5 November: Guy Fawkes Night

guy-fawkes-night

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night, is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November, primarily in Great Britain.

Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords.

Guy Fawkes (1570 –1606)  was a member of a group of English Catholics who wanted to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.

The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England’s Parliament on 5 November 1605.  But  the authorities received an anonymous letter, so they searched Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November,  and found Fawkes guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder.  He was  arrested,  imprisoned, tortured and  proclaimed guilty of high treason. So he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

Celebrating the fact that the king had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London. Later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure, with  special anti-Catholic sermons (regarding the perceived dangers of popery).

Towards the end of the 18th century  5 November gradually became known as Guy Fawkes Night, celebrated at large organised events, centred on a bonfire and extravagant firework displays, with children begging for a “penny for the Guy” or singing songs that usually open with the familiar “Remember, remember, the fifth of November”

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