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The Gunpowder Plot

James I England
“Remember, remember the fifth of November.
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.”

November 5, 1605 will forever be one of the most memorable dates in British history. It was the day when King James I of England was nearly assassinated.

Guy Fawkes was a well known member of the Catholic religion, and was the primary figure behind the Gunpowder Plot. He began to organize the plan with fellow conspirator, Robert Catesby, after King James I took over the throne in 1603. Prior to King James’ rule, the country was largely under the leadership of people who practiced the Protestant religion and were not tolerant of those from the Catholic faith. The Catholic people felt underrepresented, mistreated, and abused, but they had hopes that things would improve with the new King. Instead, they got worse.

King James created an order that demanded all Catholic priests leave England. Those who practiced the religion were persecuted, and a small group of them came together and devised a plot to kill the King. Fawkes and Catesby led the group by devising a plan to place dynamite under the House of Parliament and set it off during a session that would be attended by the King and many of the top Protestant leaders of the time.

Fawkes set up the dynamite, and things seemed to be going according to plan until a group of guards made an unexpected check of the cellar where the explosives had been readied. The guards took Fawkes into custody, and the plot was thwarted. While in prison, Fawkes was tortured until he finally gave the names of the other members of his group. Every last one of them was rounded up and killed. Several were hung, including Fawkes, then drawn and quartered.

On the night that King James I was meant to have been killed, he ordered a large bonfire to celebrate his survival. At the top of the fire was an effigy of Guy Fawkes. This became an annual tradition, and to this day November 5 is commemorated with a fireworks display and bonfires. A simple children’s rhyme was also devised to ensure that the story of this plot would be passed down from generation to generation.

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