This article is about the historical figure. For other uses, seeGuy Fawkes (disambiguation).
Guido Fawkes redirects here. For the political blogger, seePaul Staines.
Guy Fawkes(/fɔːks/; 13 April 1570 31 January 1606),aalso known asGuido Fawkeswhile fighting for the Spanish, was a member of a group of provincialEnglish Catholicswho planned the failedGunpowder Plotof 1605. He was born and educated inYork, England; his father died when Fawkes was eight years old, after which his mother married arecusantCatholic.
Fawkes converted to Catholicism and left for mainland Europe, where he fought for Catholic Spain in theEighty Years Waragainst Protestant Dutchreformersin theLow Countries. He travelled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England without success. He later metThomas Wintour, with whom he returned to England, and Wintour introduced him toRobert Catesby, who planned to assassinateKing James Iand restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plotters leased anundercroftbeneath the House of Lords, and Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder which they stockpiled there. The authorities were prompted by an anonymous letter to searchWestminster Palaceduring the early hours of 5 November, and they found Fawkes guarding the explosives. He was questioned and tortured over the next few days, and he finally confessed.
Immediately before his execution on 31 January, Fawkes fell from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of beinghanged, drawn and quartered. He became synonymous with the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been commemorated in Britain asGuy Fawkes Nightsince 5 November 1605, when his effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, commonly accompanied by fireworks.
Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in Stonegate,York. He was the second of four children born to Edward Fawkes, aproctorand an advocate of theconsistory courtat York,band his wife, Edith.cGuys parents were regular communicants of theChurch of England, as were his paternal grandparents; his grandmother, born Ellen Harrington, was the daughter of a prominent merchant, who served asLord Mayor of Yorkin 1536.4Guys mothers family wererecusant Catholics, and his cousin, Richard Cowling, became aJesuitpriest.5Guywas an uncommon name in England, but may have been popular in York on account of a local notable, SirGuy Fairfaxof Steeton.6
The date of Fawkess birth is unknown, but he wasbaptisedin the church ofSt Michael le Belfreyon 16 April. As the customary gap between birth and baptism was three days, he was probably born about 13 April.5In 1568, Edith had given birth to a daughter named Anne, but the child died aged about seven weeks, in November that year. She bore two more children after Guy: Anne (b. 1572), and Elizabeth (b. 1575). Both were married, in 1599 and 1594 respectively.67
In 1579, when Guy was eight years old, his father died. His mother remarried several years later, to the Catholic Dionis Baynbrigge (or Denis Bainbridge) ofScotton, Harrogate. Fawkes may have become a Catholic through the Baynbrigge familys recusant tendencies, and also the Catholic branches of the Pulleyn and Percy families of Scotton,8but also from his time atSt. Peters Schoolin York. A governor of the school had spent about 20years in prison for recusancy, and its headmaster, John Pulleyn, came from a family of noted Yorkshire recusants, the Pulleyns ofBlubberhouses. In her 1915 workThe Pulleynes of Yorkshire, author Catharine Pullein suggested that Fawkess Catholic education came from his Harrington relatives, who were known for harbouring priests, one of whom later accompanied Fawkes toFlandersin 15921593.9Fawkess fellow students includedJohn Wrightand his brotherChristopher(both later involved with Fawkes in theGunpowder Plot) andOswald TesimondEdward Oldcorneand Robert Middleton, who became priests (the latter executed in 1601).10
After leaving school Fawkes entered the service ofAnthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu. The Viscount took a dislike to Fawkes and after a short time dismissed him; he was subsequently employed byAnthony-Maria Browne, 2nd Viscount Montagu, who succeeded his grandfather at the age of18.11At least one source claims that Fawkes married and had a son, but no known contemporary accounts confirm this.12d
In October 1591 Fawkes sold the estate inCliftonin York that he had inherited from his father.eHe travelled to the continent to fight in theEighty Years Warfor Catholic Spain against the newDutch Republicand, from 1595 until thePeace of Vervinsin 1598, France. Although England was not by then engaged in land operations against Spain, the two countries werestill at war, and theSpanish Armadaof 1588 was only five years in the past. He joinedSir William Stanley, an English Catholic and veteran commander in his mid-fifties who had raised an army in Ireland to fight inLeicesters expedition to the Netherlands. Stanley had been held in high regard byElizabeth I, but following his surrender ofDeventerto the Spanish in 1587 he, and most of his troops, had switched sides to serve Spain. Fawkes became analfrezor junior officer, fought well at thesiege of Calais in 1596, and by 1603 had been recommended for acaptaincy.3That year, he travelled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England. He used the occasion to adopt the Italian version of his name, Guido, and in his memorandum describedJames I(who became king of England that year) as a heretic, who intended to have all of the Papist sect driven out of England. He denounced Scotland, and the Kingsfavouritesamong the Scottish nobles, writing it will not be possible to reconcile these two nations, as they are, for very long.13Although he was received politely, the court ofPhilip IIIwas unwilling to offer him any support.14
In 1604 Fawkes became involved with a small group of English Catholics, led byRobert Catesby, who planned to assassinate theand replace him with his daughter, third in the line of succession,Princess Elizabeth.1516Fawkes was described by the Jesuit priest and former school friendOswald Tesimondas pleasant of approach and cheerful of manner, opposed to quarrels and strife… loyal to his friends. Tesimond also claimed Fawkes was a man highly skilled in matters of war, and that it was this mixture of piety and professionalism that endeared him to his fellow conspirators.3The authorAntonia Fraserdescribes Fawkes as a tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard, and that he was a man of action… capable of intelligent argument as well as physical endurance, somewhat to the surprise of his enemies.5
The first meeting of the five central conspirators took place on Sunday 20 May 1604, at an inn called the Duck and Drake, in the fashionableStranddistrict of London.fCatesby had already proposed at an earlier meeting withThomas Wintourand John Wright to kill the King and his government by blowing up the Parliament House with gunpowder. Wintour, who at first objected to the plan, was convinced by Catesby to travel to the continent to seek help. Wintour met with the Constable of Castile, the exiled Welsh spy Hugh Owen,18and Sir William Stanley, who said that Catesby would receive no support from Spain. Owen did, however, introduce Wintour to Fawkes, who had by then been away from England for many years, and thus was largely unknown in the country. Wintour and Fawkes were contemporaries; each was militant, and had first-hand experience of the unwillingness of the Spaniards to help. Wintour told Fawkes of their plan to doe some whatt in Ingland if the pece with Spaine healped us nott,3and thus in April 1604 the two men returned to England.17Wintours news did not surprise Catesby; despite positive noises from the Spanish authorities, he feared that the deeds would nott answere.g
One of the conspirators,Thomas Percy, was promoted in June 1604, gaining access to a house in London that belonged to John Whynniard, Keeper of the Kings Wardrobe. Fawkes was installed as a caretaker and began using the pseudonym John Johnson, servant to Percy.20The contemporaneous account of the prosecution (taken from Thomas Wintours confession)21claimed that the conspirators attempted to dig a tunnel from beneath Whynniards house to Parliament, although this story may have been a government fabrication; no evidence for the existence of a tunnel was presented by the prosecution, and no trace of one has ever been found; Fawkes himself did not admit the existence of such a scheme until his fifth interrogation, but even then he could not locate the tunnel.22If the story is true, however, by December 1604 the conspirators were busy tunnelling from their rented house to the House of Lords. They ceased their efforts when, during tunnelling, they heard a noise from above. Fawkes was sent out to investigate, and returned with the news that the tenants widow was clearing out a nearbyundercroft, directly beneath the House of Lords.323
The plotters purchased the lease to the room, which also belonged to John Whynniard. Unused and filthy, it was considered an ideal hiding place for the gunpowder the plotters planned to store.24According to Fawkes, 20barrels of gunpowder were brought in at first, followed by 16more on 20 July.25On 28 July however, the ever-present threat of the plague delayed the opening of Parliament until Tuesday, 5 November.26
In an attempt to gain foreign support, in May 1605 Fawkes travelled overseas and informed Hugh Owen of the plotters plan.27At some point during this trip his name made its way into the files ofRobert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, who employed a network of spies across Europe. One of these spies, Captain William Turner, may have been responsible. Although the information he provided to Salisbury usually amounted to no more than a vague pattern of invasion reports, and included nothing which regarded the Gunpowder Plot, on 21 April he told how Fawkes was to be brought by Tesimond to England. Fawkes was a well-known Flemish mercenary, and would be introduced to Mr Catesby and honourable friends of the nobility and others who would have arms and horses in readiness.28Turners report did not, however, mention Fawkess pseudonym in England, John Johnson, and did not reach Cecil until late in November, well after the plot had been discovered.329
It is uncertain when Fawkes returned to England, but he was back in London by late August 1605, when he and Wintour discovered that the gunpowder stored in the undercroft had decayed. More gunpowder was brought into the room, along with firewood to conceal it.30Fawkess final role in the plot was settled during a series of meetings in October. He was to light the fuse and then escape across the Thames. Simultaneously, a revolt in the Midlands would help to ensure the capture of Princess Elizabeth. Acts ofregicidewere frowned upon, and Fawkes would therefore head tothe continent, where he would explain to the Catholic powers his holy duty to kill the King and his retinue.31
