Finally one of my most favourite times of the year has arrived! Bonfire Night. Time to wrap up warm, head out to the local park and watch the firework displays up and down the country! For my overseas friends; who’s for a quick history lesson?
“Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!”
I love Bonfire Night. For me, it has always been one of the first signs of winter; and there’s probably many other people like me who follow the same tradition of freezing your arse off by standing in a field, while clutching a substandard and overpriced hot drink and breaking your neck to look up at the light display of fireworks filling the November night sky. Truly magical.
Actually my local fireworks display had already happened on Thursday night, but that won’t stop me celebrating tonight at home with fireworks, friends, food and drink (don’t worry, we will be safe)!
“Sounds fun! But why?!”
Okay storytime! Are you sitting comfortably? Remember that little rhyme at the start of this post? If you skipped it, go back and read it…now, quick!!
Back in 1605 (basically, a long time ago), thirteen young men planned to blow up the UK Houses of Parliament. Among them was a man named Guy Fawkes, who would later go down in history as one of Britain’s biggest traitors.
These thirteen men formed their plot as, following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, English Catholics thought that her successor (King James I) would be more tolerant of their religion following the persecution of many Catholics under her reign. Although James I’s mother was Catholic, he did not show any mercy. It was then that this gang thought that the only way to strike back was to fight fire with fire…so to speak!
The group formed under the leadership of a man named Robert Catesby, who felt that this violent action was very much needed. His idea was, that by blowing up the Houses of Parliament, he would also be killing all the people who were making life difficult for Catholics; such as the King, possibly the Prince of Wales and the Members of Parliament. To do this, the conspirators managed to get their hands onto 36 barrels of gunpowder. They were able to store them in the cellars below the House of Lords.
However, it became clear that this plot would kill innocent people – some of which had been fighting prominently for the rights of Catholics, which prompted some of the conspirators to have second thoughts. One of the gang members had sent an anonymous letter of warning to a friend who was part of Parliament, telling him to stay away on the night of the attack. This warning letter had also attracted the attention of the King, who had ordered his forces to plan to stop the conspirators.
When the King’s forces searched Parliament in the early hours of 5th November, Guy Fawkes was in the cellar with the 36 barrels of gunpowder. He was arrested, tortured and executed.
On the same night that the gunpowder plot was foiled, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. This has been observed yearly since, with some creating effigies of Guy Fawkes to burn, along with fireworks displays.
Well, wasn’t that fun?! And we all learned something! I would like to thank the sources I’ve used to build this post, BBC History, bonfirenight.com and the UK Government’s National Archives.
Whatever it is you’re doing to celebrate Bonfire Night, stay warm and stay safe!
(We can now talk about Christmas!)