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Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night – Pocket History

Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night – Pocket History

I found an interesting video about Bonfire Night History that I thought I would share.

The Year 1605 to Now!

It’s November 5th and the night is full of fire and explosions, but don’t be alarmed. This is the annual British event called ‘Bonfire Night’. So what’s the story behind the fires and pyrotechnics? Well, we have to go back to the time of King James I in the 17th Century to find out. The main character to remember here is one Guy Fawkes – a member of a group of 13 English Catholics who took part in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was born in York, England, and as a soldier fought on the side of Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch Reformers. Because of his skills with explosives he caught the eye of a man called Thomas Wintour who, back in England introduced him to Robert Catesby, the leader of a group of influential Catholics. Now, Catesby had a plan to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne of England.

To accomplish this dastardly deed, the plotters bought the lease to an undercroft (a large cellar) beneath the House of Lords, and Fawkes was placed in charge of the 36 barrels of gunpowder they put there. The idea was that on the day the King opened Parliament, there would be a large explosion and a sudden vacancy for a new Catholic monarch. However, because of the receipt of an anonymous letter, perhaps sent by one of the plotters, the authorities searched Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and found Fawkes guarding the explosives. Over the next few days, he was questioned and tortured, and eventually he broke, naming the rest of the plotters.

Gruesome Executions

Some of these were killed, others caught and sentenced to death for treason. At this time Britain used a particularly gruesome method of execution where prisoners were hung, drawn and quartered followed by having their heads removed and spiked somewhere in London. Interestingly, Fawkes managed to escape this painful fate because he jumped from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck.

Bonfire Night

So Guy Fawkes became the symbol of the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been celebrated in England since 5 November 1606. The tradition of marking the day with the ringing of church bells and bonfires started soon after the Plot’s discovery, and fireworks were included in some of the earliest celebrations. In Great Britain, the 5th of November is called Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night and his effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, usually accompanied by a firework display. These lines from a nursery rhyme of the period have become famous:

Remember, remember!

The Fifth of November,

the Gunpowder treason and plot;

I know of no reason

Why the Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes and his companions

Did scheme contrive,

To blow the King and Parliament

All up Alive.

Threescore barrels, laid below,

To prove old England’s overthrow.

But, by God’s providence, him they catch,

With a dark lantern, lighting a match!

Not a nice end for Guy and his followers but nevertheless, many lives were saved on November 5th 1605, including those of King James I and all of Parliament and many people who would have been in the vicinity on that day.

As found on Youtube

For great children’s book including Bonfire Night facts