Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by sam. sam Wonders, “How was Guy Fawkes captured?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, sam!

“Remember, remember! The fifth of November!” You may know these lines from the famous poem. But do you know why we remember the fifth of November? It’s because of the “gunpowder treason and plot,” of course! More specifically, it’s the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605. To understand the Gunpowder Plot, we can start with Guy Fawkes.

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York. That’s an area of today’s United Kingdom. Fawkes was born a Protestant and later became Catholic. At that time, being Catholic in England was a crime. People got in trouble for going to Catholic churches or printing Catholic books. They didn’t want Catholic people to serve in Parliament or become teachers. For either of these jobs, people had to swear loyalty to the Protestant church.

This made life hard for Catholic people in England. In response, some planned to rebel. The Gunpowder Plot is the most well-known of these plans. Robert Catesby was the mastermind. The plot was to blow up the Westminster Palace in 1605. In doing so, he hoped to get rid of King James I and members of Parliament. He asked friends Thomas Winter, John Wright, and Thomas Percy to help. 

The group needed someone with knowledge of explosives. That’s where Guy Fawkes came in. He had served in the Spanish army and knew a lot about gunpowder. Fawkes agreed to join the group. They also brought others in on the plan. In total, the plot involved 13 people.

What was the plan? The group rented a cellar below the Palace of Westminster. There, Fawkes hid 36 barrels of gunpowder. The plan was for him to light the gunpowder while King James I and Parliament were inside.

Have you ever tried to keep a secret? It can be hard. The more people who know the secret, the more likely it is to get out. So, how did the Gunpowder Plot stay secret with 13 people involved?

It didn’t. One member of the group sent a letter to Lord Monteagle, a member of Parliament. In the letter, the unnamed writer warned Monteagle to stay away from the Palace of Westminster. The writer told Monteagle that the palace would suffer a “terrible blow” and that he should find a reason not to be there.

After reading it, Monteagle sent the letter to the chief minister of King James I. Officials didn’t think there was any real threat, but they searched the Palace of Westminster and its grounds, anyway. That’s how, on November 5, they found Guy Fawkes preparing to light 36 barrels of gunpowder below the palace. Fawkes was arrested. He was questioned until officials learned the names of everyone else in the Gunpowder Plot and arrested them, too.

In 2003, the Centre for Explosion Studies at the University of Aberystwyth wanted to learn how much damage the Gunpowder Plot would have caused if successful. They found that there would have been total destruction within a 40-yard radius of the barrels. Windows as far as 900 yards away would have been broken. It would have hurt countless people.

Today, many around the world remember Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot on November 5. He’s a controversial figure as a symbol of both violence and liberty. Will you “Remember, remember the fifth of November?” What other events in history can we compare to the Gunpowder Plot? Do you know of any historical figures who are similar to or different from Guy Fawkes?

Standards: C3.D2.Civ.8, C3.D2.Civ.12, C3.D2.12, C3.D2.Civ.14, C3.D2.His.2, C3.D2.His.3, C3.D2.His.4, C3.D2.His.5, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, C3.D2.Geo.2, CCRA.R.10

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