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Bonfire Night – The Facts Behind the Mask

Guy Fawkes Mask

Hands up who’s familiar with the famous saying ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November?

Now hands up how many of you know the real meaning behind the saying?

The FI team have put together a short summary along with 10 fun facts to educate and excite you before the big bonfire day arrives on the 5th November this year.

The Story

 In November 1605 a group of Catholics including the man we all talk about, Guy Fawkes, plotted to blow up James I, the King of England.

This started when Catholics in England had expected King James to be more tolerant of them when he came to the throne. They were shocked when instead of behaving more favourably towards the Catholic Church he in fact ordered all Catholic priests to leave England. In an angry attempt to gain power the group decided that James was to be killed.

In order to do this a plot was formed to kill not only James but everyone sitting in the Houses of Parliament, by blowing it up. The plot involved acquiring a house by the houses of parliament and getting 36 barrels of gunpowder into a cellar under the House of Lords.

As the plans were made it became apparent how the brutal effects of such an operation would be, it was at this point certain members began to drop out and parliament was made aware.

Having very nearly been successful in their mission, Guy Fawkes ,who had been given the job of setting off the fuse was caught when a group of guards decided to check the cellars at the last moment.

Guy Fawkes was then arrested and sent to the Tower of London where he was tortured until he revealed the names of others involved and later executed.

 So why do we light bonfires? On the 5th November 1605 bonfires were lit across the country to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, the tradition has lived on and evolved to include the impressive firework displays and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on bonfires you see today.

The Facts

  1. The film V for Vendetta is loosely based on the story of Guy Fawkes. The spooky Guy Fawkes masks used in the film are often worn by political protesters to hide their identity and intimidate.
  2. The King or Queen of England cannot be Roman Catholic – a rule still in place since the Guy Fawkes plot.
  3. St. Peter’s School in York is the only place in England that does not celebrate bonfire night as a show of respect for their former pupil, Guy Fawkes.
  4. Despite popular belief Guy Fawkes wasn’t the main conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot. His job was in fact to guard the gunpowder that lay underneath the Houses of Parliament.
  5. Up until 1959 you would have been committing a crime if you didn’t celebrate bonfire night in Britain.
  6. The first fireworks display to be recorded in England was at the wedding of King Henry VII in 1486.
  7. Fireworks were invented totally by accident! During the 10th century a Chinese cook accidentally discovered how to make explosive black powder (the early version of gun powder) resulting in a display of colourful flames.
  8. Guy Fawkes is officially named the ‘30th Greatest Briton’ through a 2002 BBC Poll.
  9. A gruesome but true fact, one of the origins of the word bonfire is thought to have come from the words bone-fire and a time where the bodies of witches were burned instead of buried.
  10. The Houses of Parliament are still searched before the state opening (Where the reigning Monarch visits parliament each year) held in November. This is to ensure no modern day Guy Fawkes plot is in action deep within the cellars.