Gunpowder Day, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, is observed on November 5 each year to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder plot of 1605. Observed primarily in the United Kingdom through bonfires and fireworks, the event finds its roots in the country’s long history of religious turmoil between the Catholic and Protestant forms of Christianity. What transpired in 1605 was a plot by several conspirators to assassinate King James I during his visit to the British Parliament due to the persecution faced by Catholics in the country. The plan, however, failed — thus etching November 5 as a day to celebrate the survival of the King.
History of Gunpowder Day
The Gunpowder Plot had already begun in 1604 and was led by Robert Catesby whose endeavors were supported by rich Catholic families and other influential Catholics who detested the persecution that Catholic Christians faced at the hands of the Protestant State. The plan was to assassinate the reigning monarch of Britain, King James I, during his visit to the British Parliament.
The execution of the plot was detailed for over a year — the Black Plague had spread across the nation in 1604, thus delaying the opening of the Parliament. In 1605, the conspirators spent months loading the undercroft below the House of Lords with about 36 barrels of gunpowder. Sir Guy Fawkes was eventually put in charge of executing the plan. However, he ended up getting caught and apprehended on November 5, 1605, before the assassination could take place.
The news of the failed plot spread a general sentiment of goodwill and gratitude amongst the masses — many felt glad that the monarch was safe and in good health. It is said that on the night of November 5, 1605, the people of London lit bonfires and fireworks to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. When the Parliament convened that following January, the ‘Thanksgiving Act’ was passed and it deemed services and sermons to be a recurring event on November 5 each year, thus solidifying Gunpowder Day’s place in history.
Gunpowder Day timeline
King Henry VIII declares the king the head of the Church of England instead of the Pope.
King James I succeeds his late cousin, Queen Elizabeth I to the English throne.
The planning of the Gunpowder Plot begins.
Guy Fawkes is apprehended before the Gunpowder Plot can be executed
Gunpowder Day FAQs
What happened to Guy Fawkes
He was tried for treason and sentenced to death.
Who said “Remember, remember the fifth of November”?
Taylor Gibbs wrote the infamous,
“Remember, Remember the 5th of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason,
Why gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot!”
How was Guy Fawkes caught
The Gunpowder Plot was discovered due to an anonymous letter. This led to Guy Fawkes being caught.
How to Observe Gunpowder Day
Read up on the history
Gunpowder Day has a very interesting history. Spend a bit of the day brushing up on your facts.
Light a bonfire
When night falls, commemorate the day by lighting a bonfire and soaking in the warmth of the flame. Not only does a bonfire provide warmth, but it is also a beautiful sight, provided it is safe.
Watch (or read) “V for Vendetta”
“V for Vendetta” is famously inspired by the Gunpowder Plot. The dystopian classic is a fun watch.
5 Facts About British History
The lineage of the British Royal Family can be dated back to 757 A.D. to King Offa, who ruled over Kent, Sussex, East Anglia, and the Midlands.
London by any other name
The city of London has gone through several name changes over the past years — having been called Londinium, Lundenwic, and Lundenburg.
Becoming an island
The British Isles became an island in 6000 B.C. when a land bridge joining it to mainland British was flooded due to rising sea levels.
England fought the shortest war in history against Zanzibar in 1896 who surrendered in 38 minutes.
The British Parliament banned Christmas in 1647.
Why Gunpowder Day is Important
It has an interesting history
The event has a very interesting story to it. Brushing up on your history is quite fun for this day.
The celebrations are fun
Gunpowder Day is a day of beautiful bonfires and fireworks. The celebrations are a treat to the eyes.
It sparks an interesting thought exercise
The Gunpowder plot is an example of what people are willing to do when faced with persecution. Wouldn’t it be interesting to discuss the implications of the day’s history?
Gunpowder Day dates