For most of us, Bonfire Night is a great excuse to wrap up warm, grab a hot drink, stand round a bonfire and watch some fireworks! Everyone knows the history of the failed attempt to blow up parliament on the 5th of November 1605, but how much do you know about its most famous conspirator? Get clued up on your Firework Night knowledge with our top ten facts about Guy Fawkes!
A local boy
Born in 1570 on Petergate, in York, Guy Fawkes was a local lad from the city we call home here at The Insurance Emporium! His school, St. Peters, is the only place in the UK that doesn’t celebrate Bonfire Night, preferring to respect their former pupil instead!
A Protestant upbringing
Despite wishing to depose the King and replace him with a Catholic, Guy Fawkes was actually born a Protestant! After the death of his father, Fawkes’ mother went on to marry a Catholic, Dionis Baynbrigge, and the young conspirator converted to Catholicism aged 16, despite this being a crime at the time.
Guy Fawkes never fought for his country, but he was a skilled military man nonetheless. In 1592, he sold off the estate left to him by his father in order to travel overseas and join the Spanish army, doing battle against the Dutch in the 80 Years War. This would introduce him to the use of gunpowder…
It was while fighting for the Spanish that Fawkes began calling himself Guido instead of Guy, and it was the name he later used to sign his confession. The name originated in Medieval Italy, and he may have taken it up as a means of further identifying with the Catholic community.
If at first you don’t succeed
The Gunpowder Plot wasn’t the first time that Guy Fawkes had attempted to bring down James I. In 1603 he travelled to Spain and petitioned the Catholic king, Phillip III, to begin a war against England in order to depose its Protestant king. Unfortunately for Fawkes, Phillip said no.
After being discovered along with the gunpowder, Guy Fawkes was taken to see King James I. When questioned about his motives, Fawkes reportedly said he wanted, “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.” His manner apparently was admired by the King, who described him as having a “Roman resolution”!
Guy Fawkes, like the other members of the Gunpowder Plot, was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. It’s said that in order to avoid the rather long and painful execution, while waiting for it to begin, Fawkes leapt from the platform, hanging himself in the process.
There’s an island named after him
Nobody really knows why, but there’s an island in Galapagos, really a collection of four small islands, named Guy Fawkes Island! The origin of the name is unknown, and the islands are uninhabited and fairly nondescript. They’re primarily known for being home to a modest population of sea lions.
The search continues
Every year before the State Opening of Parliament, the Yeomen of the Guard conduct a search to make sure nothing untoward is going on in the cellars! While this is probably more of a tradition than a real-life anti-terrorist precaution, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
The 36 barrels of gunpowder Fawkes secreted away in the cellar should have been enough to destroy parliament entirely, as well as surrounding buildings. But some modern experts claim the gunpowder had decayed, meaning it might not have exploded properly even if Fawkes had been able to ignite it!
Hopefully your Bonfire Night won’t turn out quite as eventful as the one Guy Fawkes inspired so many years ago! At The Insurance Emporium, we provide specialist Insurance for all life’s adventures, except perhaps, treason. From pets to caravans and weddings to golf, head to The Insurance Emporium to find out if we’ve got a policy to suit you!
© Copyright Crispijn van de Passe the Elder
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