The 5th November has been synonymous with fireworks for many years but it all started with one man’s political agenda and has continued to grow for hundreds of years. Here are some fascinating facts about Guido Fawkes.
- Guy Fawkes was born 13th April 1570.
- He converted to Catholicism at 16 years of age at a time when priests and practising Catholics were being punished for their beliefs.
- He became known as Guido from fighting in the Netherlands for the then Spanish Empire in support of Catholicism.
- 36 barrels of gunpowder is equivalent to 2500kg of explosives. Working on the assumption that gunpowder has the same power as TNT, the blast would have covered a 490m radius and the resultant explosion is likely to have taken out the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Hall and windows would have broken up to half a mile away. There is even some consensus of opinion that damage would have been massive as far away as Whitehall.
- Educated in York.
- The first meeting of the main 5 Conspirators took place in the Duck and Drake in The Strand, London.
- Robert Catesby laid down the original plans for the assassination of James 1st of England to restore a Catholic Monarch to the throne.
- The Gunpowder Plot was agreed by the conspirators and they swore an oath to carry out the deed which was then sanctified by the Jesuit Priest John Gerard who gave the group Communion.
- Guy Fawkes was the one detailed as the most closely associated with the Gunpowder Plot as he was the one who was to light the match.
- The Plot was foiled as a result of an anonymous letter being sent to Lord Monteagle warning him to stay away from the State Opening of Parliament. It is thought that there was a lot of concern amongst Guy’s co-conspirators that associates and fellow Catholic’s may be killed in the proposed explosion.
- When he was interviewed by the authorities he gave the name John Johnson.
- Guy was found in the undercroft beneath the Houses of Lords shortly after midnight on 5th November 2012.
- Guy Fawkes trial, AKA the Gunpowder Plot or the Jesuit Treason was listed as a failed assassination attempt in court transcripts.
- The interrogations of the Plotters Party took place over around 10-weeks.
- There were only 2 confessions that were printed in full, one was, of course, Guy Fawkes and the other was Thomas Wintour. These are still in existence and can be seen at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
- Guy Fawkes was taken to the Tower of London to be tortured to give up the names of his friends and co-conspirators with the instruction that he should be tortured lightly at first with the use of manacles and then onto the rack. The King composed a list of questions about his speaking French, who was ‘John Johnson?’ as no amount of investigation was revealing anything about him. Whilst Guy Fawkes continued to take the punishment dealt out to him, regrettably, he began to give away information after 2 solid days of torture but took another 24 hours of punishment before he gave any information about his friends. Although it has never been determined if he was indeed subjected to the rack, his signature on his Confession is really shaky and bears witness to the suffering he had endured.
- The trial of the plotters began on 27th January 1606 and the outcome was, of course, a foregone conclusion. Guilty of High Treason they were all to be put to death.
- The Attorney General Sir Edward Coke told the court that they were ‘to be put to death halfway between heaven and earth as they were unworthy of both’. Their genitalia was to be removed and burned 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’.
- On 31st January 1606, the Plotters Party, including Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Ambrose Rookwood and Thomas Wintour were dragged (referred to as drawn) from the Tower on ‘wattled hurdles’ to the old Palace Yard at Westminster. The first three took their place on the scaffold and they were Hung and then quartered but when it came to Guy Fawkes, although he was said to be clearly weakened, having to be assisted to climb the ladder to the gallows, once there he prayed, crossed himself and before he could be hanged, he jumped off, breaking his neck in the fall. His body, like the others, was quartered and his and his friend’s body parts were dispatched to the four corners of the kingdom.
- From 5th November 1605 the people of London were encouraged to celebrate the Kings escape by lighting Bonfires and marked this day as a joyful deliverance and a day of thanksgiving was allocated which continued to be observed until 1869.
As detailed above, some of the documentation from the trial still remains at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
Although as time has passed the political ramifications of the actions of this group has somehow been weakened, as a result of the change in religious view and the ever-changing face of Britain, there is still a confusion as to why nowadays we continue to celebrate the attempts to kill any number of politicians in such a loud, bright way but long may it continue.