Guy Fawkes and The Gunpowder Plot: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Guy Fawkes and his involvement in The Gunpowder Plot – the failed attempt to blow up The House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5th November, 1605.

  • Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in Stonegate, York.

  • His father died when he was only eight years old.
  • Guy’s mother’s family were outwardly Protestant (as England was a Protestant country during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I), but secretly Catholic. By the time he was a teenager, Guy was also a Catholic.
  • Guy became a soldier, fighting for Catholic countries against their Protestant enemies. He fought for Spain against the Dutch in the Eighty Year’s War.
  • During the reign of James I, Guy Fawkes became increasingly frustrated at the continued persecution of Catholics and the fact that a Scottish monarch was the King of England. He travelled to Spain to try and get support for a Catholic rebellion in England. He failed this attempt, but he did meet some of the people who would later be involved in setting up The Gunpowder Plot.

Facts About The Gunpowder Plot

  • Although Guy Fawkes is the most famous of those involved in The Gunpowder Plot, it was actually Robert Catesby who was the leader of the failed attempt to kill James I when he opened Parliament in 1605.
  • The plotters, led by Robert Catesby, were: Guy Fawkes, Thomas Wintour, Robert Wintour, John Wright, Thomas Percy, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, John Grant, Christopher Wright, Sir Ambrose Rookwood, Francis Tresham and Sir Everard Digby.
  • The plotters planned to set off 36 barrels of gunpowder in a cellar (called an undercroft) directly under the House of Lords, killing King James I and other key Protestant members of the Royal Family and Privy Council.
  •  Guy Fawkes, due to his experience as a soldier, was placed in charge of lighting the gunpowder fuse.
  • The plot failed because an anonymous letter was received by Baron Monteagle (a Catholic who would have been in the House of Lords on 5th November) warning him to stay away to guarantee his safety. The letter was passed to James I and he ordered that the buildings around the House of Lords be thoroughly searched.
  • Guy Fawkes was found in the cellar under the House of Lords carrying a lantern, a pocket watch and several matches. Thirty six barrels of gunpowder were also revealed, hidden under a stack of firewood.
  • Guy Fawkes was arrested. King James I gave his permission for Guy Fawkes to be tortured and he finally confessed to his part in The Gunpowder Plot. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered on 31st January 1606.
  • Although he did die on 31st January, Guy Fawkes managed to avoid the agony of being quartered (cut open while still conscious) by jumping from the gallows and breaking his neck.

Bonfire Night (sometimes called Guy Fawke’s Night or Firework Night)

  • The fact that the Gunpowder Plot failed was celebrated on 5th November 1606 (the year after the event) and on this day every year since. Church bells used to be rung and bonfires were lit.
  • Traditionally, effigies (life size models) of Guy Fawkes were made by children out of straw, newspaper and rags. These were known as ‘Guys’ and they were thrown onto bonfires and burnt. Fireworks were also set off on the night of 5th November.
  • Many of these traditions still take place in England today, although lots of children don’t know the exact reason behind the celebration.

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