By Thomasin Sexton
[Editor’s Note: The intention was to get this out before bonfire night but due to…circumstances it was a bit late. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Thomasin wrote a lovely piece to fill you in.]
“Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason, and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot”
Whenever these words are uttered, one cannot help but to think of the online group, Anonymous, mass protest or even the Muggle movie, V for Vendetta. [Editor’s Note, unless you’re pureblood and have no idea what those things are.] But who was Guy Fawkes and why is he still remembered in this present day and age? This article will hopefully shed some light on this mysterious man and his mission.
Guy Fawkes was born on April 13, 1570 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was christened a Protestant but later changed to a devout Catholic. Afterwards, he traveled to Spain to fight in the Army against the Dutch in the Eighty Years War. Fawkes resented King James I because of his persecution of Catholics in England. Upon his return to Spain, he asked King Phillip III of Spain for help in overthrowing the British monarchy.
King Phillip declined but Fawkes found liked minded men who also wanted to see the end of King James I. He was invited to join this gathering of men who later became known as ‘The Gunpowder Plot’. These men traveled to England and later rented a cellar under Parliament. There, Fawkes secured barrels of gunpowder and stored them directly under the the assembly of the lords. It was Guy Fawkes responsibility to get the powder and light it for the assassination attempt.
However, one of the conspirators was concerned that Lord Monteagle (A fellow Catholic) would also be killed in the blast so the lord was sent an anonymous note to not attend the meeting of the House of Lords. Lord Monteagle passed the note to the king and the king had all the cellars searched under Parliament. During the search, the soldiers found Fawkes and thirty-six barrels of gunpowder waiting to be ignited. At first, Fawkes gave the soldiers a false name. He was arrested and tortured for days until he finally gave up his true name and the names of his fellow conspirators. They were all rounded up and executed for treason.
After the failed assassination plot, King James persecuted the Catholics even more and declared November 5 a celebration of the failing of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’. Over time, this celebration has become known as ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ in modern times and celebrated with the use of sparklers and fireworks. A life styled effigy of Fawkes is traditionally burned in a bonfire as the holiday is also know as ‘Bonfire Night’. Muggles seemed to have emulated our ancient ancestors, the Druids, and their festivals involving bonfires in their own celebrations. Toffee apples, treacle toffee, black peas and parkin, and even the jacket potato, are traditionally eaten around Bonfire Night in parts of England.
There you have it! As you attend the Hogwarts celebration of Bonfire Night this November 5, you will have a bit of history on the origins of this holiday and how it all started with a man named Guy Fawkes and his failed Gunpowder Plot.