Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night) is one of the biggest annual celebrations in Britain. But what is it all about? And why are fireworks such a big deal? We’ve quizzed our London Ventoura locals to get the low-down.
It all started with religion
Whether the King or Queen was Protestant or Catholic in medieval Britain was a big deal. In the 16th & 17th centuries it lead to the persecution of Catholics by Queen Elizabeth, a staunch Protestant. Under her reign, converting people to Catholicism with the purpose of subverting their allegiance to Queen Elizabeth became treason, punishable by the death penalty.
Death of a Queen & hope for England
After Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, King James the First took the throne. Catholics across England hoped that he would end the persecution that Queen Elizabeth had overseen, however it became apparent early in his reign that this wasn’t the case.
Where does Guy Fawkes come into it?
Guy Fawkes was an Englishman in his early 30s, raised Protestant but later converted to Catholicism. He, amongst others, wanted to overthrow the Protestant ruler and bring a Catholic monarch to the throne. So the plot was conceived of to assassinate King James I by blowing up the Palace of Westminster.
The Gunpowder Plot emerges
The conspirators rented out a house near Parliament and began to smuggle in 36 barrels of gunpowder, which would have been enough to entirely destroy everything within a half kilometre radius of its centre. The plot would have succeeded if it weren’t for a letter being sent to a Parliamentarian in late October, warning him not to go to the House of Lords for the opening of Parliament. To this day the identity of the letter writer is a mystery, but this person prevented what might have been the most notorious crime in Britain’s history. Luckily, the Parliament guard undertook a search and discovered Guy Fawkes and the immense gunpowder stash.
What became of Fawkes?
After the plot had failed, the 5th of November was declared a day of Thanksgiving, & Fawkes was arrested, tried, convicted and executed for being a traitor to England. Fawkes’ legacy continues to this day, as the guards search the Houses of Parliament before opening to ensure no Fawkes-style conspirator is hiding in wait. And the 5th of November is now a celebration of freedom marked, ironically, with fireworks.
What will you be doing to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night? Tag #LiveLaughExplore in your Instagram and Twitter photos to share the celebration!
To see what we recommend for your last-minute Guy Fawkes Night plans, check out our post