Guy Fawkes

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Gunpowder Plot
Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes by Cruikshank.jpg
George Cruikshank's illustration of Guy Fawkes, published in William Harrison Ainsworth's 1840 novel Guy Fawkes
ParentsEdward Fawkes (father)
Edith (née Blake or Jackson) (mother)
Born13 April 1570 (presumed)
York, England
Alias(es)Guido Fawkes, John Johnson
OccupationSoldier, alférez
Enlisted20 May 1604
Captured5 November 1605
Conviction(s) High treason
Penalty Hanged, drawn and quartered
Died31 January 1606 (aged 35)
Westminster, London, England

Guy Fawkes ( /fɔːks/ ; 13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606), [lower-alpha 1] also known as Guido Fawkes while fighting for the Spanish, was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was born and educated in York; his father died when Fawkes was eight years old, after which his mother married a recusant Catholic.

Catholic Church in England and Wales Roman Catholic Church in the region of England and Wales

The Catholic Church in England and Wales is part of the worldwide Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope. It traces its history to the apostles through Catholic Christendom, the Western Latin Church, particularised and recorded in Roman Britain as far back as the 1st century. Later, in the 6th century, the church was judicially bonded to the Apostolic See of Rome, when Pope Gregory the Great through his Benedictine and Roman missionary, Augustine of Canterbury, established a direct link from the Kingdom of Kent to the Holy See in 597 AD. This ancient link to Irenaeus's source of Christian guidance, the See of Rome, has enriched its inter-church identity, not only across Britain and continental Europe but also and especially globally within what is sometimes referred to as the "Catholic Communion of Churches".

Gunpowder Plot Failed assassination attempt against King James I

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.

York Historic city in the north of England

York is a city and unitary authority area in North Yorkshire, England, the population of the council area which includes nearby villages was 208,200 as of 2017 and the population of the Urban area was 153,717 at the 2011 census. Located at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss, it is the county town of the historic county of Yorkshire. The city is known for its famous historical landmarks such as York Minster and the city walls, as well as a variety of cultural and sporting activities, which makes it a popular tourist destination in England. The local authority is the City of York Council, a single tier governing body responsible for providing all local services and facilities throughout the city. The City of York local government district includes rural areas beyond the old city boundaries. It is about 25 miles north-east of Leeds.


Fawkes converted to Catholicism and left for mainland Europe, where he fought for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years' War against Protestant Dutch reformers in the Low Countries. He travelled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England without success. He later met Thomas Wintour, with whom he returned to England. Wintour introduced him to Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plotters leased an undercroft beneath the House of Lords; Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder which they stockpiled there. The authorities were prompted by an anonymous letter to search Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and they found Fawkes guarding the explosives. He was questioned and tortured over the next few days and confessed to wanting to blow up the House of Lords.

Eighty Years War 16th and 17th-century Dutch revolt against the Habsburgs

The Eighty Years' War or Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648) was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces of what are today the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg against Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. After the initial stages, Philip II deployed his armies and regained control over most of the rebelling provinces. Under the leadership of the exiled William the Silent, the northern provinces continued their resistance. They eventually were able to oust the Habsburg armies, and in 1581 they established the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The war continued in other areas, although the heartland of the republic was no longer threatened. This included the origins of the Dutch colonial empire, which began with Dutch attacks on Portugal's overseas territories, which at the time was conceived as carrying overseas the war with Spain due to Portugal being in a dynastic union with Spain. The Dutch Republic was recognized by Spain and the major European powers in 1609 at the start of the Twelve Years' Truce. Hostilities broke out again around 1619, as part of the broader Thirty Years' War. An end was reached in 1648 with the Peace of Münster, when the Dutch Republic was definitively recognised as an independent country no longer part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Peace of Münster is sometimes considered the beginning of the Dutch Golden Age.

Low Countries Historical coastal landscape in north western Europe

The term Low Countries, also known as the Low Lands and historically called the Netherlands or Belgica, is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe forming the lower basin of the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta and consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Geographically and historically, the area includes also the French Flanders and the German regions of East Frisia and Cleves. During the Middle Ages, the Low Countries were divided in numerous semi-independent principalities.

