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Published on November 5th, 2015 | by Rob Stebbings

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What Is The Significance Of Bonfire Night?

The skies will be lit with a spectacular array of fireworks tonight to mark the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605.

It may be 410 years since conspirators planned to assassinate King James I and his government by blowing up the Palace of Westminster, but the traditions of celebrating Guy Fawkes Night remain as strong as ever.

Indeed, as well as fireworks lit in back gardens and at organised displays around the country, Bonfire Night is also celebrated in a number of countries around the world that were formerly part of the British Empire.

Failed gunpowder plot

The failed gunpowder plot conspirators were led by Guy Fawkes who was an explosive expert. He was caught in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament along with 36 barrels of gunpowder (weighing 1000kg) before he had the chance to set off the fuse which would have burnt the building to the ground.

To try and illustrate the damage that would have been caused to the Houses of Parliament back in 1605, 1000kg of gunpowder was used to blow up a replica of the iconic building in a television show titled ‘The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding The Legend which was aired in 2005 to coincide with the anniversary.

It was said to be the largest amount of gunpowder ever blown up on camera!

Uncovering of the plot

It was an anonymous letter sent to the Baron of Monteagle warning him not to go to the House of Lords that led to the search of the building and subsequent uncovering of the plot. Upon his capture, Guy Fawkes endured two days of torture in the Tower of London until he confessed his actions.

Guy Fawkes

When the near disaster gunpowder plot was averted, Parliament declared 5th November a national day of thanksgiving and that’s how Bonfire Night came about. Thanks to the long standing tradition of the burning of a ‘guy’ and the lighting of fireworks, the plot of more than 400 years ago remains prominent to this day.

Commemorative coins to mark 400 years

Ten years ago commemorative coins were issued to mark the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ failed assassination attempt on King James I. As we discussed in a recent Change Checker guest blog article, the 2005 Gunpowder Plot £2 coin is very well know to collectors for having a spelling mistake in the edge inscription.

Gunpowder Plot Coin

The timeless quote “Remember, remember the fifth of November” has been found with various combinations of Pemember, Pemembep, Novemebep and so on. The common factor here is the ‘R’ which appears as a ‘P’.

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