I’ve recently watched the new BBC miniseries Gunpowder, which retells the story of the gunpowder plot. It stars Kit Harington (Jon Snow from G.O.T). It was one of the reasons it grabbed my attention. Plus the fact that I love a historical drama.
Whenever I watch a historical drama such as this I always head straight to google and learn about the fact behind the fiction. It’s the history buff in me but I also think it’s because I just like to have good general knowledge. I like to know things!
I was exactly the same when I watched The White Queen. A series is set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses. After watching it, I spent days after researching the main characters and finding out who they were in reality.
Too many children though, Bonfire Night, with its fireworks and Guy on top of the fire, it’s one of the most exciting nights of their year.
Do they know the real reason for it all? Why we still celebrate it 412 years later?
Who was Guy Fawkes? Why did he and the other conspirators decide to do what they did and what did the plot mean in 1605?
I have been surprised how little people know about the true events that transpired back in 1605, from the identity of the main plotter, to what actually happened to Parliament.
When I asked people about the Gunpowder plot, they say Guy Fawkes. Some of the people I’ve asked didn’t know whether the Houses of Parliament were blown up or not.
It seemed that when you go to a Bonfire night, people believe it’s to celebrate Guy Fawkes and have forgotten the true meaning of why we celebrate the way we do on 5th November.
I’ve been asking myself, why don’t people know this kind of information anymore? Is it lack of understanding? Or simply people don’t have an interest for the subject?
So as Bonfire Night preparations get underway and the strong feeling to research, I thought I would take a look at some of the common misconceptions and lesser-known facts about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot;
- The Gunpowder Plot was about religion. England was a Protestant country, and the plotters were Catholic.
- The group wanted to return England to the Catholic faith. They thought they could do this by killing King James I, his family and his ministers. They’d planned to replace the King with his daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, a Catholic.
- During the reign of James I, Guy Fawkes became increasingly frustrated at the continued persecution of Catholics and the fact that a Scottish monarch was the King of England. He travelled to Spain to try and get support for a Catholic rebellion in England. He failed this attempt, but he did meet some of the people who would later be involved in setting up The Gunpowder Plot.
- Although Guy Fawkes is the most famous of those involved in The Gunpowder Plot, it was actually Robert Catesby who was the leader of the failed attempt to kill James I when he opened Parliament in 1605.
- The plotters, led by Robert Catesby, were: Guy Fawkes, Thomas Wintour, Robert Wintour, John Wright, Thomas Percy, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, John Grant, Christopher Wright, Sir Ambrose Rookwood, Francis Tresham and Sir Everard Digby.
- Guy Fawkes, due to his experience as a soldier, was placed in charge of lighting the gunpowder fuse.
- Guy Fawkes was found in the cellar under the House of Lords carrying a lantern, a pocket watch and several matches. Thirty-six barrels of gunpowder were also revealed, hidden under a stack of firewood.
- Guy Fawkes was arrested. King James I, gave his permission for Guy Fawkes to be tortured and he finally confessed to his part in The Gunpowder Plot. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered on 31st January 1606.
- Although he did die on 31st January, Guy Fawkes managed to avoid the agony of being quartered (cut open while still conscious) by jumping from the gallows and breaking his neck.
- The plot failed because an anonymous letter was received by Baron Monteagle (a Catholic who would have been in the House of Lords on 5th November) warning him to stay away to guarantee his safety. The letter was passed to James I and he ordered that the buildings around the House of Lords be thoroughly searched.
- The fact that the Gunpowder Plot failed was celebrated on 5th November 1606 (the year after the event) and on this day every year since. Church bells used to be rung and bonfires were lit.
So whatever you’re doing this bonfire night just… Remember, remember the fifth of November.