Robert and Thomas Wintour Members of the Gunpowder plot

Robert Wintour and Thomas Wintour, also spelt Winter, were members of the Gunpowder Plot, a failed conspiracy to assassinate King James I. Brothers, they were related to other conspirators, such as their cousin, Robert Catesby, and a half-brother, John Wintour, also joined them following the plot's failure. Thomas was an intelligent and educated man, fluent in several languages and trained as a lawyer, but chose instead to become a soldier, fighting for England in the Low Countries, France, and possibly in Central Europe. By 1600, however, he changed his mind and became a fervent Catholic. On several occasions he travelled to the continent and entreated Spain on behalf of England's oppressed Catholics, and suggested that with Spanish support a Catholic rebellion was likely.

Immediately before his execution on 31 January, Fawkes fell from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of being hanged, drawn and quartered. He became synonymous with the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been commemorated in the UK as Guy Fawkes Night since 5 November 1605, when his effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, commonly accompanied by fireworks.

Hanged, drawn and quartered Legal punishment in England for persons convicted of high treason

To be hanged, drawn and quartered was from 1352 a statutory penalty in England for men convicted of high treason, although the ritual was first recorded during the reign of King Henry III (1216–1272). A convicted traitor was fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where he was then hanged, emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded, and quartered. The traitor's remains were often displayed in prominent places across the country, such as London Bridge. For reasons of public decency, women convicted of high treason were instead burned at the stake.

Guy Fawkes Night Annual commemoration; 5 November

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night and Firework Night, is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November, primarily in the United Kingdom. Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605 O.S., when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London; and months later, the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot's failure.

Early life


Fawkes was baptised at the church of St Michael le Belfrey, York next to York Minster (seen at left). St Michael le Belfrey (21st October 2010) 001.jpg
Fawkes was baptised at the church of St Michael le Belfrey, York next to York Minster (seen at left).

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in Stonegate, York. He was the second of four children born to Edward Fawkes, a proctor and an advocate of the consistory court at York, [lower-alpha 2] and his wife, Edith. [lower-alpha 3] Guy's parents were regular communicants of the Church of England, as were his paternal grandparents; his grandmother, born Ellen Harrington, was the daughter of a prominent merchant, who served as Lord Mayor of York in 1536. [4] Guy's mother's family were recusant Catholics, and his cousin, Richard Cowling, became a Jesuit priest. [5] Guy was an uncommon name in England, but may have been popular in York on account of a local notable, Sir Guy Fairfax of Steeton. [6]

Proctor, a variant of procurator, is a person who takes charge of, or acts for, another.

Consistory court

A consistory court is a type of ecclesiastical court, especially within the Church of England where they were originally established pursuant to a charter of King William the Conqueror, and still exist today, although since about the middle of the 19th century consistory courts have lost much of their subject-matter jurisdiction. Each diocese in the Church of England has a consistory court.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.

The date of Fawkes's birth is unknown, but he was baptised in the church of St Michael le Belfrey, York on 16 April. As the customary gap between birth and baptism was three days, he was probably born about 13 April. [5] In 1568, Edith had given birth to a daughter named Anne, but the child died aged about seven weeks, in November that year. She bore two more children after Guy: Anne (b. 1572), and Elizabeth (b. 1575). Both were married, in 1599 and 1594 respectively. [6] [7]

Baptism Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water

Baptism is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. It may be performed by sprinkling or pouring water on the head, or by immersing in water either partially or completely. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.

St Michael le Belfrey, York Church in York, England

St Michael le Belfrey is an Anglican church in York, England. It is situated directly next to York Minster in the centre of the city.

In 1579, when Guy was eight years old, his father died. His mother remarried several years later, to the Catholic Dionis Baynbrigge (or Denis Bainbridge) of Scotton, Harrogate. Fawkes may have become a Catholic through the Baynbrigge family's recusant tendencies, and also the Catholic branches of the Pulleyn and Percy families of Scotton, [8] but also from his time at St. Peter's School in York. A governor of the school had spent about 20 years in prison for recusancy, and its headmaster, John Pulleyn, came from a family of noted Yorkshire recusants, the Pulleyns of Blubberhouses. In her 1915 work The Pulleynes of Yorkshire, author Catharine Pullein suggested that Fawkes's Catholic education came from his Harrington relatives, who were known for harbouring priests, one of whom later accompanied Fawkes to Flanders in 1592–1593. [9] Fawkes's fellow students included John Wright and his brother Christopher (both later involved with Fawkes in the Gunpowder Plot) and Oswald Tesimond, Edward Oldcorne and Robert Middleton, who became priests (the latter executed in 1601). [10]

Scotton, Harrogate village in United Kingdom

Scotton is a small village and civil parish in the Harrogate district of North Yorkshire, England with a population 524 in the 2001 census, increasing to 624 at the 2011 Census. It is 3 miles (5 km) north of Harrogate, 1.2 miles (2 km) north west of Knaresborough and is just north of the River Nidd where it flows through Nidd Gorge. However; all the watercourses through the village and the parish flow eastwards via the River Tutt and empty into the River Ure despite Scotton being very close to the Nidd.

