Firework display at Boughton House, Kettering
© Ben Browning/Alamy Stock Phot
A rare celebration of failure. Guy Fawkes Night
It turns out that history is not always written by the victors. Nearly four centuries ago, on November 4, 1605, a plot to kill King James I was discovered in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament. One participant, Guy Fawkes, had assembled barrels of gunpowder, and was planning to attack the state opening of Parliament the next day. Almost immediately, November 5 was set up as a day to remember the thwarting of the infamous Gunpowder Plot. Over the years, it has evolved into a celebration—though usually stripped of its political and religious connotations—with sparklers, whirling Catherine wheels, bonfires (topped by an effigy known as a Guy) and a bit of folk verse: 'Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot!'