Updated: Jul 14
Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot...
Will you be celebrating Bonfire Night? Or, to give it its rightful name, Guy Fawkes Night? You probably know that this is when Guy Fawkes (who seemed to prefer the name Guido) was caught red handed underneath the Houses of Parliament in 1605, the House of Lords to be precise, guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder which he and his conspirators intended to use to blow up Parliament. In doing so they hoped that they would kill the King, James I. But did you know that there was an Act of Parliament passed in 1606 - The Observance of 5th November Act 1605, also known as the "Thanksgiving Act"? The Bill was drafted and introduced on 23 January 1605/06 (in those days the first day of the year was in March so January was still in 1605 - but that's another story) and called for a public annual thanksgiving for the failure of the plot. It required church ministers to hold a special service of thanksgiving annually on 5th November during which the text of the act was to be read out loud. Everyone was required to attend and to remain orderly throughout the service. People across London lit bonfires to celebrate the fact that the King had survived the attempt on his life and soon "Gunpowder Treason Day", as it was known, became a state commemoration.
After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion as he had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case and 13 young men decided that violent action was the answer. Today these conspirators would be known as extremists, or terrorists.
As the group worked on the plot, it became clear that innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack, including some people who even fought for more rights for Catholics and some of the plotters started having second thoughts. It is said that one of the group members sent an anonymous letter to his friend, Lord Monteagle, warning him to stay away from Parliament on November 5th. The warning letter reached the King, who made plans to stop the conspirators. Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th, was caught, tortured and executed. The other conspirators were also soon caught and suffered the same fate, with the exception of Francis Tresham who became ill and died in prison.
Several smaller plots had been discovered in the years prior to 1605 and a number of the plotters were already known to the authorities so it seems unlikely that they would have been able to store 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar of parliament without anyone noticing and the warning letter is today believed to have been fabricated by the King's officials. It is believed that they already knew about the plot because one of the plotters, Francis Tresham, had informed them of the key points. So historians think the letter was written by the King's officials to explain how he found out about the plot and stopped it. The wording of the letter was quite vague so as to give the officials room to falsify confessions and support their own anti-Catholic agenda. There are two notable things that support this theory : firstly, the letter was unsigned. None of the conspirators seems to have known about the letter and it is reasonable to assume that any one of them might have tried to save themselves from torture and death if they could claim to have written it but none of them did. Secondly, the letter was very vague and said nothing about the details of the plan but still the King and his men knew when and where to catch the plotters and stop the explosion.
The Gunpowder Plot struck a very profound chord with the people of England. In fact, even today, the reigning monarch only enters Parliament once a year, on 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 and the Queen and Parliament still observe this tradition.
The Observance of 5th November Act 1605 was repealed in 1859, however, it is still a very common custom in the UK to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. People hold house parties, set off fireworks, light bonfires and burn an effigy of Guy. And, of course, there is lots of party food. Some councils also arrange public displays.
If you are having friends around for a bonfire party, why not put some fire in their bellies with a box of chilli chocolate cupcakes?
I am offering a box of 12 chilli chocolate cupcakes for only £24.00 per box!
That's a massive 50p off each scrummy cupcake!
Yes, I know, it's another crazy deal from me so make the most of it
while you can!
Designs may vary from the picture shown. Minimum order of 12 cupcakes
Last date for orders is Friday 2nd November
Most importantly folks, please, please, PLEASE remember to keep all your pets indoors as this can be a very scary time for them and don't forget to check your bonfire for hedgehogs before you light it.
Stay safe everyone, have a great time and make sure you follow the fireworks code.
Remember, remember, the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot!
And don't forget that you can also order your celebration cakes too! Christmas is coming and I am currently taking orders. There is a limited number of slots available so get in quick to avoid disappointment. Use the contact details above for your Christmas orders too!
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