St Peters School, York School in York

St Peter's School is a co-educational independent boarding and day school, in the English City of York, with extensive grounds on the banks of the River Ouse. Founded by St Paulinus of York in AD 627, it is the third oldest school in the UK and the fourth oldest in the world. It is part of the York Boarding Schools Group.

Blubberhouses village in United Kingdom

Blubberhouses is a small village and civil parish located in the Washburn Valley in the borough of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, a county in the north of England. The population as at the 2011 Census was less than 100. Details are included in the civil parish of Fewston. It is situated to the south of the Yorkshire Dales national park, and to the north of a Roman road and Fewston Reservoir on the A59 road linking Harrogate to Skipton.

After leaving school Fawkes entered the service of Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu. The Viscount took a dislike to Fawkes and after a short time dismissed him; he was subsequently employed by Anthony-Maria Browne, 2nd Viscount Montagu, who succeeded his grandfather at the age of 18. [11] At least one source claims that Fawkes married and had a son, but no known contemporary accounts confirm this. [12] [lower-alpha 4]

Military career

In October 1591 Fawkes sold the estate in Clifton in York that he had inherited from his father. [lower-alpha 5] He travelled to the continent to fight in the Eighty Years War for Catholic Spain against the new Dutch Republic and, from 1595 until the Peace of Vervins in 1598, France. Although England was not by then engaged in land operations against Spain, the two countries were still at war, and the Spanish Armada of 1588 was only five years in the past. He joined Sir William Stanley, an English Catholic and veteran commander in his mid-fifties who had raised an army in Ireland to fight in Leicester's expedition to the Netherlands. Stanley had been held in high regard by Elizabeth I, but following his surrender of Deventer to the Spanish in 1587 he, and most of his troops, had switched sides to serve Spain. Fawkes became an alférez or junior officer, fought well at the siege of Calais in 1596, and by 1603 had been recommended for a captaincy. [3] That year, he travelled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England. He used the occasion to adopt the Italian version of his name, Guido, and in his memorandum described James I (who became king of England that year) as "a heretic", who intended "to have all of the Papist sect driven out of England." He denounced Scotland, and the King's favourites among the Scottish nobles, writing "it will not be possible to reconcile these two nations, as they are, for very long". [13] Although he was received politely, the court of Philip III was unwilling to offer him any support. [14]

Gunpowder Plot

A contemporary engraving of eight of the thirteen conspirators, by Crispijn van de Passe. Fawkes is third from the right. Gunpowder Plot conspirators.jpg
A contemporary engraving of eight of the thirteen conspirators, by Crispijn van de Passe. Fawkes is third from the right.

In 1604 Fawkes became involved with a small group of English Catholics, led by Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate the Protestant King James and replace him with his daughter, third in the line of succession, Princess Elizabeth. [15] [16] Fawkes was described by the Jesuit priest and former school friend Oswald Tesimond as "pleasant of approach and cheerful of manner, opposed to quarrels and strife ... loyal to his friends". Tesimond also claimed Fawkes was "a man highly skilled in matters of war", and that it was this mixture of piety and professionalism that endeared him to his fellow conspirators. [3] The author Antonia Fraser describes Fawkes as "a tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard", and that he was "a man of action ... capable of intelligent argument as well as physical endurance, somewhat to the surprise of his enemies." [5]

The first meeting of the five central conspirators took place on Sunday 20 May 1604, at an inn called the Duck and Drake, in the fashionable Strand district of London. [lower-alpha 6] Catesby had already proposed at an earlier meeting with Thomas Wintour and John Wright to kill the King and his government by blowing up "the Parliament House with gunpowder". Wintour, who at first objected to the plan, was convinced by Catesby to travel to the continent to seek help. Wintour met with the Constable of Castile, the exiled Welsh spy Hugh Owen, [18] and Sir William Stanley, who said that Catesby would receive no support from Spain. Owen did, however, introduce Wintour to Fawkes, who had by then been away from England for many years, and thus was largely unknown in the country. Wintour and Fawkes were contemporaries; each was militant, and had first-hand experience of the unwillingness of the Spaniards to help. Wintour told Fawkes of their plan to "doe some whatt in Ingland if the pece with Spaine healped us nott", [3] and thus in April 1604 the two men returned to England. [17] Wintour's news did not surprise Catesby; despite positive noises from the Spanish authorities, he feared that "the deeds would nott answere". [lower-alpha 7]

