In 1605, Guy Fawkes and a group of conspirators attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Before they were able to carry out their plan they were caught, tortured and executed. Every year since then we have traditionally celebrated his failure by letting off fireworks and burning an effigy of ‘Guy’.
Guy Fawkes’ real name was Guido Fawkes. After his father died in 1579, his mother Edith remarried into the Catholic Bainbridge family of Scotton. It is believed it was his stepfather that influenced him to become a Catholic. By the time Fawkes had reached the age of 21, Fawkes had sold his inheritance and had joined the Catholic forces fighting in the Low Countries. For twelve years Fawkes served in the Militia in the Netherlands
As a trained miner, he was highly skilled with gunpowder and in the practices of tunneling. During his service, Fawkes was actually at the siege of Calais and in 1603, Fawkes sought counsel with King Philip II in Spain on the plight of English Catholics. It was there, that he met with Christopher Wright, with whom he attempted to obtain Spanish support for an invasion of England.
On April 25 1604, Fawkes arrived in England with Thomas Wintour and in May 1604 he joined the Gunpowder Plot with Robert Catesby at The Duck and Drake Inn, with the express intention of destroying the Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament and King James I. There were 13 conspirators in total, their names were: Robert Catesby, Thomas Wintour, Jack Wright, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Robert Wintour, John Grant, Kit Wright, Thomas Bates, Ambrose Rookwood, Francis Tresham and Sir Everard Digby.
On the night of October 26, an anonymous letter was delivered to a Catholic Peer, Lord Monteagle. This letter warned him to stay away from the opening of Parliament on November 5. This letter is believed to have been sent by Francis Tresham, one of the co-conspirators. Lord Monteagle took the letter to Robert Cecil, the Earl of Sainsbury, who was James’ first minister. Sainsbury decided that striking at the last minute would achieve the best results.
Fawkes was subsequently captured at around midnight on November 4 and was brought before the Privy Council on November 5. On November 7, after several sessions of severe torture and under great duress, Fawkes finally admitted that the conspirators had planned to free Sir Walter Raleigh and other Tower of London Prisoners by blowing up Parliament with a large cache of Gunpowder.
Fawkes only revealed the identity of his co-conspirators under extreme torture on November 9, but only after he was told that some had already been arrested by the authorities. He was finally hung, drawn and quartered which was the traditional punishment for traitors on January 31, 1606
. In 1605 on the anniversary of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot being foiled, bonfires were lit to burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and fireworks let off in defiant celebration all over London and within a couple of years this was a national celebration. To this day Guy Fawkes is remembered each year on November 5 for his audacious attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament and nearly successful act of ultimate traitorship.
Until 1959 it was illegal not to celebrate the date of Guy Fawkes arrest in England.
While celebrating, do remember to always follow the Firework Safety Code. Please browse through our website for more information.