A few of the conspirators were concerned about fellow Catholics who would be present at Parliament during the opening.32On the evening of 26 October,Lord Monteaglereceived an anonymous letter warning him to stay away, and to retyre youre self into yowre contee whence yow maye expect the event in safti for… they shall receyve a terrible blowe this parleament.33Despite quickly becoming aware of the letterinformed by one of Monteagles servantsthe conspirators resolved to continue with their plans, as it appeared that it was clearly thought to be a hoax.34Fawkes checked the undercroft on 30 October, and reported that nothing had been disturbed.35Monteagles suspicions had been aroused, however, and the letter was shown to King James. The King orderedSir Thomas Knyvetto conduct a search of the cellars underneath Parliament, which he did in the early hours of 5 November. Fawkes had taken up his station late on the previous night, armed with a slow match and a watch given to him by Percy becaus he should knowe howe the time went away.3He was found leaving the cellar, shortly after midnight, and arrested. Inside, the barrels of gunpowder were discovered hidden under piles of firewood and coal.36
Fawkes gave his name as John Johnson and was first interrogated by members of the KingsPrivy chamber, where he remained defiant.37When asked by one of the lords what he was doing in possession of so much gunpowder, Fawkes answered that his intention was to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.38He identified himself as a 36-year-old Catholic from Netherdale in Yorkshire, and gave his fathers name as Thomas and his mothers as Edith Jackson. Wounds on his body noted by his questioners he explained as the effects ofpleurisy. Fawkes admitted his intention to blow up the House of Lords, and expressed regret at his failure to do so. His steadfast manner earned him the admiration of King James, who described Fawkes as possessing a Roman resolution.39
Jamess admiration did not, however, prevent him from ordering on 6 November that John Johnson be tortured, to reveal the names of his co-conspirators.40He directed that the torture be light at first, referring to the use ofmanacles, but more severe if necessary, authorising the use ofthe rack: the gentler Tortures are to be first used unto himet sic per gradus ad ima tenditur[and so by degrees proceeding to the worst].3741Fawkes was transferred to theTower of London. The King composed a list of questions to be put to Johnson, such asas to what he is, For I can never yet hear of any man that knows him, When and where he learned to speak French?, and If he was a Papist, who brought him up in it?42The room in which Fawkes was interrogated subsequently became known as the Guy Fawkes Room.43
Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower, supervised the torture and obtained Fawkess confession.37He searched his prisoner, and found a letter addressed to Guy Fawkes. To Waads surprise, Johnson remained silent, revealing nothing about the plot or its authors.44On the night of 6 November he spoke with Waad, who reported to Salisbury He [Johnson] told us that since he undertook this action he did every day pray to God he might perform that which might be for the advancement of the Catholic Faith and saving his own soul. According to Waad, Fawkes managed to rest through the night, despite his being warned that he would be interrogated until I had gotton the inwards secret of his thoughts and all his complices.45His composure was broken at some point during the following day.46
The observer Sir Edward Hoby remarked Since Johnsons being in the Tower, he beginneth to speak English. Fawkes revealed his true identity on 7 November, and told his interrogators that there were five people involved in the plot to kill the King. He began to reveal their names on 8 November, and told how they intended to place Princess Elizabeth on the throne. His third confession, on 9 November, implicatedFrancis Tresham. Following theRidolfi plotof 1571 prisoners were made to dictate their confessions, before copying and signing them, if they still could.47Although it is uncertain if he was tortured on the rack, Fawkess scrawled signature bears testament to the suffering he endured at the hands of his interrogators.48
The trial of eight of the plotters began on Monday 27 January 1606. Fawkes shared the barge from the Tower toWestminster Hallwith seven of his co-conspirators.hThey were kept in theStar Chamberbefore being taken to Westminster Hall, where they were displayed on a purpose-built scaffold. The King and his close family, watching in secret, were among the spectators as the Lords Commissioners read out the list of charges. Fawkes was identified as Guido Fawkes, otherwise called Guido Johnson. He pleaded not guilty, despite his apparent acceptance of guilt from the moment he was captured.50
The jury found all the defendants guilty, and theLord Chief JusticeSirJohn Pophampronounced them guilty ofhigh treason.51Thetold the court that each of the condemned would bedrawn backwardsto his death, by a horse, his head near the ground. They were to be put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both. Their genitals would be cut off and burnt 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.52Fawkess and Treshams testimony regarding the Spanish treason was read aloud, as well as confessions related specifically to the Gunpowder Plot. The last piece of evidence offered was a conversation between Fawkes and Wintour, who had been kept in adjacent cells. The two men apparently thought they had been speaking in private, but their conversation was intercepted by a government spy. When the prisoners were allowed to speak, Fawkes explained his not guilty plea as ignorance of certain aspects of the indictment.53
