Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night commemorates the events that took place in 1605 when a small group of ambitious plotters tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. This story, however, is all too easily forgotten amid the celebration of fireworks and bonfires that distract us from the original meaning of the date.
For those wishing to know what happened on November 5th in 1605 and who Guy Fawkes was, here is a brief guide to the night of the bonfire and the story behind the Gunpowder Plot.
When is Bonfire Night 2022?
Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night) takes place every year on November 5. Many will be happy to know that this means that in 2022 the celebrations will fall on a Saturday.
What was the gunpowder plot?
Bonfire Night commemorates a group of Catholic plotters who attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605 in a plan now known as the “Gunpowder Plot”. With the help of Guido (Guy) Fawkes, a radicalized ex-soldier, the crew attempted to blow up King James I, the Prince of Wales and the Houses of Parliament.
After decades of religious warfare dating back to the previous century, this motivated Robert Catesby – the head of the operation – to recruit Fawkes and give him the 1604 operation to dig a mine under parliament during the summer.
In 1605, the team hired a coal cellar under the House of Lords and transported 36 barrels of gunpowder there. Had the explosion succeeded, it would have destroyed the Parliament building, but also killed innocent citizens and plunged the nation deeper into religious war.
However, a member of the group, believed to be Francis Tresham, had doubts about the plan and warned the Catholic Lord Monteagle – this resulted in the arrest of Fawkes (who would later commit suicide to escape torture of his prosecutors) and the murder of most of Catesby’s crew.
Why is Bonfire Night celebrated on November 5?
Bonfire Night is a tradition that commemorates the failed gunpowder plot of Guy Fawkes on November 5, 1605. In early 1606, a law was passed which declared that November 5 would be recognized as a day of thanksgiving in recognition that King James My life, among many others, was spared that day.
The commemoration, officially known as Gunpowder Treason Day, ultimately settled for bonfires and fireworks as features of the celebration, as they seemed appropriate given the event.
Who was Guy Fawkes?
It is well known that Guy Fawkes was the man caught red-handed during the Gunpowder Plot before being imprisoned and tortured in the Tower of London for his crimes, but isn’t there more than that ?
Historic Royal Places records that Fawkes was born in 1570 in York, England, and was the son of a prominent Protestant father and a mother whose family had “secret Catholics.” At the time, it was dangerous to be a Catholic because many rebellions against Elizabeth I were organized by Catholics who, if caught, could be tortured and executed.
On the surface, Fawkes was a law-abiding Protestant, but when his father died his mother remarried a Catholic, prompting Fawkes to convert to Catholicism. At 21, he left to fight for Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch reformers during the Eight Years’ War – on his return he was considered a “radicalised ex-soldier”, which led to his role in the gunpowder conspiracy.
When were the first fireworks set off in Scotland?
King James IV is said to have launched so-called ‘fireballs’ in 1507 and these are believed to be the first fireworks ever used in Scotland. It is believed that these fireworks, or fireballs, were featured in a special tournament which took place at Castle Rock in Edinburgh, an area which now passes through King’s Stables Road.