Friday 5 November 2010

Remember Remember the 5th of November

Just over 400 years ago on 5th November 1605, Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars below in the Houses of Parliament, where he and several co-conspirators in what became known as the “Gunpowder Plot” had placed barrels of gunpowder in an attempt to blow up the government of the day and the king James 1st of England.

Guy Fawkes was discovered with 36 barrels of gunpowder underneath the House of Lords in the early hours of the morning and the plot was foiled. Found guilty of treason Guy Fawkes was hanged, drawn and quartered, a particularly nasty method of execution.

From the following year 1606, it became an annual custom for the King and Parliament to commission a special sermon to commemorate the event. The sermon and the nursery rhyme would ensure that the crime was never forgotten and indeed it is “celebrated” to this day with bonfires and fireworks across England.

It is said that the phrase 'Please to remember the fifth of November' serves as a warning to each new generation that treason will never be forgotten, but given the enduring popularity of the celebrations I can't help thinking , while we're lighting bonfires and letting off fireworks, there might just be a sense, even subliminally, that we like to keep our politicians on their toes!!


  1. Fawkes was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but actually he jumped from the execution scaffold and broke his neck before the sentence could be carried out. But they did the drawing and quartering on his dead body anyway.

    I always think it sort of weird that the English celebrate a terrorist's execution so many centuries later. Will we still be doing something to celebrate Osama bin Laden's defeat 400 years from now? No, wait, we have to catch him first.

  2. In Lewes they still burn the Pope in effigy, to annual protests from local Catholics. In Edenbridge this year, they are burning Wayne Rooney.

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