Every fifth of November, Britain celebrates Guy Fawkes’ Night by setting off fireworks and lighting bonfires, on which they burn dummies, known as guys.
But why this peculiar custom? In 1605, a man known as Guy Fawkes, alongside a group of several other men, planned to blow up Westminister Parliament in a scheme called “The Gunpowder Plot.” In those times, there was great division between the Catholics and the Protestants; Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters wanted to kill the Protestant king and restore a Catholic to the throne.
The plan was laid: little by little, they would hide gunpowder in a disused storeroom and then come the fatal hour, they would blow the Houses of Parliament sky-high. However, a Lord who would be in parliament that day received a note warning him to stay away. This note was sent by his brother-in-law, who was plotting with Fawkes. The story goes that when the Lord received the note, he was at a party and his servant asked him if he should read it aloud to him in private, but the Lord said, “No, we are among friends here.” Thus, everybody learnt about the plot.
A search took place, during which Guy Fawkes was found. He was tortured for several hours, but he refused to give up any information. Eventually, he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. During this punishment, the person would be partially hanged, before being cut open and dismembered. However, Guy Fawkes jumped off the scaffold whilst he was being hanged, thus killing himself instantly. The king declared that his body should be burnt. Nowadays, this is continued by the burning of effigies on bonfires, and the whole plot is remembered through the rhyme:
Remember, remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot…
The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators
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