Saturday, 7 November 2009

Bonfire Night

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's mercy he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!

If you've seen the movie "V for Vendetta" (and if you haven't go rent it, its great), then you should kind of have an idea who Guy Fawkes is and all about November 5th).

The gunpowder plot of 1605 was a failed assassination attempt of King James I by a group of Provencal English catholics. They plotted to blow up the house of parliament on the States Opening on the 5th of November, 1605. The people plotting all this had infiltrated into the Kings Service, one of the men even became one of the kings bodyguards and had access to leasing out lodging adjacent to the House of Lords. Their original plan was to tunnel down and mine their way to the Lord's Chamber. The king was their main target, but other influential people were on their hit list as well.

After the plague struck London in 1604, the state opening of Parliament kept being pushed back and pushed back, but still the conspirators trudged on and kept filling up a ground floor undercroft that they'd acquired and by March of 1605, they'd filled it up with 36 barrels of gunpowder and hidden it underneath coal and firewood.

In need of money and arms, the conspirators had no choice but to induct Sir Frances Tresham into their plot and its believed that it was he who betrayed them to his brother in law who was Lord Monteagle.

On the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes, the man who was in charge of the explosives, was arrested as he was leaving the undercroft. Under the assumed name John Johnson, he was interrogated and he maintained that he worked alone and his plot was, in fact, to blow up parliament and kill King James. He was taken to the Tower of London and tortured and then finally sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Now, I didnt know until today, but wikipedia defines Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered as:

  1. Dragged on a hurdle (a wooden frame) to the place of execution. This is one possible meaning of drawn.[2]
  2. Hanged by the neck for a short time or until almost dead (hanged).
  3. Disembowelled and emasculated and the genitalia and entrails burned before the condemned's eyes (this is another meaning of drawn—see the reference to the Oxford English Dictionary below)[3][4]
  4. The body beheaded, then divided into four parts (quartered).

How crazy and gross is that? So yeah, Guy Fawkes decided that that really didnt sound pleasant, so he jumped off the gallows, breaking his neck and killing himself so that he wouldn't have to endure the drawing and quartering part of his sentence.

So, every year, basically the entire week of November 5th the Brits celebrate a failed assassination attempt. They have big bonfires where they burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and they have special foods they eat and they shoot off fireworks. So, all week as soon as the sun's gone down, we've heard fireworks. Tonight, our neighborhood is throwing a bonfire, so we're headed over to meet all the neighbors and take part in the festivities! It should be a good time!

1 comment:

  1. Please take pictures.And I love these history lessons.