Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
We so no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
No doubt you will have heard the rhyme and will have started noticing adverts going up for local firework’s displays and fireworks appearing in the shops ready for bonfire night, but why do we celebrate it?
Bonfire Night and the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes is a tradition that has been in place since the 1600s in the UK and it all stems from a failed plot to kill the King James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder hidden beneath the building.
During the reign of Henry VIII, he changed the UK’s main religion from Catholic to Protestant in order to obtain a divorce, but in doing so created a difficult atmosphere for years to come. The monarchs that came after him would swap back and forth from Protestant to Catholic and by the time that James I came to power, those that followed Catholicism were being persecuted. He ordered all Catholic priests to leave England and many that were caught practicing the religion were sentenced to death. A group of conspirators, which included Guy Fawkes came up with a plan to kill King James I and support his daughter, Elizabeth, who was only nine at the time, to claim the crown in the hope that they could shape her into being Catholic.
In all there were twelve people involved in the Gunpowder Plot. The group rented out a house located right next to the Houses of Parliament and smuggled 36 barrels of gunpowder into the cellar of the House of Lords!
Guy Fawkes wasn’t the leader of the group, but the reason we all remember him is because he was the one who was in charge of lighting the gunpowder and as such, was caught red handed. In fact, he was the first of the group to have been captured and for two days, was thought to be the only person involved in the plot. Guy Fawkes was imprisoned in the Tower of London and visitors can find graffiti he left in his cell prior to his death.
After the plot was foiled, the people of London started lighting bonfires to celebrate the survival of the King and the following year, an Act of Parliament named November 5th as a day of thanksgiving so everyone could celebrate the fact that the King wasn’t harmed.
Ever since then, the whole country has come together to remember the 5th November, celebrating Bonfire Night with fire works displays and the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes.
Are you planning to attend a firework display this year? Many of them are used as a way to raise money for local charities, so keep an eye out and support your local display. If you plan to have your own bonfire night celebration at home, make sure to stand well back from the fireworks and to keep water on hand. Also make sure not to handle any of the fireworks with bare hands and to ensure that a responsible adult takes care of the lighting of each one!