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Our Favourite Facts About Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

Would you know what to say if your children asked you to tell them the story of Guy Fawkes? We've compiled the facts behind the legend of 5th of November


Every year on November 5th, Great Britain marks Bonfire Night, also known as Fireworks Night or Guy Fawkes Night, by setting off fireworks and making bonfires to burn the effigy of Guy Fawkes. But how much do you actually know about the history behind Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot?

Who was Guy Fawkes?

  • Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York.
  • He converted to Catholicism and later went to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England. He didn't find any support, but adopted an Italian version of his name: Guido.
  • In 1604 Fawkes became involved with a small group of English Catholics plotting to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic King to the throne.
  • Fawkes was not the leader of the group or the man behind the plan, but he is still the most famous name associated with the event 400 years later.

What was the Gunpowder Plot?

  • The failed Gunpowder Plot took place in 1605. The group stocked 36 barrels of gunpowder in an unused storage room directly beneath the House of Lords in July 1605.
  • The opening of the Parliament was delayed until 5th of November, because of the threat of the plague.
  • The group planned that Fawkes should light the fuse on the explosives during the opening of Parliament, and then escape across the Thames.
  • The authorities discovered the gunpowder stocked below Westminster Palace on November 5th after being tipped off by an anonymous letter. Fawkes was found guarding the explosives.
  • When he was caught and questioned by the King's guards, Fawkes gave his name as John Johnson. He admitted to the plan of trying to blow up Parliament. He was kept in the Tower of London, where the room he was interrogated in is still known as the Guy Fawkes Room.
  • Fawkes and seven of his conspirators faced trial in January the next year, and were found guilty of high treason. They were sentenced to death.
  • The Houses of Parliament are still searched for explosives once a year, before the Annual Opening of Parliament.

Why do we light bonfires on 5th November?

  • On 5th of November 1605, Londoners were encouraged to celebrate King James the 1st escaping assassination by lighting bonfires.
  • Parliament designated 5th of November as a day of thanksgiving, with an act that remained in force until 1859.
  • The tradition of burning dummies on bonfires comes from the 13th century, originally to drive away evil spirits. Since 1605 it became common to burn an effigy symbolising Guy Fawkes on the bonfires on November 5th.
  • From the 1650s onwards, fireworks accompanied bonfires as part of the celebrations.
  • Fireworks were originally invented accidentally in the 10th century by a Chinese cook.

Are you setting off fireworks on November 5th? Have a look at Our Favourite Fireworks Safety Tips to make the experience safe and enjoyable for everyone.

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