Bonfire Night: A Quick Peek

Key Bonfire Night

Yes you may know that on November 5, 1605 a group of Catholic conspirators were about to blow up the English Parliament and King James I, but did you know that people preferred burning an effigy of the Pope over one of Guy Fawkes?

Though the event was almost 400 years ago in London it’s still a very popular celebration today across the country. Over the centuries it’s changed tremendously too. For a summary of the history around the plot visit my previous post, but if you’re here for some interesting facts please feel free to continue reading.

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1) In January 1606, Parliament passed the Observance of the 5th of November Act 1605 or the Thanksgiving Act, a law designed to enshrine the failed terrorist plot now called the Gunpowder Plot in an annual compulsory church celebration. There were ceremonies and sermons for the day, which have long since disappeared.

The act was only repealed in 1859.

2) In 1688 William of Orange of the Netherlands sailed to England to take control after the largely Protestant nobles decided they wanted to remove the Catholic King James II from the throne. William arrived with 15,000 Dutch troops on November 5th.

For decades after the day served a duo celebration—that of the failed plot of 1605 and that of the arrival of the new monarchy.

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3) Although in popular legend the effigy to burn is that of Guy Fawkes, there were other individuals who’ve gone up in flames way more often on Bonfire Night: the Pope and the devil as early as 1625, Tsar Nicholas I during the Crimean War, the German Kaiser during World War I and some modern politicians.

4) You may think you know the whole poem:

Remember, remember the fifth of November

The Gunpowder, treason and plot

I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot….

but there’s more to remember!

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5) In the 1850s and 60s Exeter, a town in southern England, experienced a number of riots each year on November 5th when the local authorities began to crack down on the bonfires, tar-barrel rolling and fireworks.

 6) Fireworks became truly imbedded in the celebration around 1910, when firework manufacturers began to brand the night as Fireworks Night. Earlier fireworks were homemade but later children would beg for “pennies for the Guy” so they could buy them.

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7) In the 1980s graphic novel writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd were inspired by the plot and created a character, V, who fights a fascist-state by blowing up buildings of importance.

 8) In the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers—the inspiration behind the Disney Classic—the third book of the series describes Mary Poppins arriving on Guy Fawkes Night, in the wake of the last fireworks display by the Banks family.

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9) Prior to each State Opening of Parliament by the Queen, the Yeomen of the Guard still search the cellars of the Palace of Westminister for gunpowder.

10) In response to the rise in fireworks around the celebration the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals laid down guidelines for pet owners in 2004. These included keeping dogs on leads and bringing rabbits and guinea pigs inside the house.

Another suggestion was playing CDs featuring the sounds of fireworks so the pets could become familiar with the noise.

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