It feels a bit odd when we talk about ‘celebrating’ Bonfire Night, not least because rejoicing in our government’s ability to ‘repel the Catholic threat’ feels just a tad outdated.
But, regardless of all that, I still wanted to ‘celebrate’ Bonfire Night history-nerd style, so here is a list of five things you (hopefully) don’t already know about the events of the 5th November…
- While Guy Fawkes has become the face of the Gunpowder Plot, the main man behind the operation was a devout and charming Catholic called Robert Catesby. Despite failing to convince Philip III of Spain to invade England, or even to gain a Papal blessing for his plan, Catesby was nonetheless clearly undeterred by this. Fawkes was actually introduced to the Gunpowder Plot relatively late, brought in due to his expertise with explosives.
- St. Peter’s School in York is the only place in the UK to not celebrate Bonfire Night. Fawkes attended the school as a child and, out of respect for their former pupil, the school refuses to burn his image or celebrate his demise.
- Speaking of his demise, Fawkes was tortured for four days before he finally admitted to his part in the conspiracy. The National Archives in the UK actually hold his signed confessions.
- While it is tradition to burn an effigy of Fawkes, he was actually hanged, drawn and quartered, rather than burned at the stake.
- Finally, it turns out that fireworks were accidentally discovered by a Chinese cook in the 10th Century – he mixed potassium nitrate or saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal and set the concoction alight. This process resulted in colourful flames, much like the kind that will light up the sky tonight.