05 November 2012

Bonfire Night in Cambridge

I was finally able to see Bonfire Night celebrations in England! This is something I've wanted to do for quite a long time. Thanks to the movie V for Vendetta, many Americans can probably even recite one of the old nursery rhymes that sprang up in the years following the plot, and has served as a warning over the centuries of what happens to those who commit treason:

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

Because I am all about knowing the reasons behind celebrations (no matter how grim): Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night is rooted in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. After the English Civil War, King James I (the first king of a new dynasty - a Stewart, not a Tudor, and Protestant), though supposedly tolerant of Catholics, did nothing to quell the ongoing persecution of Catholics in England. As his mother was Mary Queen of Scots (Catholic), many people expected that he would take a more tolerant and open stance toward Catholics in England. In short, a number of Catholic conspirators plotted to assassinate King James I during the State Opening of Parliament. In a 'chance' search, 36 barrels of gunpowder were discovered in the under-croft below the House of Lords, with Guy Fawkes standing watch. He was tried as a traitor, and he was hanged, drawn, and quartered as punishment.

even without a tripod, some of these turned out okay. 

This was my first time taking my new camera out for fireworks. I only did a minimal bit of reading up on the settings and other things to make sure of before heading out. We had a decent location, though there was one tree that was sometimes in the way. I foolishly brought my new (to me) really long lens, so I wasn't able to get the wide shots that I wanted.

And some surprised me

Being the Queen's Jubilee year, and coming just a few short months after the Olympics, the whole of the UK seems to still be riding on a high of national pride. I say go with it. I have to admit that the fireworks I saw in Cambridge tonight, were some of the best I have ever seen in my life. I was surely the loud American in the crowd, Oooohing and Aaaaahing over the really pretty ones, the huge mortars, and the fantastic displays. 

The finale was pretty remarkable, and I was really impressed. 
Following the fireworks, we walked over to the bridge to see the bonfire, and get a few of the fair going on. The fire seemed much more difficult to capture than the fireworks! Also, this bonfire does not have Guy Fawkes effigies burning. 

Hurrah for our bonfire,
Oh, pile it up high,
For tonight...yes tonight...
When it blazes up bright
A traitor must die!
How he'll crackle and burn,
Our jolly old Guy!

So the next time you hear the "Please to Remember the 5th of November" rhyme, I hope you'll think of more than bonfires, fireworks, and fun, but of a little bit of the history behind it as well!

No comments: