If you are new to the UK you might wonder about the 5th of November that has just passed – also known as Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night and Fireworks Night. It’s a chance each year for you to head down to one of the many great parks in the UK to see some amazing fire work displays (or to buy a few fireworks to set off at home) and get warm by the heat of the bonfire. Bonfire night originates from the Gunpowder Plot that occurred in 1605 – an attempt to assassinate King James and members of the Houses of Parliament by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during its state opening. You probably already know the gist of the story because you have watched V for Vendetta so instead here’s 5 fun facts about Bonfire night which you might not know.
Fact 1: Guy Fawkes went by a different name
Guy Fawkes is known as the most famous of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, although he wasn’t the only one of them and wasn’t the ringleader. Guy Fawkes spent years abroad fighting in the Eighty Years War for the Spanish against the Dutch. During this time, he took on a new variant of his name – “Guido” which he used to sign his confession. The confession can still be seen today in the National Archives.
Fact 2: Guy Fawkes death is often miss reported
Guy Fawkes and the rest of his conspirators were charged with High Treason. In Tudor England, High Treason came with a pretty serious punishment. The convicted would be Hung, Drawn and Quartered. Sounds unpleasant but what does that mean? Firstly, the convicted was fixed to a wooden panel which was drawn by horse to the place where the execution was to happen. They were then hung until they were almost at the point of death. Following this they were emasculated, disembowelled then beheaded before being quartered and their parts sent (on occasion) to the four corners of the kingdom. Grisly we know! Although it’s often reported that Guy Fawkes met this ending he actually didn’t fancy the terror that awaited him so leapt from a ladder on the way to the hangman’s noose breaking his neck and dying instantly.
Fact 3: Penny for the Guy
Today it’s more common for people to attend a bonfire at a large organised event but not that long ago it was common for people at home to hold a bonfire and make a guy that they would burn on the bonfire. The term guy comes from Guy Fawkes, the most famous conspirator in the Gunpower plot. Most guys were made by children who would take the guy through the streets asking for a “penny for the guy” to make some extra money along the way.
Fact 4: Keep Checking the cellars
The UK loves its traditions. Even though the original Houses of Parliament that Guy Fawkes and his gang tried to blow up burnt down in the 1834, every year before the state opening of parliament occurs (the moment when the reigning monarch officially opens parliament) the Yeoman of the Guard still search the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament to check that no one (or nothing that shouldn’t be there) is present.
Fact 5: You better get celebrating
Prior to 1959 there was a law that made it mandatory to celebrate Bonfire Night. The only place in the UK that was exempted was Guy Fawkes old school out of respect. However during World War I and World War II bonfires and fireworks were banned so celebrations had to take place indoors!
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