What is Bonfire Night in England? Who was Guy Fawkes and why do people wear his mask? In this English culture and history lesson I talk about the traditions of Guy Fawkes night and tell you the story of the Gunpowder Plot, which happened on November 5th 1605. Find out why Guy Fawkes wanted to blow up The Houses of Parliament and what happened to him when the plot was discovered. Find out also about how he was gruesomely tortured in The Tower of London for his attempt to kill King James I. I’ll show you how we celebrate Bonfire Night in England today, and how these celebrations have changed even within my own lifetime. And finally, Guy Fawkes himself will perform V’s introductory speech from V for Vendetta.
Watch more of my videos about England:
Walk with me in London’s Covent Garden:
Learn about the London Street Accent:
Good day to you, students. In this lesson I’m going to talk to you about Bonfire Night and a man who once lived, called Guido Fawkes. We start with a story from a long time ago, in the year 1533, the king of England was King Henry VIII. And what King Henry did was he established the Church of England, and he split away from the Church of Rome and created a new religion called Protestantism. Then, in the long history that passed by, there were troubles between Catholics who wanted their religion to stay the same, and Protestants in the long history of England. Sometimes Catholicism was a religion of England, and other times Protestantism was the religion of England. So there were many troubles at that time.
We move forward to the year 1605, a different king, a different time. King James I was the king of England. Now, something terrible happened to King James I, and this is where our story gets really exciting. It was the 5th of November, in the year of 1605. It should have been just any other day in the parliament, the Houses of Parliament in London. But this was not just any day in the Houses of Parliament, for this was the day there was a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder. Pew. But, actually, it did not happen.
Why did somebody want to blow up the Houses of Parliament? There was a man, called Guy Fawkes or Guido Fawkes, as he was also known, and he wanted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and he wanted to kill King James I. And the reason for this terrible act to want to kill the king was because Guy Fawkes was a Catholic, and James I, as the king of England at that time, was a Protestant king. And Guy Fawkes, he wanted more rights for Catholics, so he believed in what he was doing, he thought if he blows up the Houses of Parliament, pew: „I shall get everything that I want and life in England should be good for Catholics.”
But no, it did not work out that way. It did not happen because an anonymous letter was sent to one of the fine gentlemen who usually sits in the Houses of Parliament who was supposed to be there on that day, the great Lord Monteagle. And he received this letter, and can you imagine his surprise when he opened this letter and it said: „Do not go to the Houses of Parliament on the 5th of November because something might happen. Do not go.” Now, of course, Mr. Lord Monteagle thought: „Well, this is… This is strange to receive such a letter. What might happen if I go to the Houses of Parliament on this day?” So he raised the alarm, and they went to search the Houses of Parliament, and that’s where they discovered the 36 barrels of gunpowder, but just in time. It did not blow up.
So, who…? Who was behind this, this treasonous act, who was it? Who wanted to blow up the king and the Houses of Parliament? Why, it was me, it was me, it was Guy Fawkes. So, what did they do when they caught poor me, Guy Fawkes? Well, it was terrible, more terrible than you could ever imagine. First, they took me to the Tower of London, the terrible Tower of London and there they tortured me, like torture you have never heard so terrible before. More painful than you can ever imagine. They put me on the rack and they stretched out my arms and my legs until I was screaming and crying in pain for them to stop. They stretched my body so long, it was going on forever. I thought I would die, die of the agony. And they told me: „Confess to your… Confess to your terrible crimes. Confess. We will stop torturing you, we will stop stretching your limbs. All you must do is sign this confession. Sign, and we will stop torturing you.” So I did what I could. My hands were like jelly, I couldn’t hold the pen. I did what I could to sign my name and they did stop torturing me, but that was not the end.