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Guy Fawkes Night - Bonfire Night

Guy Fawkes Night - Bonfire Night

Guy Fawkes Night is a night of fireworks, bonfires and high treason. But what do we know about Guy Fawkes? And why do Brits celebrate him on November 5th?

Guy Fawkes

It begins with Guy Fawkes, known also as Guido Fawkes.

Born in York, England, on 13 April 1570, Fawkes was a member of a small group of English Catholics. Most commonly known for their failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

A converted Catholic, Fawkes wanted to gain support for a Catholic rebellion in England. So, he left for mainland Europe and fought for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years' War.

He would go on to meet Thomas Winter and the two of them would then return to England.

Guy Fawkes drawing by George Cruickshank
Guy Fawkes drawing by George Cruickshank (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Gunpowder Treason Plot

Winter then introduced Fawkes to Robert Catesby, who had a plan to assassinate King James I; so as to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.

They leased a crypt beneath the Houses of Parliament and started to stockpile gunpowder; which Fawkes was in charge of guarding.

Gunpowder Plot conspirators
Gunpowder plot conspirators: (left to right) Thomas Bates, Robert Winter, Christopher Wright, John Wright, Thomas Perry, Guido Fawkes, Robert Catesby and Thomas Winter (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

However, the authorities received an anonymous letter, with instructions to search Westminster Palace, in the early hours of November 5th. They did as instructed and found Fawkes guarding the explosives.

Detained, questioned and tortured for several days, he finally confessed to his crimes. Thus, prompting his execution on 31 January 1906, in London, England.

Guy Fawkes signature before and after torture
Guy Fawkes signature before (bottom) and after (top) torture (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Immediately before his execution, however, he fell/jumped from the hanging platform and broke his neck. The process of being hanged, drawn and quartered, was not a pleasant one. And fortunately for Fawkes, his 'fall' had spared him from it. Unlike some of his accomplices...

The Execution of Guy Fawkes by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher
The Execution of Guy Fawkes by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Guy Fawkes Night

In celebration of the failed plot to assassinate King James I, people lit bonfires and burnt effigies of Guy Fawkes around London.

And several months later, the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act 1605 enforced an annual public holiday on November 5th. The Observance Act, however, was later removed in 1859.

Today, people still light bonfires and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes, with the addition of fireworks in the 1650s.

Guy Fawkes effigy on bonfire
Guy Fawkes effigy on bonfire (Source: Flickr)

Guy Fawkes Mask

Depicting Guy Fawkes, the Guy Fawkes mask has become a well recognised symbol.

Designed by illustrator David Lloyd, for use in the 1982 book V for Vendetta, as well as it's film adaption in 2005. The mask then went on to appear online, adopted by the leaderless hactivist group Anonymous; for which it has become a well-known symbol.

Anonymous has become an on and offline movement. Known for their moral stance on issues and rights; regardless of direct provocation, legality, or consequence. Primarily targeting: governments, institutions, agencies and corporations.

Well-known movements include: the Occupy movement, Anonymous for the Voiceless, Million Mask March, Operation Safe Winter, Operation KKK and Operation Avenge Assange.

Million Mask March occurs globally on 5th November each year. Where 'Anons' descend on major cities in mass. Marching against government corruption as well as other relevant causes.

Guy Fawkes Mask, Anonymous, Anon
Guy Fawkes Mask, Anonymous Occupy Wall Street (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Guys Fawkes/Leydon Logo

Symbolising the hat of Guy Fawkes, the Leydon Logo has been adapted for Guy Fawkes Night.

Guy Fawkes Leydon Logo Design
Guy Fawkes Leydon Logo Design
"Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot;
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot."

We hope you've enjoyed reading this article on Guy Fawkes and Guy Fawkes Night.

Remember, fireworks can be dangerous. So, please be safe and act responsibly.

There are many fireworks displays occurring in and around Canterbury. So, support your local community and head on down to one.

Don't forget to share this article with your friends!

Cover Photo: Fireworks exploding over town (Source: Pixabay)

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