Guy Fawkes was one of several English Catholics who hatched the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. They planned to assassinate the Protestant King James and replace him with his daughter. However, as everyone knows, their plot was foiled when Guy Fawkes was caught in a cellar below the House of Lords. Fawkes was tortured before trial and execution and the following year, Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the king’s escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, and an Act of Parliament actually designated November 5th as a day of thanksgiving for “the joyful day of deliverance”- this remained in force until 1859. Since then, we have celebrated Guy Fawkes Night with bonfires and fireworks.
When you think about it, it’s a bit bonkers to celebrate what was basically a plot to overthrow the entire government; if their plan had succeeded it would have killed not just the King but all of Parliament as well! Still, it’s good fun to see all those bright lights in the sky, to toast marshmallows on a bonfire and to indulge in some fancy dress - right?
There are often lots of events going on locally for bonfire night, with parades, firework displays, sparklers and of course a big bonfire. Did you know that in the years following the plot, effigies burned on bonfires were most often of the Pope. Eventually in 1673 the Duke of York converted to Catholicism and effigies turned more to political characters. The effigy didn’t become a Guy until much more recently.
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