Observance of 5th November Act 1605

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Observance of 5th November Act 1605
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn act for a publick thanksgiving to Almighty God every year on the fifth day of November.
Citation3 Jas. 1. c. 1
Introduced byEdward Montagu
Royal assent27 May 1606
Repealed25 March 1859
Other legislation
Repealed byAnniversary Days Observance Act 1859
Status: Repealed
Text of statute as originally enacted

The Observance of 5th November Act 1605,[1] also known as the Thanksgiving Act, was an act of the Parliament of England passed in 1606 in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.

The originating bill was drafted and introduced on 23 January 1606 (New Style) by Edward Montagu and called for an annual public thanksgiving for the failure of the plot.[2][3] It required church ministers to hold a special service of thanksgiving annually on 5 November, during which the text of the act was to be read out loud. Everyone was required to attend, and to remain orderly throughout the service, although no penalties were prescribed for breach. The act remained on the statute book until 1859.


The preamble to the act set out the political background, noting that

"many malignant and devilish Papists, Jesuits, and Seminary Priests, much envying and fearing, conspired most horribly, when the King's most excellent Majesty, the Queen, the Prince, and the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, should have been assembled in the Upper House of Parliament upon the Fifth Day of November in the Year of our Lord One thousand six hundred and five, suddenly to have blown up the said whole House with Gunpowder : An Invention so inhuman, barbarous and cruel, as the like was never before heard of".[1]

It further stated that, as some of the principal conspirators had confessed, the conspiracy was purposely devised to be done in the House

"where sundry necessary and religious Laws for Preservation of the Church and State were made, which they falsely and slanderously term Cruel Laws, enacted against them and their Religion, both Places and Persons should all be destroyed and blown up at once ; which would have turned to the utter Ruin of this whole Kingdom, had it not pleased Almighty God, by inspiring the King's most excellent Majesty with a Divine Spirit, to interpret some dark Phrases of a Letter showed to his Majesty, above and beyond ordinary Construction, thereby miraculously discovering this hidden Treason not many Hours before the appointed Time for the Execution thereof".[1]

The preamble concluded by setting out the purpose of the act:

"And to the End this unfeigned Thankfulness may never be forgotten, but be had in a perpetual Remembrance, that all Ages to come may yield Praises to his Divine Majesty for the same, and have in Memory this joyful Day of Deliverance" ...[1]


Original text

The act required that all "Ministers in every Cathedral and Parish Church, or other usual Place for Common Prayer … shall always upon the fifth Day of November say Morning Prayer, and give unto Almighty God Thanks for this most happy Deliverance". During the service the minister had to "publickly, distinctly and plainly" read out the text of the act.[1]

It further required all persons to "diligently and faithfully resort to the Parish Church or Chapel accustomed" on 5 November and "to abide orderly and soberly during the Time of said Prayers, Preaching or other Services of God."[1]

Every minister was required to give warning to his parishioners publicly in the church at morning prayer on the Sunday beforehand.[1]

The act prescribed no penalties or other consequences should its requirements be breached.


The Observance of 5th November Act 1605 was one of the first examples of legislative commemoration, serving as a template for similar legislation requiring commemoration of the Virginian massacre (1622), the Irish Rebellion (1641), the execution of Charles I (1649), and the Stuart Restoration (1660) on Royal Oak Apple Day.[4][5]


The law was repealed on 25 March 1859 by the Anniversary Days Observance Act.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Observance of 5th November Act 1605 (3 Ja I, ch 1)". Statutes at Large. Vol. IV. London. 1811. pp. 631–632.
  2. ^ Cust, Richard (2004). "Montagu, Edward, first Baron Montagu of Boughton (1562/3–1644)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Antonia Fraser, The Gunpowder Plot. Terror and Faith in 1605 (BCA, 1996), p. 218.
  4. ^ Cressy 1992, page 71 and note 5.
  5. ^ Cressy 1992, page 75 and note 16.
  6. ^ "[22 Vict. c.2] An Act to repeal certain Acts and Parts of Acts which relate to the Observance of the Thirtieth of January and other Days". A collection of the public general statutes passed in the 22nd year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Eyre and Spottiswoode. 1859. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  7. ^ Anon 1859, p. 4.