Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remember, Remember The 5th Of November.

Each November 5th there is a celebration in Britain named Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night..
In 1605 Guy Fawkes and his conspirators placed barrels of gunpowder in the cellar of the Houses of Parliament, their intention being, to kill the English King James, and his supporters.

" Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot "

The event is accompanied by firework displays, the lighting of bonfires and the ceremonial effigy-burning of one Guy Fawkes. The origin of this celebration stems from events which took place in 1605 and was a conspiracy known as "The Gunpowder Plot," intended to take place on November 5th of that year (the day set for the opening of Parliament).
The object of The Gunpowder Plot was to blow up English Parliament along with the ruling monarch, King James I. It was hoped that such a disaster would initiate a great uprising of English Catholics, who were distressed by the increased severity of penal laws against the practice of their religion.

Houses of Parliament.

Guy Fawkes.

The conspirators, who began plotting early in 1604, eventually expanded their members to a point where secrecy was impossible. One of their number, Thomas Percy (who had contacts at the Court of King James), hired a cellar beneath the House of Lords. Within this cellar were secretly stored 36 barrels (almost two tons) of gunpowder, overlaid with iron bars and firewood.

The plan went awry, however, by way of a mysterious letter received by Lord Monteagle on October 26th (10 days prior to the opening of Parliament). Monteagle, brother-in-law of Francis Tresham (another of the conspirators and likely author of the correspondence...although this was never proven), was urged in the letter not to attend Parliament on opening day. When the message was revealed to the First Earl of Salisbury and others, they took steps which led to the discovery of the hidden cache and the arrest of Guy Fawkes on the night of November 4th as he entered the cellar.
The majority of the other conspirators, either overtaken as they attempted to flee or seized shortly thereafter, were killed outright, imprisoned or executed. While the plot itself was the work of a small number of men, it provoked hostility against all British Catholics and led to an increase in the harshness of laws against them. Even to this day, it is the law that no Roman Catholic may hold the office of monarch and the reigning king or queen remains Supreme Head of the Church of England.

Today, one of the ceremonies which accompanies the opening of a new session of Parliament is a traditional searching of the basement by the Yeoman of the Guard. It has been said that for superstitious reasons, no State Opening of Parliament has or ever will be held again on November 5th. This, however, is a fallacy since on at least one occasion (in 1957), Parliament did indeed open on November 5th.

The actual cellar employed for the storage of the gunpowder in 1605 by the conspirators was damaged by fire in 1834 and totally destroyed during the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster in the Nineteenth Century. Portions of the original cellar are on display at Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, is the lantern which was carried by Guy Fawkes in 1605.

Also known as "Firework Night" and "Bonfire Night," November 5th was designated by King James I (via an Act of Parliament) as a day of thanksgiving for "the joyful day of deliverance." This Act remained in force until 1859. On the very night of the thwarted Gunpowder Plot, it is said that the populace of London celebrated the defeat by lighting fires and engaging in street festivities. It would appear that similar celebrations took place on each anniversary and, over the years, became a tradition. In many areas, a holiday was observed, although it is not celebrated in Northern Ireland.

Remembering when I was a young girl, the school children would spend weeks preparing for this event. Collecting bonfire wood, saving money for fireworks, with children and parents alike, participating in the celebrations.
Our pockets would be filled with potatoes, used to throw in the bonfire, and devour once they were cooked......ashes and all.

Sausages on sticks, trays of treacle toffee, toffee apples, and Parkin a traditional English Hearth Cake would all be part of the treats for the taking.
School children would chase each other around the bonfire with handfuls of "sparklers".
It's a magical time on a cool November evening....


Penny said...

We used to commemorate it here but as it is during the start of the bushfire season here in Oz we no longer have fireworks night on the 5th so I think is now getting forgotten.
We as oldies remembered it and thank you for the full verse some of which I had forgotten!

Becca's Dirt said...

Sounds like a good time. I love history. I hated it when young and in school but now that I am older I can really appreciate it. Hope you have a super evening.

Cloudhands said...

I knew Guy Fawkes was associated with bonfires, but never knew why or I had forgotten my history lessons somewhere along the line. I love that the tradition has added food to the bonfire, it sounds like a fun autumn evening.

Winifred said...

Oh yes I remember eating those spuds cooked in the bonfire and the toffee apples. Dad lighting the fireworks in the back yard and watching from the kitchen window. Then we would have our sparklers which weren't so dangerous. It's dying out a bit now. You can't just light a bonfire and due to health and safety requirements it's hard to have organised bonfires. Massive insurance required.

I know the word guy is often used especially in America, I can't use it because I always associate it with Guy Fawkes.

Betsy Banks Adams said...

How interesting, Jo.. I have never heard of this---and found it very interesting. My smart hubby remembered this---so we were talking about it.

Thanks so much for sharing.. I'm sure there are alot of things you miss in your home country by being here, aren't there????


Patsy said...

Wonderful to remember our childhood days and sometime wish them back.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading Alison Weir's books on the Tudors. Looking forward to reading and learning more on the British Monarchy, I find it fascinating.

Phyllis @Around the House said...

what an interesting blog, loved hearing all the history and i just love all the beautiful pictures, I will be back, come for a visit

Michael said...

And it's the same day I found out about Father Christmas my first day being a boy scout!!!

I was just re-admiring your incredibly cozy side bar pictures. I so love them. Very very English. Anyway, i do hope you would consider coming to my Christmas blog Tea?

Anonymous said...

Great post. I shall point my American friends in the direction of this blog when they ask about Guy Fawkes Night as you describe it so much better than me.

Quite a few fireworks last night but sadly the significance of the date is being forgotten as more and more families join organised displays at the nearest weekend to the 5th. Keeps everyone safe, but I have memories of (small) family bonfires, baked spuds and treacle toffee and the thrill of waiting for the fireworks to go off :o)

matron said...

O'how you have just conjured up my childhood,the nostalgia,wood smoke,the smell of sulphur hanging in the air from the fireworks,toffee apples the memories are flooding back.Thank you, just what i needed on this dank dismal day.

DJan said...

I wondered if there was anything special about yesterday, the 5th, and now I know! Good history lesson.

Sunny said...

When I was a child in England, I remember my Grandparents piling up wood on the bank next to their old millhouse getting ready for the big bonfire. After all these years, this is still a vivid memory.
Thank you for your interesting post on Guy Fawkes.
Sunny :)

JPT said...

If you read my post on my 'Right Rant' blog you will see that in Blighty all is not well with Guy Fawkes Night...