Added on: 5th Nov 2014
Guy Fawkes was born in April 1570 in York. Although his
immediate family were all Protestants, in keeping with the
accepted religious practice in England at the time,
his maternal grandparents were 'recusant' Catholics,
who refused to attend Protestant services.
When Guy was eight, his father died and his
widowed mother married a Catholic, Dionis Baynbrigge.
It was these early influences that were to forge
Fawkes' convictions as an adult.
It was while on campaign fighting for Spain in Flanders
that Fawkes was approached by Thomas Wintour,
one of the plotters, and asked to join what would become
known as the Gunpowder Plot,
under the leadership of Robert Catesby.
The foiling of the plot had been expertly engineered by
James I's spymaster, Robert Cecil.
Fawkes was subjected to various tortures, including the rack.
Torture was technically illegal, and James I was
personally required to give a licence for Fawkes to endure its ravages.
While just the threat of torture was enough to break the
resolve of many, Fawkes withstood two days of the most
terrible pain before he confessed all.
Famously, his signature on his confession was that
of a shattered and broken man, the ill-formed letters
telling the story of a someone who was barely able to hold a quill.
His fortitude throughout had impressed James I,
who said he admired Fawkes' "Roman resolution".
Fawkes was sentenced to the traditional traitors' death –
to be 'hanged, drawn and quartered'.
He jumped from the gallows, breaking his own neck and
thereby avoiding the horror of being cut down while still alive,
having his testicles cut off and his stomach opened and his
guts spilled before his eyes.
His lifeless body was hacked into quarters and his
remains sent to "the four corners of the kingdom" as a warning to others.
Through the centuries the Guy Fawkes legend has become
ever-more entrenched, and by the 19th Century it was his
effigy that was being placed on the bonfires that were lit
annually to commemorate the failure of the plot.