by Sue | Nov 2, 2017 |

Remember, Remember, The 5th Of November


Gunpowder treason and plot.

We see no reason

Why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot!

In 1605 disappointment was rife amongst Catholics following the realisation that their new King, James I, was no more tolerant of their religion than his mother, Elizabeth I. A small group of men, under the leadership of Robert Catesby, felt that violent action was now required. In fact, the only thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament which should result in the death of the King plus a few others such as the Prince of Wales, and Members of Parliament who were all making life difficult for Catholics.

The conspirators got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder and stashed them away in a cellar just under the House of Lords. They continued to work on details of the actual plot but during this time a few members pointed out that innocent people could be caught up in the attack. One of the group took it even further and sent a letter to his friend, Lord Monteagle, warning him to stay at home on November 5th.

This letter was passed to the King who then made plans to stop the conspirators. Guy Fawkes was in the cellar with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th; he was caught, tortured and then executed for treason.

It has since been suggested that the plot may not have worked with the gunpowder being so old as to be useless but as the plot was foiled before it was ignited we'll never know…

Even in an unstable period the Gunpowder Plot struck a very profound chord with the people of England and to this day the reigning monarch only enters Parliament once a year, on what is called "the State Opening of Parliament". Prior to the Opening, and according to custom, the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster.

On the very night that the Gunpowder Plot was foiled (November 5th) bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then it has become known as Bonfire Night and is marked every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.

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