The Guy Fawkes Night, Bonfire Night or even the Firework Night – the events on 5th of November have many names. The annual commemoration of the night is one of Britain’s most beloved holidays.
In order to get ready for this fantastic fun night, we’ve been looking into the events leading up to the Guy Fawkes Night. You can find out about the start of the Gunpowder Plot from our previous blog post.
The Problems Along the Way
The five members of the Gunpowder plot – Catesby, Wintour, Percy, Wright and Fawkes – were preparing to blow up the House of Lords during the Opening of the Parliament. In May 1604, the five men took an oath of secrecy and afterwards went their separate ways.
Initially, the men thought the Parliament wouldn’t get together until February 1605, which would have given them plenty of time to get all the gunpowder and equipment needed for the plan. But by December that year it became clear the re-opening of Parliament wouldn’t happen until the autumn the next year.
So, the men began preparing for an assault in November 5th. First, they planned to dig a tunnel underneath the building, fill it with gunpowder and blow the roof off! But the busy London streets eventually made this quite a tricky task.
During their digging, a loft right above their tunnel became vacant and the men were able to purchase it for themselves. The Whynniard’s undercroft was perfectly positioned for operating to fill the House of Lords’ cellars with explosives.
Finding the gunpowder wasn’t much of a problem – although it was in theory under the control of the Parliament, illegal sources were presenting plenty of opportunities. The group bought 20 barrels first and added 16 more in July.
In August, Wintour discovered the gunpowder had decayed in the damp and humid conditions. Luckily for the group, they were able to buy more.
The Final Details
The men and a few other accomplices finalised the details in the taverns of London and Daventry. The plan wasto have Fawkes light the fuse to the gunpowder barrels and to escape across the river Thames. There would also be a revolt in the Midlands, which would help the group to capture Princess Elizabeth.
Afterwards, Fawkes was to travel out of England and tell about the victory for European Catholics. But before the group could even begin planning the escape, the plot went awry.
The Plan Goes Wrong with the Help of a Letter
The different problems the five men encountered during their plotting had meant more people were let in on the secret. As the old saying goes, ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’; the inclusion of new people eventually led to the downfall of the plot.
One of the new conspirators was Francis Tresham. Tresham was Catesby’s cousin and he was brought in because he had the wealth to fund ‘the cause’.
In October, an anonymous letter was sent to Tresham’s brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle, warning about attending the opening of the Parliament, as something bad might happen. Lord Monteagle showed the letter to Robert Cecil, a government official, and a search of the parliamentary buildings began.
On 4th of November, Fawkes was making final preparations and he was found. Fawkes explained he was just carrying the firewood for his master Thomas Percy. Once this information was passed on to the superiors, the authorities got even more concerned as Percy was a known Catholic supporter.
When the men returned to the spot, they found Fawkes, who claimed to be John Johnson. The men also found the 36 barrels of explosives and the plan to blow up the parliament met its end.
What Happened to the Plotters?
While we all now have a night of fireworks and good food to celebrate with, the five men involved in the plot didn’t have such a good fortune.
Guy Fawkes ended up being tortured and managed to hold on to the information until 7th November, when he finally confessed. The king’s guardsmen went after the other conspirators and Catesby, Wright and Percy were killed during a firefight. The other conspirators were sentenced to death.
Fawkes was among those sentenced to the gallows. But instead of dying from the hanging, he broke his neck while attempting to escape.
In January 1606, the Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act 1605 and thus created the annual commemorative event. Although the act is not in force anymore, the day is still marked by bonfires and fireworks!