Guy Fawkes night is a fantastic event for fun and fireworks. The roots of the celebrations are also rather unique – you don’t often have a fun night out on the day when a group of men tried to blow up the Parliament. But that’s what the Gunpowder Plot was destined to do and we still light bonfires to showcase the flames.
So, what went wrong? In this second part of our two-part series on the Gunpowder Plot, we examine what happened on November 5th and afterwards. What came of the big plan to kill the King?
If you want to learn more about the plot and the conspirators, then check out the first post.
The plot is leaked to the King
The plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill James I was getting along nicely. However, the plan wasn’t the only Catholic rebellion taking place in the country and lots of smaller plots were foiled. The King and his spies had eyes and ears everywhere.
Indeed, many of the conspirators were already been watched – they were known as traitors. As the plot begins to take shape and the gunpowder is placed in the cellar below the Parliament, an anonymous letter is sent to Lord Monteagle. He was Francis Tresham’s brother-in-law and the letter simply asks him not to attend the opening of the Parliament. Was it Tresham who sent the letter? To this day, it’s unclear who tipped Lord Monteagle but he did show the letter to Robert Cecil, the King’s chief minister.
The conspirators find out about the letter but they decide to continue pursuing the plan. Of course, the letter is later shown to James I and the King suspects something might be about to go up in flames. The King and the Privy Council decided to search the compounds of the Parliament.
What happened on November 5th?
Just after midnight, the cellars and vaults are searched for the second time. Guy Fawkes is found holding a fuse and matches – a later search finds the 36 gunpowder barrels. Guy Fawkes uses his pseudonym John Johnson and tries to plead his innocence. The King doesn’t quite buy this and orders him to be tortured.
Interestingly, the country lit up bonfires on November 5th to celebrate the safety of the King. This is why the night is often known as Bonfire Night.
The aftermath of the plot
When the other conspirators hear about the arrest, they flee London to the Midlands. Guy Fawkes holds on until the following day and eventually reveals his true identity and those of the plotters.
The authorities find the conspirators in Holbeche House in Staffordshire where they decide to make a final staff. Outnumbered and outgunned, Catesby, Percy and the Wright brothers die in a shootout. The rest are brought to the Tower of London for interrogation and eventually tried.
In the court, the remaining plotters are found guilty of treason. The sentence was death by hanging in public to acts as a warning to others who might plot against the King.
The story is quite an action-packed drama. It’s also a rather quirky occasion to celebrate – are you honouring the attempt to stick it up to the Parliament or the fact the plotters didn’t succeed?
Well, whatever your take on the plot is, the occasion is perfect for bonfires and fireworks. So, let’s enjoy the night, organise a massive party and brighten the dark November night sky with fireworks.