Gunpowder Plot



Remember, remember the fifth of November

The gunpowder treason and plot.

I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.


Remember, remember, the fifth of November,

The gunpowder treason and plot.

A stick or a stake for King James’ sake

Will you please to give us a fagot

If you can’t give us one, we’ll take two;

The better for us and the worse for you!

In 1605 a failed conspiracy by a group of provincial English Catholics to assassinate King James I of England and replace him with a Catholic head of state took place. On 5th November Guy Fawkes was arrested guarding a cache of explosives placed beneath the House of Lords.

The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State opening of Parliament is a prelude to an uprising after which James 9 year old daughter, a Catholic, would be placed on the throne as head of state. The conspirators were John Wright, Thomas Winter, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, Robert Winter, Christopher Wright, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham. Guy Fawkes, was a seasoned soldier having served 10 years fighting in the Spanish Netherlands in support of the Dutch revolt; and for this reason was placed in charge of the explosives.

The plot was discovered after an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, on 26th October 1605. A search was made of the House of Lords at about midnight on 4th November where Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder. These would contain enough explosives to reduce the House of Lords to rubble. Fawkes was arrested and most of the conspirators fled as they heard of the plots discovery. Several of them made a stand against the pursuing Sheriff of Worcester and in the ensuing battle the plot leader Robert Catesby was shot and killed. The 8 surviving conspirators were placed on trial on 27th January 1606, all were convicted and sentenced to be hanged drawn and quartered.

Ever since then the English people commemorate 5 November by lighting bonfires and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes. Also fireworks are lit and up and down the country various celebrations are held. In the past street parties would be held where members of the community would gather together and share in food, drink and celebrate.

Some historians have often suggested the Guy Fawkes’ Day served as a Protestant replacement for the ancient Celtic and Nordic festivals of Samhein, Pagan events which the Romanized Church absorbed and transformed into All Hallows Eve and All Souls Day. While the use of bonfires to mark the occasion was most likely taken from ancient practices of lighting celebratory bonfires, the idea that the celebration of 5th November 1605 ever originated for anything other than commemorating the safety of James I is purely speculative.

It is true that the Catholic Church created the October 31 celebration of Halloween in an attempt to replace the ancient pagan festivals. Ancient symbols such as the jack-o’-lantern, images of witches, ghosts and other occult symbols permeate the whole of the Halloween festival. However, November 5th knows none of these.


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