One of the conspirators, Thomas Percy, was promoted in June 1604, gaining access to a house in London that belonged to John Whynniard, Keeper of the King's Wardrobe. Fawkes was installed as a caretaker and began using the pseudonym John Johnson, servant to Percy. [20] The contemporaneous account of the prosecution (taken from Thomas Wintour's confession) [21] claimed that the conspirators attempted to dig a tunnel from beneath Whynniard's house to Parliament, although this story may have been a government fabrication; no evidence for the existence of a tunnel was presented by the prosecution, and no trace of one has ever been found; Fawkes himself did not admit the existence of such a scheme until his fifth interrogation, but even then he could not locate the tunnel. [22] If the story is true, however, by December 1604 the conspirators were busy tunnelling from their rented house to the House of Lords. They ceased their efforts when, during tunnelling, they heard a noise from above. Fawkes was sent out to investigate, and returned with the news that the tenant's widow was clearing out a nearby undercroft, directly beneath the House of Lords. [3] [23]

The plotters purchased the lease to the room, which also belonged to John Whynniard. Unused and filthy, it was considered an ideal hiding place for the gunpowder the plotters planned to store. [24] According to Fawkes, 20 barrels of gunpowder were brought in at first, followed by 16 more on 20 July. [25] On 28 July however, the ever-present threat of the plague delayed the opening of Parliament until Tuesday, 5 November. [26]


In an attempt to gain foreign support, in May 1605 Fawkes travelled overseas and informed Hugh Owen of the plotters' plan. [27] At some point during this trip his name made its way into the files of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, who employed a network of spies across Europe. One of these spies, Captain William Turner, may have been responsible. Although the information he provided to Salisbury usually amounted to no more than a vague pattern of invasion reports, and included nothing which regarded the Gunpowder Plot, on 21 April he told how Fawkes was to be brought by Tesimond to England. Fawkes was a well-known Flemish mercenary, and would be introduced to "Mr Catesby" and "honourable friends of the nobility and others who would have arms and horses in readiness". [28] Turner's report did not, however, mention Fawkes's pseudonym in England, John Johnson, and did not reach Cecil until late in November, well after the plot had been discovered. [3] [29]

It is uncertain when Fawkes returned to England, but he was back in London by late August 1605, when he and Wintour discovered that the gunpowder stored in the undercroft had decayed. More gunpowder was brought into the room, along with firewood to conceal it. [30] Fawkes's final role in the plot was settled during a series of meetings in October. He was to light the fuse and then escape across the Thames. Simultaneously, a revolt in the Midlands would help to ensure the capture of Princess Elizabeth. Acts of regicide were frowned upon, and Fawkes would therefore head to the continent, where he would explain to the Catholic powers his holy duty to kill the King and his retinue. [31]


Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot (c. 1823), Henry Perronet Briggs Guy fawkes henry perronet briggs.jpg
Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot (c. 1823), Henry Perronet Briggs

A few of the conspirators were concerned about fellow Catholics who would be present at Parliament during the opening. [32] On the evening of 26 October, Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter warning him to stay away, and to "retyre youre self into yowre contee whence yow maye expect the event in safti for ... they shall receyve a terrible blowe this parleament". [33] Despite quickly becoming aware of the letter informed by one of Monteagle's servants the conspirators resolved to continue with their plans, as it appeared that it "was clearly thought to be a hoax". [34] Fawkes checked the undercroft on 30 October, and reported that nothing had been disturbed. [35] Monteagle's suspicions had been aroused, however, and the letter was shown to King James. The King ordered Sir Thomas Knyvet to conduct a search of the cellars underneath Parliament, which he did in the early hours of 5 November. Fawkes had taken up his station late on the previous night, armed with a slow match and a watch given to him by Percy "becaus he should knowe howe the time went away". [3] He was found leaving the cellar, shortly after midnight, and arrested. Inside, the barrels of gunpowder were discovered hidden under piles of firewood and coal. [36]


Fawkes gave his name as John Johnson and was first interrogated by members of the King's Privy chamber, where he remained defiant. [37] When asked by one of the lords what he was doing in possession of so much gunpowder, Fawkes answered that his intention was "to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains." [38] He identified himself as a 36-year-old Catholic from Netherdale in Yorkshire, and gave his father's name as Thomas and his mother's as Edith Jackson. Wounds on his body noted by his questioners he explained as the effects of pleurisy. Fawkes admitted his intention to blow up the House of Lords, and expressed regret at his failure to do so. His steadfast manner earned him the admiration of King James, who described Fawkes as possessing "a Roman resolution". [39]

