Guy Fawkes

Burning bright – bonfire week in London

Remember, remember, the fifth of November… all this week bonfires will burn bright and fireworks will explode in luminous exuberance against darkening autumnal skies in remembrance of a long ago plot designed to restore Catholicism as the official religion of the country.

 

If you’re staying at the Strand Palace Hotel, you’re seconds away from exploring the places and palaces Guy – known as Guido whilst fighting in Spain – Fawkes planned to blow up some centuries past, his aim being an end to Parliament and a plunge into a religious war – time past is time present in this part of London.

 

The State Opening of Parliment – 1605

Parliament is just a few minutes walk away from the Strand Palace Hotel.  This exquisite building is where explosives were laid out more than 400 years ago in a detailed and potentially country-changing plot. The intent was to take England back to Catholicism and to take out the regent of the time, King James I.  The assassination failed, the explosives were discovered, the Gunpowder plot was foiled, and Guy Fawkes was charged with treason.

 

An Act of Thanksgiving, 1606

For Guy Fawkes, there was precious little to be thankful for. Sectioned to suffer the standard punishment of the day – being hung, drawn and quartered – he nevertheless managed to jump from the gallows and break his neck. By taking a leap off the gallows opposite Westminster, he succeeded in being subversive until the end. Today, the place where he made his final mark still reverberates with political ramifications. Take the short walk from the Strand Palace to Westminster to a soak up centuries of significant moments.

 

Bonfire Night, from the 17th century to now

If you’re in London in November, the skies will be theatrical. Take a boat down the river from Embankment pier and watch the fireworks exploding from Westminster to the City, with skyscrapers silhouetted against a marmalade sky, as the Beatles would almost have sung. Bonfires are lit across the country and London, with various figures dressed up as the ‘guy’ atop of the flames, depending on who’s hitting the headlines and is out of favour at the time. Had Guy Fawkes succeeded in his Catholic coup, he would have changed the story of England forever, and the fireworks that light up every park and many a garden in the city reflect that significance in fluorescent swirls and sparkles.

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