10 Things you never knew about Guy Fawkes
It's Bonfire Night tonight and we thought we'd look at a few facts about the man behind the 5th November celebrations - Guy Fawkes himself. You may know a lot about him (probably learned in school), or you might know nothing at all. Whatever you're up to this Bonfire Night, we've got some little known facts and common misconceptions for you!
#1. Guy Fawkes wasn't the ringleader of the Gunpowder Plot
In fact, there were 13 conspirators in total and the plot was masterminded by Robert Catesby, a Catholic with a history of speaking out against the English crown. After the plot was foiled, Fawkes was the one who became notorious as it was his unenviable task to sneak into the cellars underneath the House of Lords and light the explosives. He was caught with 36 barrels of gunpowder and for two days he remained the sole conspirator that the King's men managed to capture!
#2. He didn't die by being hung, drawn and quartered
In the 17th-century, it was traditional for traitors to be hung, drawn and quartered in public. But this was not Guy Fawkes's fate, for he leapt to his death whilst waiting on the gallows to be hung, avoiding having his stomach sliced open and his testicles cut off in public. He died from a broken neck and his body was quartered and sent off to the 'four corners of the kingdom' as a warning to others.
Image credit: wikimedia
#3. He was Protestant by birth
Despite being the greatest enemy of the Protestants, Guy Fawkes was himself actually born Protestant. Fawkes's father died in 1578 when he was just 8 years old, and his mother re-married a Catholic man. Fawkes converted to Catholicism in his teens.
#4. There's an island named after Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes is one of the most infamous villains in the UK and we have celebrated his demise for centuries on Bonfire Night. But did you know that you could go on holiday to an island named after him? In the Galapagos Islands, just North West of Santa Cruz Island, there are two uninhabited islands called 'Isla Guy Fawkes' - Guy Fawkes Island.
Image credit: Googlemaps
#5. He had an Italian nickname
All the best criminals do, don't you know? When he was 21, Fawkes sold the estate left to him by his late father and travelled to Europe to fight for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years War against the Protestant Dutch. Whilst abroad, he went by the Italian version of his name, and was known as 'Guido' - it's thought that he adopted this in an attempt to appear more continental and serious about his faith. When he was arrested and forced to sign a confession about his role in the Gunpowder Plot, he signed as 'Guido Fawkes'.
#6. Today the Houses of Parliament's cellars are still checked once a year
It's become more of a tradition than an actual anti-terrorism measure, but every year before the state opening of parliament, the Yeomen of the guard searches the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament, just to check there are no conspirators hiding with explosives!
Image credit: newhistorian.com
#7. The cellar Guy Fawkes tried to destroy no longer exists
In 1854 it was destroyed in the same fire that devastated the medieval Houses of Parliament.
#8. He won the admiration of King James I
Guy Fawkes remained defiant even when tortured and it took two full days of torture before his confession. When asked why he had so much gunpowder, he said it was "to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains." He admitted he had in fact planned to blow up the House of Lords and that he regretted his failure. His resilience earned him the praise of King James, who said Fawkes possessed 'a Roman resolution.'
#9. It's unlikely the gunpowder would have actually damaged Parliament
Fawkes planted 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar below the Houses of Parliament, enough to raze it to the ground and destroy neighbouring buildings (check out the below clip from a 2005 ITV documentary which shows how much damage would have been caused, had the plot succeeded)
But experts now claim that the gunpowder had 'decayed' and that it would not have exploded properly even if it had been ignited!
#10. There's only one place in the UK that never celebrates Guy Fawkes
St Peter's School in York, the school Guy Fawkes attended, doesn't burn a guy on November 5thout of respect for one of their own!
How will you be celebrating this Bonfire Night? Why not try making one of our delicious recipes if you're planning on celebrating with friends and family?