Seeing as its the 5th November obviously I had to do a Bonfire Night themed post! Every year I go out and watch the fireworks, usually at a few different events over the weekend, but I never actually question why we celebrate firework night. I know the basics of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot but I’ve never properly looked into this to see why/what actually happened. I love learning new things and looking back at history so I thought this was the perfect time to do some research and tell you what I find out!
The 5th November celebrates the failed attempt of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot
A group of Roman Catholic Activists wasn’t happy that Protestant King James I acceded the throne. They wanted freedom to practice their religion, and thought they could make England Catholic again by killing King James I and his ministers by blowing up the Houses of Parliament. Most people (including myself before I looked into this) think that Guy Fawkes was the Gunpowder Plot’s ringleader, but in actual fact it was a Mr Robert Catesby who was known for speaking out against the English crown. Catesby and his group hid 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament and Guy Fawkes was tasked with guarding the gunpowder. The whole thing began to unravel when a Catholic loyal to the crown received an anonymous letter advising to avoid the Houses of Parliament as “they shall receive a big blow”. The king soon became aware of the letter and ordered a search of Westminster Palace, and Guy Fawkes was discovered with the gunpowder (hence why everyone things he’s the ringleader!).
What happened next?
The conspirators were either resisting capture or hung, drawn and quartered. When Catesby heard of the failed attempt at blowing up the Houses of Parliament he fled to the midlands leaving Guy Fawkes to be put on trial. Fawkes and the other conspirators were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. They were all publicly hung, drawn and quartered except Fawkes who wanted to avoid his execution so leapt from a platform on the gallows and died of a broken neck. His body was quartered though as a warning to others! The cellar that Catesby and his conspirators used to store the gunpowder no longer exists as it was destroyed in a fire in 1834, but the Houses of Parliament are still searched to this day by the Yeoman of the Guard to make sure no modern day Guy Fawkes is hiding. The lantern Guy Fawkes carried is now in Ashmolean Museum, Oxford which I think is so interesting and would love to see!
Where are we now?
As the news spread of the plot people began lighting bonfires to celebrate the fact that King James I was still alive. Celebrations started getting bigger with people letting off fireworks and mini explosives. Straw dummies of Guy Fawkes were made and children would walk the streets shouting ‘penny for the guy’ before throwing it on a bonfire to drive evil spirits away. I remember making a straw Guy Fawkes when I was younger and throwing him on top of the burning bonfire, but I didn’t know what it symbolised or why I was doing it! I definitely agree with what I’ve read online that the religious and political view of the Gunpowder Plot has since lost its original focus, so next time I’m celebrating bonfire night I’ll remember exactly why I am and think back to 1605!
Does anyone else know any interesting facts about Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night? I’d love to know what you think about it all!
Love Kirsty x
*Picture Credit – Canva*