On 31 January 1606, Fawkes and three others Thomas Wintour,Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes were dragged (i.e., drawn) from the Tower on wattledhurdlesto the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, opposite the building they had attempted to destroy.54His fellow plotters were then hanged and quartered. Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his crosses and idle ceremonies (Catholic practices). Weakened by torture and aided by the hangman, Fawkes began to climb the ladder to the noose, but either through jumping to his death or climbing too high so the rope was incorrectly set, he managed to avoid the agony of the latter part of his execution by breaking his neck.375556His lifeless body was nevertheless quartered57and, as was the custom,58his body parts were then distributed to the four corners of the kingdom, to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.59
On 5 November 1605, Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the Kings escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, provided that this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder.3An Act of Parliamentdesignated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for the joyful day of deliverance, and remained in force until 1859.60Fawkes was one of 13 conspirators, but he is the individual most associated with the plot.61
In Britain, 5 November has variously been calledGuy Fawkes Night, Guy Fawkes Day, Plot Night,62and Bonfire Night (which can be traced directly back to the original celebration of 5 November 1605).63Bonfires were accompanied by fireworks from the 1650s onwards, and it became the custom after 1673 to burn an effigy (usually of the pope) when heir presumptiveJames, Duke of Yorkconverted to Catholicism.3Effigies of other notable figures have found their way onto the bonfires, such asPaul KrugerandMargaret Thatcher,64although most modern effigies are of Fawkes.60The guy is normally created by children from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask.60During the 19th century, guy came to mean an oddly dressed person, but in American English it has lost any pejorative connotation and is used to refer to any male person.6065
James Sharpe, professor of history at the University of York, has described how Guy Fawkes came to be toasted as the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions.66William Harrison Ainsworths 1841 historical romanceGuy Fawkes; or, The Gunpowder Treasonportrays Fawkes in a generally sympathetic light,67and his novel transformed Fawkes in the public perception into an acceptable fictional character. Fawkes subsequently appeared as essentially an action hero in childrens books andpenny dreadfulssuch asThe Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes; or, The Conspirators of Old London, published around 1905.68According to historianLewis Call, Fawkes is now a major icon in modern political culture whose face has become a potentially powerful instrument for the articulation of postmodern anarchismiin the late 20th century.69
Dates in this article before14 September 1752are given in the Julian calendar. The beginning of the year is treated as 1 January even though it began in England on 25 March.
According to one source, he may have been Registrar of the Exchequer Court of the Archbishop.
Fawkess mothers maiden name is alternatively given as Edith Blake,
According to theInternational Genealogical Index, compiled by theLDS Church, Fawkes married Maria Pulleyn (b. 1569) in Scotton in 1590, and had a son, Thomas, on 6 February 1591.
These entries, however, appear to derive from a secondary source and not from actual parish entries.
Although the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography claims 1592, multiple alternative sources give 1591 as the date. Peter Beal,
A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology, 1450 to 2000
, includes a signed indenture of the sale of the estate dated 14 October 1591. (pp. 198199)
Also present were fellow conspirators John Wright,Thomas Percy, andThomas Wintour(with whom he was already acquainted).
Philip IIImade peace with England in August 1604.
The eighth, Thomas Bates, was considered inferior by virtue of his status, and was held instead at Gatehouse Prison.
, The Gunpowder Plot Society, archived fromthe originalon 18 March 2010
Nicholls, Mark (2004), Fawkes, Guy (bap. 1570, d. 1606),
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Call, Lewis (July 2008),A is for Anarchy, V is for Vendetta: Images of Guy Fawkes and the Creation of Postmodern Anarchism,
Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower, and the Gunpowder Plot
(illustrated ed.), Trafford Publishing,ISBN
A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland
The spoken word: oral culture in Britain, 15001850
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(illustrated ed.), Harvard University Press,ISBN
The A to Z of Punishment and Torture: From Amputations to Zero Tolerance
Guy Fawkes story from the BBC, including archive video clips
The Trials of Robert Winter, Thomas Winter, Guy Fawkes, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, and Sir Everard Digby
William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle(informer)
Converts to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism
English military personnel of the Eighty Years War
Pages containing links to subscription-only content
Articles with self-published sources from January 2018
Wikipedia articles with WorldCat-VIAF identifiers
This page was last edited on 10 May 2019, at 16:02