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  • Writer's pictureFiona Jackson

Remember, Remember the 5th of November...

....Gunpowder treason and plot,

We see no reason

why Gunpowder Treason

should ever be forgot.

In the U.K November the 5th is the night for celebrating the failure of a plot to blow up The Houses Of Parliament in London.

I suspect it is a very British thing to celebrate a failure!

November the 5th, also called Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated with fireworks, Bonfires and food.

So what actually happened on November 5th 1605?

During the previouse few years running up to 1605 a group of men, lead by Robert Catesby, a staunch Catholic, plotted to blow up King James 1st together with the House of Lords, House of Commons and the Royal Family,during the State Opening of The Houses of Parliament.

Afterwards they planned to kidnap the Princess Elizabeth, who wouldn't be attending, but had got no further with the plan as to what to actually do with her!

Why did they want to blow up The Houses of Parliament and kill the King?

Robert Catesby and the other conspiracists were protesting against the on going persecution of the Roman Catholics in England under the reign of King James 1st.

They had hoped that when he became King of England that he would allow the Roman Catholic religion to be practiced openly by people, and to accept it as an English religion, after the previous queen, Elizabeth 1st had also persecuted the Catholics, making the religion illegal in England.

Unfortunately this was'nt the case and King James continued to allow the Catholic persecution.

Who were the members of the Gunpowder Plot?

The leader of the plot was Robert Catesby, who proposed the plot with his cousins, Thomas and Robert Winter.

Thomas Winter went to Flanders to try to get support, and there he recruited Guy Fawkes, also known as Guido Fawkes, who was a British Soldier serving in the Spanish Army fighting against the Dutch.

Guy Fawkes was considered to be a technical expert with guns and explosives.

Thomas Percy, cousin to the 9th Earl of Northumberland, was married to the sister of two other conspirators, Christopher and John Wright.

It was Thomas Percy who rented a cellar under The Houses of Parliament, where Guy Fawkes would place the gunpowder.

Robert Keys and John Grant are said to have brought the gunpowder to the Houses of Parliament, and to have supplied weapons for the plot.

Ambrose Rookwood and Sir Everard Digby where both recruited because they where wealthy men who could help pay for the plot and supply horses needed for fast get away.

Unfortunately for Robert Catesby and his gang, the plot began to unravel at the edges when the servant to Catesby, Thomas Bates told the plan to a priest.

Frances Tresham, also a cousin to Robert Catesby was'nt let into the secret of the plot until very late on, due to the others having doubts about him completely trustworthy.

It is thought that Frances Tresham wrote an anonymous letter to his brother-in-law Lord Monteagle, warning him not to attend the State Opening of The Houses of Parliament on 5th November due to the danger posed by the Gunpowder Plot....

The members of The Gunpowder Plot.

Guards from The Houses of Parliament checked the cellars and found Guy Fawkes, who was pretending to be Thomas Percys servent under the false name of John Johnson.

Guy Fawkes said he was minding a large pile of wood but "looked shifty", when the guards went to check the wood, they discovered 37 barrels of gunpowder, and after a scuffle, they pulled Guy Fawkes to the ground and arrested him.

Guy Fawkes was tried along with the other surviving members of the plot on 27th January 1606, and was executed in the Old Palace Yard , Westminster, London on 31st January.

Remember, Remember the 5th of November....

Today we celebrate the fact that the Gunpowder Plot was foiled and King James was'nt killed, and inspite of that we can also celebrate the fact that Britain is now full of amazing religious diversity with people of all nationalities being free to practice their own particular religions.

People enjoy celebrating on the 5th of November with fire work displays and of course bonfires.

Many people still like to make a 'Guy' out of old clothes stuffed with straw and untill fairly recently you would see children taking the 'Guy' to neighbours houses and calling out 'Penny for the Guy', If the householder thought the children had done a good job of making their 'Guy' they would give out sweets or a small amount of money, which would be spent on Sparklers.

Though most areas now have their own public bonfires, the most famous is the Lewes Bonfire in Sussex. This is the U.Ks biggest bonfire event and attracts around 25.000 visitors and is run by 6 bonfire societies grounded in family history going back for generations.

Image from The Lewes Bonfire

(photo from The Telegraph)

So now you know why we do Remember, Remember the 5th of November....have fun and make sure you stay safe with fire works.

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