Little Bits of History

Guy Fawkes

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 5, 2015
Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes

November 5, 1605: Guy Fawkes is captured. Fawkes was born in York, England in 1570 and was only eight at the time of his father’s death. His mother remarried, this time to a recusant Catholic. This meant they did not follow the law to attend mandated Anglican church services. The child converted to Catholicism and eventually went to mainland Europe where he joined the Catholic Spanish army in their Eighty Years’ War against the Protestant Dutch. While there, Guy was known as Guido. While abroad, he looked for help in fighting the Protestants in England, hoping to bring about a Catholic rebellion. He was unsuccessful in that attempt but did meet Thomas Wintour and the two men returned to England.

Wintour introduced Fawkes to Robert Catesby, a man planning to assassinate the Protestant King, James I, and restore the country to its Catholic heritage. The plot was to place a huge amount of gunpowder under the House of Lords and blow up the House as well as the King. The plot was discovered when loyal Catholics warned other Catholic members to be sure and stay away on the date they planned to blow up the buildings. Lord Monteagle received one of these letters and reported the plot to authorities who simply believed it to be a hoax. Monteagle showed the letter to the King who sent Sir Thomas Knyvet to search the cellars beneath the House of Lords.

There was a man who gave his name as John Johnson who was standing by with barrels and barrels of gunpowder, waiting for the signal to set the fuse. While he admitted his intent to blow up the House of Lords, he expressed regret only in his inability to do so. The next day, November 6, the King ordered that Johnson be tortured in order to learn the names of his co-conspirators. They were instructed to start easy, but increase the torture as needed to attain the answers the King sought. The King made up the list of questions to be put to the captive. Johnson was able to stay silent for a two days but on the seventh he revealed his own true name and on the eighth gave up the names of his partners in crime.

The trial of the eight men responsible for the Gunpowder Plot began on Monday, January 27, 1606. The outcome of the trial was never in doubt and the purpose built scaffold was already in place to present the criminals to the waiting crowd, including the King and his family. The charges were read and Guy Fawkes did not plead guilty even though he had admitted his involvement from the moment of his discovery. All eight were found guilty of high treason. Their execution was to be carried out under strict rules set up for the plotters. They were drawn (backwards) through the city streets from the Tower to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster. Then they were hanged and quartered. Fawkes’ body parts were distributed to the four corners of the kingdom in order to warn off other attempts.

To blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains. – Guy Fawkes, when asked what he was doing with so much gunpowder

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. – Sir William Waad, reporting on torture results

Since Johnson’s being in the Tower, he beginneth to speak English. – Sir Edward Hoby, torture observer

Put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both. – sentencing

Also on this day: Buying and Selling – In 1935, the board game Monopoly first went on sale.
Big History – In 1885, Will Durant was born.
Flight First – In 1911, the first US transcontinental flight ended.
Ace of Spies – In 1925, Sydney Reilly died.
Under Pressure – In 1983, the Byford Dolphin accident took place.

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Guy Fawkes’s Trial

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 27, 2013
Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes

January 27, 1606: The conspirators in the assassination plot against King James I are brought to trial. Robert Catesby had hoped for leniency and toleration toward Catholics. By May 1604, it was obvious they would remain a persecuted sect. James I became King of Scotland in 1567 and became King of England and Ireland in 1603 after Elizabeth I died. When the Catholics realized the Protestant monarch would continue to persecute them, they plotted to bring about a revolution in the hopes of seating James’s daughter, a Catholic, on the throne.

Several men conceived of a plan in the hope of religious freedom – at least for themselves. Even some titled men were involved in the plot. They employed Guy Fawkes, an expert with explosives and with years of military experience. In May 1604, they leased rooms adjacent to the House of Lords and began to bring in gunpowder. The plan was to assassinate the King and disrupt the governmental process by also killing other important figures.

The Black Plague came to London and was particularly virulent. Parliament was suspended until 1605. Instead of opening sessions early in the new year, sessions were postponed until October 3. During this lull, the plotters found a vacant coal merchant’s cellar under the House of Lords and began to fill it with gunpowder. They eventually concealed 36 barrels (1,775 pounds) of the substance under the building. If they had been successful, they would have reduced many of the near buildings to rubble, including Westminster Abbey.

The plotters tipped off Catholics, warning them not to be present when the Gunpowder Plot was scheduled. Loyal Catholics tipped off the authorities and at midnight on November 5, 1605 Guy Fawkes was arrested near 20 kegs of gunpowder. Under torture, he finally gave names of co-conspirators but only those men already dead or already known to the King. The men were brought to Westminster Hall. The sensational trial lasted one day and spectators paid up to 10 shillings to watch the proceedings. On January 31, Fawkes and several co-conspirators were taken to Old Palace Yard where they were drawn and quartered. Fawkes jumped as he was hanged, breaking his neck and dying instantly, thus eluding the torture of disembowelment and quartering.

“A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.” – Guy Fawkes

“Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot to surrender,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

“Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up King and Parli’ment.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

“Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 into a Protestant family. His mother’s family consisted of recusant Catholics, or those who refused to attend Anglican services. As such, they were subject to punishments under the laws of the Church of England. Guy’s cousin became a Jesuit priest ministering to Catholics. When Guy was 8, his father died. His mother remarried, this time to a Catholic. He received a Catholic education and associated with many who were avoiding the Recusancy Acts punishments. His childhood associates would also be co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. There is mention that Guy married and had a son, but there is a lack of confirmation amid the extant records.

Also on this day: Globetrotters – In 1927, the Harlem Globetrotters played their first game.
Apollo I Fire – In 1967, during a test flight the capsule of Apollo 1 burns, killing three.
It’s All Greek – In 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was formed.