Who Is Guy Fawkes ?


Guy Fawkes Facts – Easily Understood

Who Is Guy Fawkes ?

Who Is Guy Fawkes ?

Guy Fawkes day, or night, is mostly observed in Great Britain.  The English folks have so much Guy Fawkes facts on record that it would take many hours to read all that there is.  So, to answer the question :  Who Is Guy Fawkes,  I will attempt  to condense the most important Guy Fawkes facts into a short blog, easy to read for all.

To quickly answer the question of who Guy Fawkes is, we need to travel back several hundred years and get  a little bit of the background of him and what was going on in the world during the time he was living.  Ready?  OK, so here we go.

We need to go back to the late 1500’s and early 1600’s and consider the backdrop that Guy Fawkes is having to deal with.  It has to do with religion, which have at times, started tremendous wars (i.e. WW I   and WW II  in the 20th century)  where groups of people are feeling repressed and are to the point of taking matters into their own hands to seemingly…get things done.

The place we will concentrate on is England, where Catholics and Protestants were constantly vying for rulership over England.  Catholics wanted  England to be ruled by a Catholic king, while Protestants wanted it to be ruled by a Protestant king.  The power struggle is where the Catholic, Guy Fawkes, now finds himself, along with several other co-conspirators that wanted to take matters into their own hands.

Queen Elizabeth I was then ruling England, recently having been excommunicated from the Catholic church in 1570, which left a bitter taste in her mouth about the Catholic religion.  Because of her hatred of the Catholic religion, she began a campaign against all Catholics living in England, in which dozens of priests were executed.   She imposed many rules and restrictions on any who professed to be of the Catholic religion.

Because of Elizabeth’s strong dislike of Catholics, none were saddened at her death.  On the other hand,  there were many who had high hopes when Protestant King James I,  came to the seat of rulership after the death of Elizabeth in 1603.  Why such high hopes?  It was thought that  since James’ wife, Anne, was believed to have converted to Catholicism, she would be a tool within the higher ranks, to restore Catholicism to England.

However, that did not happen.  What did take place in 1604, was that King James I, did just the opposite.  He condemned the Catholic religion publicly as nothing but a bunch of silly superstitions being promoted by the Pope.   Now, as ruler of England, he was in a position to create rules and laws and even invoke fines upon all those who refused to attend Protestant religious services.

Briefly now, let’s go back to Elizabeth’s rule.

During her rulership, there had been English inspired attempts by “God fearing “good” Catholics”  to overthrow the throne while she was ruling.   (Keep in mind that she had been excommunicated and was no longer viewed as Catholic)   That same attitude of wanting to overthrow the ruling king, prevailed  when the Protestant, King James I, was ruling with his “so-called”, converted Catholic wife.  There was always those who wanted a Catholic King to rule the country.

The Bye Plot  was hatched in 1603, to kidnap James.  However, because of some having knowledge of this plot, they gave notice to the king, who in turn, stopped it.  It never transpired.  Then the Main Plot was conceived to actually kill James and to place his cousin on the throne.  Needless to say, that too, was a failed attempt.

Now we find ourselves in the year of 1605, with Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby (the leader of the so-called, Gunpowder Plot), Tom Wintour, Jack Wright and Thomas Percy, along with 8 others joining later on, coming together at the Duck and Drake Inn within the city of London, England.

Catesby, as the leader of the group, had come up with a plan to blow up the House of Lords along with the House of Commons when they met together during the opening sessions of Parliament.  How was this to be done?  With barrels of gunpowder underneath the building, (Gunpowder Plot).

But now the problem of how to get gunpowder under the building without being detected.    It was at this time that Guy Fawkes decided to give a false name (John Johnson) and become the caretaker for the cellar of the building located just below the House of Lords.  All involved were in agreement with this scheme and just ‘knew’ it would come off successfully.

Months in advance, John Johnson (Guy Fawkes) would bring in a barrel or two at a time and stockpile them in the cellar.  By the time opening session of Parliament was to meet, he had accumulated a total of some 36 barrels of gunpowder, ready to be set off by himself.

The date?…..November 5, 1605.

The detailed plans had been in place for several months, including  Fawkes escape plan by a small boat to be used in crossing the River Thames.  In the meantime, when confusion was rampant in the government because of the explosion, his fellow conspirators would get crowds of local people involved in an uprising in the Midlands of England.  The plan was to kidnap James’  daughter and have her serve as a “puppet queen” for a brief period of time, then to marry her to a powerful Catholic man who would bring order back to England under Catholic rule.