James's admiration did not, however, prevent him from ordering on 6 November that "John Johnson" be tortured, to reveal the names of his co-conspirators. [40] He directed that the torture be light at first, referring to the use of manacles, but more severe if necessary, authorising the use of the rack: "the gentler Tortures are to be first used unto him et sic per gradus ad ima tenditur [and so by degrees proceeding to the worst]". [37] [41] Fawkes was transferred to the Tower of London. The King composed a list of questions to be put to "Johnson", such as "as to what he is, For I can never yet hear of any man that knows him", "When and where he learned to speak French?", and "If he was a Papist, who brought him up in it?" [42] The room in which Fawkes was interrogated subsequently became known as the Guy Fawkes Room. [43]

Fawkes's signature of "Guido", made soon after his torture, is a barely evident scrawl compared to a later instance. Guy fawkes torture signatures.jpg
Fawkes's signature of "Guido", made soon after his torture, is a barely evident scrawl compared to a later instance.

Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower, supervised the torture and obtained Fawkes's confession. [37] He searched his prisoner, and found a letter addressed to Guy Fawkes. To Waad's surprise, "Johnson" remained silent, revealing nothing about the plot or its authors. [44] On the night of 6 November he spoke with Waad, who reported to Salisbury "He [Johnson] told us that since he undertook this action he did every day pray to God he might perform that which might be for the advancement of the Catholic Faith and saving his own soul". According to Waad, Fawkes managed to rest through the night, despite his being warned that he would be interrogated until "I had gotton the inwards secret of his thoughts and all his complices". [45] His composure was broken at some point during the following day. [46]

The observer Sir Edward Hoby remarked "Since Johnson's being in the Tower, he beginneth to speak English". Fawkes revealed his true identity on 7 November, and told his interrogators that there were five people involved in the plot to kill the King. He began to reveal their names on 8 November, and told how they intended to place Princess Elizabeth on the throne. His third confession, on 9 November, implicated Francis Tresham. Following the Ridolfi plot of 1571 prisoners were made to dictate their confessions, before copying and signing them, if they still could. [47] Although it is uncertain if he was tortured on the rack, Fawkes's scrawled signature suggests the suffering he endured at the hands of his interrogators. [48]

Trial and execution

The trial of eight of the plotters began on Monday 27 January 1606. Fawkes shared the barge from the Tower to Westminster Hall with seven of his co-conspirators. [lower-alpha 8] They were kept in the Star Chamber before being taken to Westminster Hall, where they were displayed on a purpose-built scaffold. The King and his close family, watching in secret, were among the spectators as the Lords Commissioners read out the list of charges. Fawkes was identified as Guido Fawkes, "otherwise called Guido Johnson". He pleaded not guilty, despite his apparent acceptance of guilt from the moment he was captured. [50]

A 1606 etching by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, depicting Fawkes's execution The execution of Guy Fawkes' (Guy Fawkes) by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher.jpg
A 1606 etching by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, depicting Fawkes's execution

The jury found all the defendants guilty, and the Lord Chief Justice Sir John Popham pronounced them guilty of high treason. [51] The Attorney General Sir Edward Coke told the court that each of the condemned would be drawn backwards to his death, by a horse, his head near the ground. They were to be "put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both". Their genitals would be cut off and burnt before their eyes, and their bowels and hearts removed. They would then be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of their bodies displayed so that they might become "prey for the fowls of the air". [52] Fawkes's and Tresham's testimony regarding the Spanish treason was read aloud, as well as confessions related specifically to the Gunpowder Plot. The last piece of evidence offered was a conversation between Fawkes and Wintour, who had been kept in adjacent cells. The two men apparently thought they had been speaking in private, but their conversation was intercepted by a government spy. When the prisoners were allowed to speak, Fawkes explained his not guilty plea as ignorance of certain aspects of the indictment. [53]

On 31 January 1606, Fawkes and three others – Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes – were dragged (i.e., "drawn") from the Tower on wattled hurdles to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, opposite the building they had attempted to destroy. [54] His fellow plotters were then hanged and quartered. Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his "crosses and idle ceremonies" (Catholic practices). Weakened by torture and aided by the hangman, Fawkes began to climb the ladder to the noose, but either through jumping to his death or climbing too high so the rope was incorrectly set, he managed to avoid the agony of the latter part of his execution by breaking his neck. [37] [55] [56] His lifeless body was nevertheless quartered [57] and, as was the custom, [58] his body parts were then distributed to "the four corners of the kingdom", to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors. [59]


