GUY FAWKES (/ˈɡaɪ ˈfɔːks/ ; 13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606), also known as GUIDO FAWKES, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish, was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Fawkes was born and educated in
Wintour introduced Fawkes 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 became synonymous with the
* 1 Early life
* 1.1 Childhood * 1.2 Military career
* 2 Gunpowder Plot
* 2.1 Overseas * 2.2 Discovery * 2.3 Torture * 2.4 Trial and execution
* 3 Legacy * 4 References * 5 External links
Fawkes was baptised at the church of St. Michael le Belfrey
The date of Fawkes's birth is unknown, but he was baptised in the church of St. Michael le Belfrey on 16 April. As the customary gap between birth and baptism was three days, he was probably born about 13 April. 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.
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,
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
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. At least one source claims that Fawkes married and had a son, but no known contemporary accounts confirm this.
In October 1591 Fawkes sold the estate in Clifton that he had inherited from his father. 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 . 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 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". Although he was received politely, the court of Philip III was unwilling to offer him any support.
In 1604 Fawkes became involved with a small group of English
Catholics, led by
Robert Catesby , who planned to assassinate the
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. 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, 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", and thus in April 1604 the two men returned to England. Wintour's news did not surprise Catesby; despite positive noises from the Spanish authorities, he feared that "the deeds would nott answere".
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. The contemporaneous account of the prosecution (taken from Thomas Wintour's confession) 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. 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.
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. According to Fawkes, 20 barrels of gunpowder were brought in at first, followed by 16 more on 20 July. On 28 July however, the ever-present threat of the plague delayed the opening of Parliament until Tuesday, 5 November.
In an attempt to gain foreign support, in May 1605 Fawkes travelled
overseas and informed Hugh Owen of the plotters' plan. 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
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. 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.
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. 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". 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". Fawkes checked the undercroft on 30 October, and reported that nothing had been disturbed. 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". 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.
Fawkes gave his name as John Johnson and was first interrogated by members of the King's Privy chamber , where he remained defiant. 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." 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".
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. 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 ". Fawkes was
transferred to the
Tower of London
Sir William Waad , Lieutenant of the Tower, supervised the torture and obtained Fawkes's confession. 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. On the night of 6 November he spoke with Waad, who reported to Salisbury "He 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". His composure was broken at some point during the following day.
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. Although it is uncertain if he was tortured on the rack, Fawkes's scrawled signature bears testament to the suffering he endured at the hands of his interrogators.
TRIAL AND EXECUTION
The trial of eight of the plotters began on Monday 27 January 1606.
Fawkes shared the barge from the Tower to
The outcome was never in doubt. The jury found all the defendants
guilty, and the Lord Chief Justice Sir John Popham found them guilty
of high treason . The Attorney General Sir
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. 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. His lifeless body was nevertheless quartered and, as was the custom, his body parts were then distributed to "the four corners of the kingdom", to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.
See also: Gunpowder Plot in popular culture Procession of a Guy (1864)
On 5 November 1605 Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King's escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, "always provided that 'this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder'". 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. Although he was only one of 13 conspirators, Fawkes is today the individual most associated with the failed plot.
In Britain, 5 November has variously been called
Guy Fawkes Night ,
William Harrison Ainsworth
* ^ 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.
* ^ According to one source, he may have been Registrar of the
Exchequer Court of the Archbishop.
* ^ Fawkes's mother's maiden name is alternatively given as Edith
Blake, or Edith Jackson.
* ^ 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. These entries,
however, appear to derive from a secondary source and not from actual
* ^ 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.
* ^ Also present were fellow conspirators John Wright, Thomas Percy
, and Thomas Wintour (with whom he was already acquainted).
* ^ Philip III made peace with England in August 1604.
* ^ The eighth, Thomas Bates, was considered inferior by virtue of
his status, and was held instead at Gatehouse Prison.
* ^ See
* ^ Haynes 2005 , pp. 28–29
* ^ Guy Fawkes, The
Gunpowder Plot Society, retrieved 19 May 2010
* ^ A B C D E F G H I 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)
* ^ "Fawkes, Guy" in The
Dictionary of National Biography , Leslie
Stephen , ed., Oxford University Press, London (1921–1922).
* ^ A B C Fraser 2005 , p. 84
* ^ A B Sharpe 2005 , p. 48
* ^ Fraser 2005 , p. 86 (note)
* ^ Sharpe 2005 , p. 49
* ^ A B Herber, David (April 1998), "The Marriage of
* Allen, Kenneth (1973), The Story of Gunpowder, Wayland, ISBN
* Bengsten, Fiona (2005), Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower,
Gunpowder Plot (illustrated ed.), Trafford Publishing, ISBN
* Cobbett, William (1857), A History of the
Find more aboutGUY FAWKESat's sister projects