That was the way is was supposed to go.  But did it ?   No.

Guy Fawkes caught in the cellar with gunpowder.

Guy Fawkes caught in the cellar with gunpowder.

So what happened and how does that relate to Guy Fawkes Day as celebrated today?

Several days in advance of Nov. 5, (Oct. 26 to be exact) a letter was received that stated  that all those in favor of Catholic rulership, should avoid the State Opening of Parliament on Nov. 5th, and to be aware of a Plot to do away with the ruling authorities.  Who wrote the letter?  No one ever found out.

Alerted, the authorities now began an investigation and search of the building.  Hiding in the cellar, ready to light the fuse to the gunpowder, then making his quick get-away, was Guy Fawkes.  His plan was to stay in the cellar all night so he would have no problems entering the cellar on the day of Nov. 5 since he was already there, hiding.  It was Nov. 4, around midnight, when he was caught, pockets full of matches.

Quickly Guy Fawkes was whisked away to the Tower of London to be tortured into revealing names of all who were involved in this Plot.  After several hours of torture, he finally revealed the names of others, all of whom were quickly arrested, except four.  (There was the original 5 as we have said above, but later on another 8 joined with them)  Robert Catesby was one individual who was not arrested as he was killed in a shootout with the military that had come to arrest him.

Since all were found to be guilty, and were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered, it presented a grizzly sight indeed.

November 5  Guy Fawkes Day

Even though Catesby was the leader, Guy Fawkes has been given the most prominent position as the main individual involved in this plot over the last several hundred years.  In fact, by the very next year, January 1606, after the entire affair had become well known throughout all of England, Londoners began the tradition of lighting bonfires, similar to what would have happened if the gunpowder had gone off.  Displaying an anti-Catholic and anti-Government view.

In 1606, Parliament decided to make November 5, a day of thanksgiving.  The Guy Fawkes Day celebration had begun.  Very quickly, this celebration had spread to the American colonies and was know as Pope Day.  Remember, most early American settlers came from Great Britain (England).

Guy Fawkes night celebration

Guy Fawkes night celebration

For many years the date of November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, was celebrated both in the American colonies and in the U.K.  However, the tradition of bonfires and the burning of effigies of the Pope and political leaders in the American colonies, soon died out. The opposite was true  in Britain, Guy Fawkes Day soon became a time when families along with many friends would gather to either explode fireworks, or make huge bonfires, along with attending parades or marching in them.

Guy Fawkes Day Parade

Guy Fawkes Day Parade

The effigies of Guy Fawkes and others that were eventually burned, were being wheeled through the streets or paraded around for all Londoners to see. It was the sound of  children calling for a “penny for the Guy” (Guy Fawkes) and at  the same time calling out to “remember, remember the 5th of November” that caught everyone’s attention.   That is very similar to what children in the United States now call out on Oct. 31.   “Trick or Treat”.

Though Guy Fawkes was anti-Catholic, over the span of time,  it has all been forgotten.  In fact, instead of being known as a infamous traitor, he is viewed by many, as a hero.   How did this come about?

Penny for the "Guy"

Penny for the “Guy”

Back in the 1980’s there were several movies made using the now famous, ‘Guy Fawkes’ masks.  The movie entitled :  V for Vendetta along with another  movie made with the same name in 2005, the hero wore a Guy Fawkes mask and was shown to be doing battle with a futuristic fascist type government ruling all of Great Britain. The Guy Fawkes mask soon came to represent the hero of the movie.  The masks became even more popular during the November 5 celebration, when  bonfires and fireworks were being set off.

Guy Fawkes Popular Mask

Guy Fawkes Popular Mask









How is it that many :   “remember , remember the 5th of November ?”

Follow along with these different versions of children’s songs.


Original Version:

Remember, Remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder, treason, and plot, I see no reason why gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, he’s intent, to blow up the Houses of Parliament, three score barrels of powder below, poor old England to overthrow.

By God’s providence he was catched, with black lantern and burning match, hollar, hollar boys, ring the bells ring!

Hollar, Hollar boys, God save the King!

1742 Version:

Don’t you Remember, The fifth of November, ‘Twas Gunpowder Treason Day,  I let off my gun, and made’em  all run.  And Stole all their bonfire away.

1903 Version:

The fifth of November, since I can remember, was Guy Fawkes, poke him in the eye, shove him up the chimney-pot, and there let him die.

A stick and a stake, for King George’s sake, if you don’t give me one, I’ll take two, the better for me, and the worse for you, ricket-a-racket your hedges shall go.


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Posted by :    Tom McDaniel