Procession of a Guy (1864) Procession of a guy.jpg
Procession of a Guy (1864)
Children preparing for Guy Fawkes night celebrations (1954) (Guy Fawkes night at Chirk) (6302836170).jpg
Children preparing for Guy Fawkes night celebrations (1954)

On 5 November 1605, Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King's escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, provided that "this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder". [3] An Act of Parliament designated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for "the joyful day of deliverance", and remained in force until 1859. [60] Fawkes was one of 13 conspirators, but he is the individual most associated with the plot. [61]

In Britain, 5 November has variously been called Guy Fawkes Night, Guy Fawkes Day, Plot Night, [62] and Bonfire Night (which can be traced directly back to the original celebration of 5 November 1605). [63] Bonfires were accompanied by fireworks from the 1650s onwards, and it became the custom after 1673 to burn an effigy (usually of the pope) when heir presumptive James, Duke of York, converted to Catholicism. [3] Effigies of other notable figures have found their way onto the bonfires, such as Paul Kruger and Margaret Thatcher, [64] although most modern effigies are of Fawkes. [60] The "guy" is normally created by children from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask. [60] During the 19th century, "guy" came to mean an oddly dressed person, while in many places it has lost any pejorative connotation and instead refers to any male person and the plural form can refer to people of any gender (as in "you guys"). [60] [65]

James Sharpe, professor of history at the University of York, has described how Guy Fawkes came to be toasted as "the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions". [66] William Harrison Ainsworth's 1841 historical romance Guy Fawkes; or, The Gunpowder Treason portrays Fawkes in a generally sympathetic light, [67] and his novel transformed Fawkes in the public perception into an "acceptable fictional character". Fawkes subsequently appeared as "essentially an action hero" in children's books and penny dreadfuls such as The Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes; or, The Conspirators of Old London, published around 1905. [68] According to historian Lewis Call, Fawkes is now "a major icon in modern political culture" whose face has become "a potentially powerful instrument for the articulation of postmodern anarchism" [lower-alpha 9] in the late 20th century. [69]

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Ambrose Rookwood was a member of the failed 1605 Gunpowder Plot, a conspiracy to replace the Protestant King James I with a Catholic sovereign. Rookwood was born into a wealthy family of Catholic recusants, and educated by Jesuits in Flanders. His older brother became a Franciscan, and his two younger brothers were ordained as Catholic priests. Rookwood became a horse-breeder. He married the Catholic Elizabeth Tyrwhitt, and had at least two sons.

Everard Digby 16th- and 17th-century English conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605

Sir Everard Digby was a member of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Although he was raised in a Protestant household, and married a Protestant, Digby and his wife were converted to Catholicism by the Jesuit priest John Gerard. In the autumn of 1605, he was part of a Catholic pilgrimage to the shrine of St Winefride's Well in Holywell. About this time he met Robert Catesby, a religious fanatic who planned to blow up the House of Lords with gunpowder, killing James I. Catesby then planned to incite a popular revolt, during which a Catholic monarch would be restored to the English throne.

Thomas Percy (Gunpowder Plot) English conspirator

Thomas Percy was a member of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. A tall, physically impressive man, little is known of his early life beyond his matriculation in 1579 at the University of Cambridge, and his marriage in 1591 to Martha Wright. In 1596 his second cousin once removed, Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, appointed him constable of Alnwick Castle and made him responsible for the Percy family's northern estates. He served the earl in the Low Countries in about 1600–1601, and in the years before 1603 was his intermediary in a series of confidential communications with King James VI of Scotland.

<i>The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding the Legend</i> 2005 film by Mike Slee

The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding the Legend was a British television show, hosted by Richard Hammond that recreated elements of the Gunpowder Plot in which Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the House of Lords.

John and Christopher Wright members of the Gunpowder Plot

John (Jack) Wright, and Christopher (Kit) Wright, were members of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a conspiracy to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords. Their sister married another plotter, Thomas Percy. Educated at the same school in York, the Wrights had early links with Guy Fawkes, the man left in charge of the explosives stored in the undercroft beneath the House of Lords. As known recusants the brothers were on several occasions arrested for reasons of national security. Both were also members of the Earl of Essex's rebellion of 1601.

