Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes is the person most associated with the Gunpowder Plot to blow up James I ,the Houses of Lords and Commons when James opened Parliament on November 5th 1605. But who was Guy Fawkes?

Fawkes was born in York in on April 13th, 1570. His father was called Edward and his mother was called Edith.

Fawkes was brought up as a protestant and was baptised in the Church of St. Michael Belfry. He went to the Free School of St Peter's near the great cathedral of York Minster.

His father died when Fawkes was eight in 1578 and his mother lived as a widow for nine years. She re-married in 1587 and both she and Guy went to live in the village of Scotton, about 20 miles from York. Here Guy was heavily influenced by his step-father and it was his step-father who was very important in Guy's conversion to Catholicism.

Fawkes left England in 1593 aged 23 as a converted catholic and fought for Catholic Spain in its war against the Dutch. In this war, Fawkes learned all about the use of explosives - especially the art of mining and sapping which were used to blow up buildings and in siege warfare. Fawkes fought for the Archduke Albert of Austria and was described as

"a man of excellent good natural parts, very resolute and universally learned.......he was sought by all the most distinguished in the Archduke's camp for nobility and virtue."

Fawkes and others visited Philip III of Spain in 1603 to encourage an attempt an another armada - the invasion of England. In his confession, Fawkes claimed that he was approached by Thomas Wintour in the Easter of 1604 to join the plotters.

He was out of the country for 15 years so when he returned to join the plotters in May 1604, no-one would have known him. This anonymity was important for the task he was to get himself involved with.

A Dutch artist's impression of Guy Fawkes

In London, Fawkes became "John Johnson" and acted as the servant of Thomas Percy.

It was Fawkes who supervised the attempt to build a tunnel from the rented house at the Palace of Westminster; he also stayed with the barrels of gunpowder right up to the end. He was caught with both matches and fuse. He, above anyone, would have known how much fuse was needed to make the time to explosion short enough to avoid possible detection but long enough for him to get away from the blast. he was instructed by Catesby to flee to Flanders once the explosion had occurred.

There is no doubt that Fawkes was brave while kept in the Tower of London. James I himself had ordered that the torturers use the lesser tortures first, but graduate to the more unpleasant ones later.

If he will not other ways confess, gentler tortures are first to be used unto him and thus by degrees to the extremes. And so God speed your good work. (James I)

 

 He endured much torture before giving away the names of other conspirators. His ruined and broken body can be seen in his signature on his confession.

Fawkes was given some sort of trial and found guilty of treason with the other conspirators. He was taken from the Tower of London to the Old Palace Yard and executed on January 31st 1606.






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