Why is Guy Fawkes famous?

Back in 1605, thirteen English catholic men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament, as they had hoped that King James I would be more tolerant of Catholics than when Elizabeth I had ruled, unfortunately this was not the case.

Guy Fawkes was born in April 1570 in York, although born a protestant, after his father died and his mother remarried a catholic man, he converted to catholicism and when he was 21 years old he went to fight for Spain in the “Eighty Yeasr War” against the Protestant Dutch.

When he was fighting for Spain in Flanders he was approached by Thomas Wintour (one of the plotters), to join in with their Gunpowder Plot plan under the leadership of Robert Catesby, to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

In blowing up the Houses of Parliament, they hoped to kill the King, the Prince of Wales, and some Members of Parliament who were against the Catholic religion.

Guy Fawkes was an expert in his knowledge of gunpowder, from his time in Spain, which gave him a perilous role in the conspiracy, as he was to source and ignite the explosives.

After 18 months of careful planning the Gunpowder plot was foiled as some group members began to realise that innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack. It is thought that one member sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from Parliament on 5th November.

So at midnight on 4th November, Guy Fawkes was arrested as he was in the cellars of parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder stacked directly below where the king would have been sitting for the opening of parliament the next day.

Guy Fawkes was later tortured for two days including the rack, before he confessed to the crime, consequently he was executed.

Surprisingly, the charismatic ring leader Robert Catesby is not so well known as he was killed evading capture and never tried.

On the same night the Gunpowder Plot was foiled in 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Following that, every year on 5th November, we celebrate Bonfire Night. This is when people commemorated with fireworks and a burning effigy of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.

The Gunpowder Plot struck a chord with the people of England and the reigning monarch only enters Parliament once a year, on “the State Opening of Parliament”.

The custom of the Yeomen of the Guard searching the cellars of the Palace of Westminster are still observed as a tradition by the Queen and Parliament.

There is also a children’s rhyme that is still used today and it goes like this:-

“Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…”