ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Bonfire of Darkness

Updated on November 5, 2009

A look at the origins of Bonfire Night and its modern relevance.

Once again it's bonfire night, rockets are whizzing through the air screaming as they go and fires are blazing, crackling hypnotically in the darkness. Children from all over the UK are having a good time burning effigies of Guy Fawkes whilst watching sparklers, Catherine wheels and roman candles. Anyone would think that the 5th of November was a celebration of Guy Fawkes himself, a historical traitor who has now been immortalised in this day of joy and wonder.

Bonfire night is technically the celebration of the thwarting of 'The Gunpowder Plot'. The last Tudor monarch, daughter of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I decided early on in her reign to support the English Protestant Church and become their Supreme Governor. In 1570 the Pope Pius V promptly excommunicated her but his successor went one step further, Pope Gregory XIII attempted to order her assassination in 1580. Over the years of her reign various Catholic plots challenged her aiming to replace her with a Catholic monarch and return England to its 'old religion'. Elizabeth grew less and less tolerant of the Catholics along with her religious followers and persecuted them making Catholicism effectively illegal. In 1559 she introduced 12p fines for not attending church and the Catholic clergy who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy lost their office. Later in her reign she introduced a law where the attendance of mass was punishable by an extremely high fine and the saying or arranging of mass to be said carried the death penalty. In 1581 the fine for not attending church was raised to £20, a phenomenally high amount considering the average knight earned approximately £50 a year. The establishment of Elizabeth I later became the Church of England but left in its wake a mob of disgruntled Catholics.

When Elizabeth I died the Catholics of Britain were overjoyed and hopeful that the new King, James I of England, would bring with him a fresh tolerance to his reign. This did not happen quite as planned. James was only very slightly more tolerant than Elizabeth until the third attempt on his life by Catholic religious conspirators. He then introduced an Act requiring any citizen to take an Oath of Allegiance, denying the pope's authority over the monarch. To Catholics this was simply heretical.

The Gunpowder plot was one of these attempts on the life of James I by Catholic terrorists. Thirteen Catholic restorationists came together and planned in detail to blow up the Houses of Parliament effectively killing the King and all the Members of Parliament, the Protestant aristocracy, in attendance rendering England with no internal leadership. Robert Catesby was the mastermind behind this plot with his fellow conspirators; Thomas Winter , Robert Winter, John Wright, Christopher Wright, Robert Keyes, Thomas Percy, John Grant, Ambrose Rokewood, Sir Everard Digby, Francis Tresham and Thomas Bates. The final conspirator was Guy Fawkes, a military man with 10 years experience fighting with the Spanish against the Dutch, a master of explosives and tactics.

The plan was to put barrels of explosives underneath the House of Lords which they had rented and detonate them on the 5th of November, the State opening of Parliament. Guy Fawkes, with his military experience, was to take the key role of detonator whilst his comrades headed north to inspire an uprising after the King was dead. However, an anonymous letter was sent to Lord Monteagle on Friday 26th October which warned him to stay out of Parliament on the 5th. Strangely the conspirators knew about the letter and still resolved to carry on with their treason. The King, having seen the letter, ordered a thorough search of the Parliament and the cellars beneath it. Guy Fawkes was caught in the act, trying to leave the cellar full with barrels of gunpowder and was promptly arrested. The Catholic terrorists were tried on January 27 1606 and executed.

So what is Bonfire night? It marks the downfall of the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, we celebrate the fact that Guy Fawkes was caught and burn his image on a bonfire as would have happened to James I had the plot succeeded. This is a public holiday with a very dark origin and a somewhat confusing morality. In all the fun and frivolity the seriousness of treason and terrorism is forgotten and the reason why this holiday exists. We look at 9/11 with fear and sadness at the lives lost and hatred towards the evildoers who orchestrated it. We look at war such as Afghanistan and Iraq, a supposed tale of glory, watching the death tolls involved with disgust and pain. So why is we look at bonfire night and smile? Perhaps we are right to be proud of the fact that a terrorist act was stopped and the culprits caught, but let us not forget that terrorism of any type and any degree is evil, inhumane and overall despicable. Let it be a lesson to us all that from anywhere external or internal an attack may come and devastate our country. Most of all let it unite us against this darkness and be a lesson to those who wish to do harm.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)