Robert Keyes English criminal

Robert Keyes was a member of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a conspiracy to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605. He was the sixth man to join the plot.

Oswald Tesimond was a Jesuit born in either Northumberland or York who, while not a direct conspirator, had some knowledge of the Gunpowder Plot beforehand.

Thomas Bates Catholic executed for involvement in UK 1605 Gunpowder plot

Thomas Bates was a member of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

John Grant (Gunpowder Plot) member of the failed Gunpowder Plot

John Grant was a member of the failed Gunpowder Plot, a conspiracy to replace the Protestant King James I of England with a Catholic monarch. Grant was born around 1570, and lived at Norbrook in Warwickshire. He married the sister of another plotter, Thomas Wintour. Grant was enlisted by Robert Catesby, a religious zealot who had grown so impatient with James's lack of toleration for Catholics that he planned to kill him, by blowing up the House of Lords with gunpowder. Grant's role in the conspiracy was to provide supplies for a planned Midlands uprising, during which James's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, would be captured. However, on the eve of the planned explosion, Guy Fawkes was discovered guarding the explosives the plotters had positioned in the undercroft beneath the House of Lords, and arrested.

Edward Oldcorne English martyr

Edward Oldcorne or Oldcorn alias Hall was an English Jesuit priest. He was known to people who knew of the Gunpowder Plot to destroy the Parliament of England and kill King James I; and although his involvement is unclear, he was caught up in the subsequent investigation. He is a Roman Catholic martyr, and was beatified in 1929.

<i>Guy Fawkes</i> (novel) novel by William Harrison Ainsworth

The novel Guy Fawkes first appeared as a serial in Bentley's Miscellany, between January and November 1840. It was subsequently published as a three-volume set in July 1841, with illustrations by George Cruikshank. The first of William Harrison Ainsworth's seven "Lancashire novels", the story is based on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Ainsworth relied heavily on historical documents describing the trial and execution of the conspirators, of whom Fawkes was one, but he also embellished the known facts. He invented the character of Viviana Radcliffe, daughter of the prominent Radcliffe family of Ordsall Hall – who becomes Fawkes's wife – and introduced supernatural elements into the story, such as the ability of the alchemist, John Dee, to raise the spirits of the dead.

The Gunpowder Plot was a failed assassination attempt against King James VI of Scotland and I of England by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby. The conspirators' aim was to blow up the House of Lords at the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605, while the king and many other important members of the aristocracy and nobility were inside. The conspirator who became most closely associated with the plot in the popular imagination was Guy Fawkes, who had been assigned the task of lighting the fuse to the explosives.

Stephen Littleton, born about 1575, died in 1606, was an Englishman executed for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. He was born as the eldest son of George Littleton and Margaret Smith, daughter and heir to Richard Smith of Shirford, Warwickshire. George was the older brother of Humphrey Littleton who was uncle to Stephen Littleton and the two were not cousins, which is incorrectly mentioned in some sources. Stephen Littleton was also related to John Littleton, who was in 1601 with Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex's Uprising against Elizabeth I of England. Littleton lived mainly in the Holbeche House, the house the conspirators took after the gunfire had failed, and he was considered to be a prominent role in the Catholic community in Midlands. Littleton has been described as very tall, with brown hair and with no or very little beard growth.



  1. Dates in this article before 14 September 1752 are given in the Julian calendar. The beginning of the year is treated as 1 January even though it began in England on 25 March.
  2. According to one source, he may have been Registrar of the Exchequer Court of the Archbishop. [1]
  3. Fawkes's mother's maiden name is alternatively given as Edith Blake, [2] or Edith Jackson. [3]
  4. According to the International Genealogical Index, compiled by the LDS Church, Fawkes married Maria Pulleyn (b. 1569) in Scotton in 1590, and had a son, Thomas, on 6 February 1591. [9] These entries, however, appear to derive from a secondary source and not from actual parish entries. [12]
  5. Although the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography claims 1592, multiple alternative sources give 1591 as the date. Peter Beal, A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology, 1450 to 2000, includes a signed indenture of the sale of the estate dated 14 October 1591. (pp. 198–199)
  6. Also present were fellow conspirators John Wright, Thomas Percy, and Thomas Wintour (with whom he was already acquainted). [17]
  7. Philip III made peace with England in August 1604. [19]
  8. The eighth, Thomas Bates, was considered inferior by virtue of his status, and was held instead at Gatehouse Prison. [49]
  9. See Post-anarchism


