The Story Behind Bonfire Night

What is Bonfire Night?
Immortalised in the nursery rhyme “Remember remember the 5th of November“, Bonfire Night, aka Guy Fawkes Night, commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when a group of disaffected (dissatisfied) Catholics plotted to assassinate (kill) King James 1 by blowing up the House of Lords (parliament) with 36 barrels of gunpowder.

What was the gunpowder plot about?

The plotters hoped to restore Protestant England to Catholicism and end the persecution of their faith. They planned to put Kings James’ daughter, Elizabeth, on the throne, returning Britain to the Catholic fold.

Who was Guy Fawkes?
Guy Fawkes was the most famous of the plotters.

What happened to him?
Guy Fawkes, along with seven other conspirators, was tortured and executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered (cut in four) on 31 January 1606. You didn’t cross the king in those days! A further three conspirators who died escaping were exhumed (dug up from their graves) and decapitated (beheaded).

How is Bonfire Night celebrated?
A highlight of every child’s social calendar in the late autumn darkness, the night is celebrated with bonfires and firework displays throughout the UK.

What’s that thing on top of the bonfire?
A Guy Fawkes effigy (a home-made model of a man, like a scarecrow, supposed to represent Guy Fawkes) is burned on top of the bonfire. The burning of a “guy” on top of a bonfire has ensured the gunpowder plot endures in the national memory. It's also very popular to make effigies of politicians, such as Boris Johnson.

Happy Bonfire Night from us all at the London School of English Stockholm

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