Monday, November 5, 2007

Guy Fawkes in the Regency


Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder Treason and Plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot


Of course, since it is November 5 today, I thought I would remind you that celebrating the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes to blow up the British Houses of Parliament in 1605 has been an ongoing event in Britain since that time.

As early as 1607, there is a record of bonfire celebrations taking place in Bristol on November 5th and it was traditional for children to black their faces with the ashes in imitation of Guy Fawkes who, it was believed, performed a similar function in order to try and camouflage himself.

The exact date when "guys" were first introduced into the November 5th festivities is not known, but it would have been while James I was still on the throne. Later, after the reign of Charles II, children began making guys a few days prior to the event and then parading their creations throught the streets while chanting: "Penny for the guy." The money collected was later used to purchase fireworks. The tradition of tossing the guy into the bonfire probably began in the Eighteenth Century and included effigies of the Pope, the Young Pretender and Devils as much as they did Guy Fawkes. The custom of burning the guy had become an integral part of the celebrations by the Nineteenth Century.

Therefore, in Regency times it was most likely celebrated with a village bonfire and the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes or the Pope. Over the years, fireworks were added and these days many people celebrate the evening in their backyards rather than communally.

It would be quite all right to find a bonfire on this day in the Regency and since I am contemplating a book set in November I may well keep this little tid bit in mind.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.