Everything You Need to Know About Guy Fawkes
Every November, with winter fast approaching, we Brits wrap up warm, head outside and celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night.
But as you look up at a sky filled with fireworks, and warm yourself by a blazing bonfire you may be wondering, ‘What was the big deal about Guy Fawkes?’
Well, let the Epic Fireworks team give you a bit of a history lesson and tell you everything you need to know about Guy Fawkes, and why the 5th of November has become such a big part of our traditional heritage.
Guy Fawkes: Early Life and Background
Guy Fawkes was born on April 13, 1570, in York, England. He came from a family of modest means. His father, Edward Fawkes, was a proctor, and his mother, Edith Blake Fawkes, was from a respected Protestant family. At only a few days old he was baptised as a Protestant, reflecting the religious landscape of his time.
However, Fawkes' life took a significant turn when his father died and his mother married a Catholic man and converted to Catholicism. Now 16, Guy also converted to Catholicism.
During this time, England was undergoing significant religious upheaval. The country had officially adopted Protestantism under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, leading to the persecution and marginalisation of Catholics, with priests and practising Catholics being punished for their beliefs.
In the early 1590s, Fawkes left England to enlist in the Spanish Army, then at odds with England due to political and religious conflicts. During his time in the Spanish Netherlands, he adopted the moniker "Guido" and gained a reputation for his military prowess and his dedication to the Catholic cause.
During this period of time, religion was a central aspect of a person’s identity and beliefs, and people often felt a strong sense of loyalty and devotion to their chosen faith. Fawkes' devotion and dedication to his newfound faith, coupled with the nationwide persecution of Catholics, would later lead him to a path of radicalism.
On his return to England, Fawkes adopted the alias "John Johnson," a deliberate move to conceal his true identity while becoming an essential figure in the Gunpowder Plot.
The Gunpowder Plot
In an age marked by intense conflict between Catholics and Protestants, tensions ran high, setting the stage for the infamous Gunpowder Plot, a daring plan to alter the course of history.
At the heart of this scheme were several figures whose names would become etched in history.
Robert Catesby – An intelligent and charismatic man who masterminded the plot.
Thomas Wintour – A wheeler dealer who was good to have around as he could source just about anything.
Thomas Percy – Had ‘family’ connections which could get him closer to the Lords at the time.
John Wright – Reputed to be one of the finest swordsmen in the country.
And of course, our main man, Guy Fawkes. Fawkes' military background and expertise in explosives positioned him as the linchpin of the plot. His knowledge was crucial for the conspirators, as they relied on his skills to execute their audacious plan.
The first meeting of the main 5 conspirators took place in the Duck and Drake pub in The Strand, London. The plan made by these men was intended to be a cataclysmic turning point in English History. It was to be an event that would eliminate the ruling elite, assassinate King James 1st and restore a Catholic Monarch to the throne. In turn, paving the way for a new era guided by their vision of how the country should be run.
The conspirators had secretly stockpiled barrels of gunpowder underneath the House of Lords, aiming to obliterate the heart of the English government on the night of November 5th, 1605.
They believed that by striking at this centre of power, they could shatter the established order, creating an opportunity for their ideals to take hold. Yet, their plot was thwarted.
Guy Fawkes had been tasked with guarding the stockpiled gunpowder, but was caught in the cellar before he was able to enact the devastating explosion. This pivotal moment led to the unravelling of their grand plan.
Capture and Trial
The meticulously planned Gunpowder Plot, was on the brink of execution. Fawkes and the gunpowder were in place, the matches and fuses were ready and everything was going to plan. But not for long…
An anonymous letter had been sent to Lord Monteagle telling him not to attend the opening of Parliament. The letter was shown to the King’s Chief minister and word got to the plotters that their plan may be in peril. However, they weren’t deterred and the plan was still in motion.
Authorities did an initial sweep of the vaults under the Houses of Parliament but Guy Fawkes, posing as Thomas Percy’s servant, convinced them that it was nothing but firewood stores and they left convinced that all was well. However, the King ordered a second sweep at which point Fawkes was found with fuses and matches and they also discovered the 36 barrels of gunpowder.
Fawkes was arrested on the spot and the other plotters were gathered and arrested over the following months.
Interrogation and Confession
After his arrest, Guy Fawkes was taken to the Tower of London and faced intense interrogation. Under relentless questioning and torture, Fawkes revealed details of the conspiracy, exposing his co-conspirators and the details of their plan. His confession provided a crucial account of the plot's origins, intentions, and those involved.
Trial and Sentencing
In January 1606, Guy Fawkes, along with his fellow conspirators, faced trial for high treason. The court proceedings were swift and decisive. Fawkes and several others were found guilty and condemned to the gruesome fate of being hung, drawn and quartered.
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 January 31st, 1606, Guy Fawkes met his end on the scaffold. However, he cheated his brutal sentence by jumping from the gallows and breaking his neck before the torturous death could be carried out.
The Legacy of Guy Fawkes
To celebrate the Kings escape, Londoners were encouraged to celebrate by lighting bonfires and marking the 5th of November as a day of celebration and thanks. An official day of thanksgiving was allocated and it continued to be observed until 1869.
The thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot was also a watershed moment in English history. It not only prevented a potentially catastrophic event, but it also solidified the government's authority and reinforced the importance of national security. The legacy of this foiled conspiracy continues to be commemorated annually on Guy Fawkes Night – a testament to the enduring impact of those tumultuous times.
Celebrating Guy Fawkes Night
5th of November celebrations were originally centred on a bonfire, but by the 1650's people had started to add fireworks imported from China into their celebrations.
Now Bonfire Night isn't complete without the fun that fireworks bring to the night. Make sure you add some Epic Fireworks to your night and shop the biggest range of the most powerful fireworks you can buy in the UK today.