children were to die).
A timeline of the past 20 years is available.
This game is a Subterranean Homesick Games production.