Guy Fawkes Day
Guy Fawkes Day 2014 falls on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Barrels of Gunpowder
Photo © Roger Kirby at SXC
Guy Fawkes Day is a holiday that is celebrated in the United Kingdom. The holiday commemorates the foiling of the "Gunpowder Plot" on November 5, 1605, a plot that was created with the intention of assassinating the King of England.
According to a BBC Article on the subject, tensions between Protestants and Catholics living in England had been rising in the late 1500s, partially due to the battle between the British Navy and the Spanish Armada.1 The government was led by mostly Protestants, and harsh restrictions were being placed on Catholic citizens and priests. It was this heated atmosphere that led to the creation of a plot to kill King James I by a group of Catholic co-conspirators. The newly formed hit-group was led by a man named Robert Catesby, who had had some previous experience in battle. The initial meetings of the group did not include Guy (Guido) Fawkes, but Fawkes was quickly invited to the group because of his skills and his devout Catholic faith.2
The plot was fairly straightforward - the group intended to blow up the House of Lords on November 5, 1605, by placing barrels of gunpowder underneath the Parliament building and detonating them. This is how the event came to be known as the Gunpowder Plot.
To accomplish this task, the group of co-conspirators leased an abandoned "undercroft" located directly underneath the House of Lords.2 They then illegally obtained barrels of gunpowder and moved them into the undercroft, through a tunnel they had dug underground. Fawkes was assigned the duty of guarding and then exploding the gunpowder.
Prior to November 5, information about the plot began to leak out from the group. Shortly before the plan was to be executed, William Parker, also known as Baron or Lord Monteagle, received an anonymous warning letter now famously known as the "Monteagle Letter". The letter warned Parker not to attend the convening of the House of Lords or he would be hurt along with the other members of Parliament. Baron Monteagle took the letter to an Earl named Robert Cecil, and on November 4 Cecil had the Houses of Parliament searched for conspirators.1 In the undercroft they found Fawkes, and had him arrested shortly before he was set to detonate the gunpowder.
The plan for the rest of the group of co-conspirators was to cause Catholic uprisings in other parts of England, as chaos would have ensued after Parliament was destroyed. When they found out that the plot had been foiled and Fawkes had been caught, they ran.
In order to find out who was involved in the plot, the government had Fawkes tortured for two days.2 Fawkes eventually cracked, and gave the names of the co-conspirators. They were all eventually arrested or killed. Fawkes and the others who were arrested were brutally executed in January of 1606, to set an example to anyone else who might attempt to assassinate the King.
How is it celebrated?
Photo © P S at SXC
Guy Fawkes Day (Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night) is celebrated in the United Kingdom. According to Wikipedia, Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act shortly after the Gunpowder Plot was foiled.2 The Act stated that there should be annual thanksgiving and celebration each year on the day the plot was foiled. Today people living in the United Kingdom still celebrate Bonfire Night on November 5th, by shooting fireworks and burning effigies called "Guys" over bonfires, symbolizing the burning of Guy Fawkes.
When is Guy Fawkes Day?
It always falls on November 5 each year, regardless of what day of the week it is on.
In the Media
V for Vendetta - In the movie the protagonist, Vendetta, often references the Fifth of November as a symbol of his cause to unite the people against an oppressive government. His plan is fairly similar to that of the Catholic conspirators but is not formed along religious lines - he wants to unite all of the people of England by blowing up Parliament.