Friday, 5 November 2010

Remember, Remember

Engraving of the thirteen Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, Crispijin Van Der Passe.

A timely viewing of V For Vendetta last night brought about thoughts of The Gunpowder Plot and, of course, tonight's holiday - Bonfire Night. Not a holiday in the taking-an-extra-day-off-work sense of the word, but a reason to make a bonfire, light fireworks and stand around in fields or back gardens staring up at the sky. I've been studying The Gunpowder Plot in some way or another since primary school; the above engraving being the usual teaching aid of choice to point out the nefarious conspirators. I could honestly say that I've looked at this engraving virtually every year of my school-life, from the age of four to the age of eighteen, and then even again at university. It's an ingrained and deeply rooted tradition; fun, but with a sinister little kick that's quite unique.

So, on this night in 1605, the cellars of the Houses of Parliament were searched for gunpowder and Guy Fawkes was the man with the very dubious honour of being caught red-handed. He was arrested and sent to the Tower of London, where he was subsequently tortured and interrogated. The rest has gone down in the annals of history: Fawkes confessed, his co-conspirators were either killed in a gun battle or arrested and executed along with Fawkes himself.

Top: Guy Fawkes signature after torture. Bottom: His signature a few days later

Most interesting for me is the mystery which still surrounds the anonymous "tip-off" letter that led to the uncovering of the plan. Some historians believe the culprit to be Francis Tresham, a named conspirator in Guy Fawkes' confession. It is certainly curious that although Tresham was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower, he was not executed. It is also suspected by some that his death, attributed to natural causes, may have actually been caused by poison. Hundreds of years later, the plot is still as thick as ever...

Have a great weekend, whether it be firework-filled or not!
All images courtesy of Wikipedia.


  1. Hi Laura,
    I've not heard of this fireworks celebration before even though I know of Fawkes. In Canada, our fireworks come out in May to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday!
    Enjoy your weekend.

  2. I was asked by a colleague at work why we (we? how would I know?) celebrate the fact that somebody tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament...I had to admit defeat and say I had no idea why... I still don't :-D Have a great week, Love from London xo

  3. Hope you had a great weekend, Ingrid. I knew that you celebrated Queen Victoria's birthday, but didn't realise it was with fireworks...

    Mademoiselle - It does seem like a macabre reason to celebrate, but the reason is that it was because the plot didn't succeed. King James I ordered that every November 5th be a celebration of the failure of the plot to serve as a timely reminder. I think sometimes this reason gets lost (after all, hundreds of years have passed). Even so, it's a strange holiday all the same! Hope you're having a great week! :)