  1. Haynes 2005, pp. 28–29
  2. Guy Fawkes, The Gunpowder Plot Society, archived from the original on 18 March 2010, retrieved 19 May 2010
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Nicholls, Mark (2004), "Fawkes, Guy (bap. 1570, d. 1606)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.), Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9230 , retrieved 6 May 2010(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  4. "Fawkes, Guy" in The Dictionary of National Biography, Leslie Stephen, ed., Oxford University Press, London (1921–1922).
  5. 1 2 3 Fraser 2005 , p. 84
  6. 1 2 Sharpe 2005 , p. 48
  7. Fraser 2005, p. 86 (note)
  8. Sharpe 2005, p. 49
  9. 1 2 Herber, David (April 1998), "The Marriage of Guy Fawkes and Maria Pulleyn", The Gunpowder Plot Society Newsletter, The Gunpowder Plot Society, archived from the original on 17 June 2011, retrieved 16 February 2010
  10. Fraser 2005, pp. 84–85
  11. Fraser 2005, pp. 85–86
  12. 1 2 Fraser 2005 , p. 86
  13. Fraser 2005, p. 89
  14. Fraser 2005, pp. 87–90
  15. Northcote Parkinson 1976, p. 46
  16. Fraser 2005, pp. 140–142
  17. 1 2 Fraser 2005, pp. 117–119
  18. Fraser 2005, p. 87
  19. Nicholls, Mark (2004), "Catesby, Robert (b. in or after 1572, d. 1605)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4883 , retrieved 12 May 2010(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  20. Fraser 2005, pp. 122–123
  21. Nicholls, Mark (2004), "Winter, Thomas (c. 1571–1606)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29767, archived from the original on 5 March 2016, retrieved 16 November 2009(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  22. Fraser 2005, pp. 133–134
  23. Haynes 2005, pp. 55–59
  24. Fraser 2005, pp. 144–145
  25. Fraser 2005 , pp. 146–147
  26. Fraser 2005, pp. 159–162
  27. Bengsten 2005, p. 50
  28. Fraser 2005, p. 150
  29. Fraser 2005, pp. 148–150
  30. Fraser 2005, p. 170
  31. Fraser 2005 , pp. 178–179
  32. Northcote Parkinson 1976, pp. 62–63
  33. Northcote Parkinson 1976, pp. 68–69
  34. Northcote Parkinson 1976, p. 72
  35. Fraser 2005, p. 189
  36. Northcote Parkinson 1976, p. 73
  37. 1 2 3 4 Northcote Parkinson 1976 , pp. 91–92
  38. Cobbett 1857, p. 229.
  39. Fraser 2005, pp. 208–209
  40. Fraser 2005, p. 211
  41. Fraser 2005, p. 215
  42. Fraser 2005, p. 212
  43. Younghusband 2008, p. 46
  44. Bengsten 2005, p. 58
  45. Bengsten 2005, p. 59
  46. Fraser 2005, pp. 216–217
  47. Bengsten 2005, p. 60
  48. Fraser 2005, pp. 215–216, 228–229
  49. Fraser 2005, p. 263
  50. Fraser 2005, pp. 263–266
  51. Fraser 2005, p. 273
  52. Fraser 2005 , pp. 266–269
  53. Fraser 2005, pp. 269–271
  54. Haynes 2005, pp. 115–116
  55. Fraser 2005, p. 283
  56. Sharpe 2005, pp. 76–77
  57. Allen 1973, p. 37
  58. Thompson 2008, p. 102
  59. Guy Fawkes, York Museums Trust, archived from the original on 14 April 2010, retrieved 16 May 2010
  60. 1 2 3 4 House of Commons Information Office (September 2006), The Gunpowder Plot (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 15 February 2005, retrieved 15 February 2011
  61. Fraser 2005, p. 349
  62. Fox & Woolf 2002, p. 269
  63. Fraser 2005, pp. 351–352
  64. Fraser 2005, p. 356
  65. Merriam-Webster (1991), The Merriam-Webster new book of word histories, Merriam-Webster, p. 208, ISBN   0-87779-603-3 , entry "guy"
  66. Sharpe 2005, p. 6
  67. Harrison Ainsworth, William (1841), Guy Fawkes; or, The Gunpowder Treason, Nottingham Society
  68. Sharpe 2005 , p. 128
  69. Call, Lewis (July 2008), "A is for Anarchy, V is for Vendetta: Images of Guy Fawkes and the Creation of Postmodern Anarchism", Anarchist Studies, 16 (2): 154, retrieved 10 November 2008  via  Questia Online Library (subscription required)