“Remember, remember the 5th of November; Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot.”
Tonight is Guy Fawkes’ Night in the UK – an annual commemoration of the failed 1605 plot by English Catholics to blow up Parliament and kill the Protestant King, James I. But Americans used to “remember” the 5th of November too.
After the Glorious Revolution of 1689, in which a Protestant monarchy was firmly established, Guy Fawkes’ Night came to be celebrated as a Royal Holiday throughout Britain and the colonies. It was especially popular in New England, where it was known as “Pope’s Night.” In Boston, it became a rowdy and unabashedly anti-Catholic event, complete with warring street gangs, bonfires, and papal effigies (The Bostonian Society has a great account of the festivities). George Washington even forbade soldiers of the Continental Army from celebrating it in 1775, while encamped in Boston, for fear its anti-Catholic message would alienate French sympathies for the American cause.
While the celebrations of “Pope’s Night” gradually died out after the revolution, the anti-Catholicism it reflected long continued to be an important force in American life.
Image: Broadside celebrating “Pope-Night,” printed in Boston, 1768. From the Library of Congress time capsule project.
October 24, 1926: Harry Houdini’s Last Performance
On this day in 1926, world famous magician Harry Houdini performed his last show at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan at age 52. Born Erik Weisz in Hungary, Houdini was noted for his escape acts as audiences marveled at daring stunt performances with shackles, ropes, handcuffs, and straitjackets.
To explore how Harry Houdini captivated audiences, watch Thirteen Specials’ “No Escaping Houdini” for more on his magical legacy.
Photo: 1895 lithograph “Harry Houdini, King of Cards” (Library of Congress).
On October 24th, 1537, Jane Seymour died at Hampton Court Palace of postnatal complications following the birth of her only child, the future Edward VI. He has been born after a long and difficult labour 12 days before, and would be the only surviving legitimate son of Henry VIII.
Jane’s death is thought to have been due to either an infection from a retained placenta, puerperal fever caused by an infection after the birth, or a tear in her perineum which became infected. She was buried on November 12th, and the following inscription was placed above her grave:
Here lieth a Phoenix, by whose death
Another Phoenix life gave breath:
It is to be lamented much
The world at once ne’er knew two such.
On October 22nd, in 1781, a much longed for son was born to Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. The Queen had gone into labour in the early morning hours, and, as the King later wrote "At exactly a quarter past one by my watch she was successfully delivered of a boy."
Silence greeted his birth, and Marie Antoinette assumed that she had given the country another Princess. Her husband was the one who broke the news to her saying "Madame, you have fulfilled our wishes and those of France, you are the mother of a Dauphin".
The new heir to the throne was named Louis Joseph Xavier Francois, named as such after his father and Bourbon ancestors, along with his Habsburg godfather and uncle, Joseph II.