Remember, remember! The fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason Why the Gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot!
The often-recited poem was written approximately 265 years after Guy Fawkes' daring plans were attempted, so remember they did! However, now, the emphasis is less on the treason and plot and more on the biggest and brightest fireworks lighting up the night sky.
In case your child asks who the man is on the bonfire next month and why we celebrate, here's a quick reminder...
During Henry VIII's reign from 1533 to 1540, the King took control of the Church in England from Rome, ending the Catholic dominance and beginning decades of religious turmoil. Elizabeth I furthered the unrest after her father died and demanded that anyone in political office or within the church had to swear allegiance to her as the head of state and church.
Elizabeth I, famously dubbed the 'Virgin Queen,' had no heir which created a lot of controversy as to who should succeed her. Ultimately, James VI of Scotland, the son of Elizabeth's cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, became James I of England.
James was also protestant. However, he was far more tolerant of Catholics than his predecessors and, as his mother was Catholic, it was hoped that he would revert to Catholicism for England. He did not, which led to many plans to kidnap and assassinate James I being made.
This is when the Gunpowder Plot (or Jesuit Treason) was actioned.
On the 5th of November 1605, there was to be the State Opening of England's Parliament at the House of Lords. The primary goal was to kill the James I but, also, other significant protestant leaders would also perish. The ultimate intention was to imprison James' two sons and install his daughter, 9-year-old Princess Elizabeth who was third in line, on the throne and as a Catholic Head of State.
The plotters managed to plant 36 barrels of explosives in the cellar of the House of Lords.
However, Lord Monteagle, the brother-in-law of one of the plotters, who was to attend the State Opening, received a mysterious letter warning him that he was in grave danger and not to go to the House of Lords. The letter was shown to Robert Cecil, the Chief Minister, who ordered a search of the cellars. There, he discovered the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes who was the explosive expert.
We remember Guy Fawkes above all the other plotters because he was the first caught and the person that named the other thirteen conspirators whilst being tortured. It was actually John Grant who devised the plan. All were caught, hanged, drawn and quartered.
James I ordered an official annual celebration on the 5th of November to commemorate the foiled plot. People lit bonfires, but the original 'Guy' was not Guy Fawkes but a representation of the Pope and then, later, current hate-figures. It was not until the late 18th Century when children would ask for “penny for the Guy” that the effigies were perceived as Guy Fawkes and the celebration became known as Guy Fawkes Night.
Bonfire Night 2013 in Cambridge
So, now you have the history of Guy Fawkes, or Bonfire, Night, where can you celebrate in Cambridge?
There will be a firework display, bonfire and funfair at Cambridge's Midsummer Common on the 5th of November from 7.30pm (funfair will open at 6pm). Entry is free, but a donation of £1 each is suggested.
Some areas will be better than others for viewing, and some will be closed to the public completely, so please click here for further details on where to watch from and where to park.
Wrap up warm and have fun!
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