On this day in history : 13th April 1570 – The birth of Guy Fawkes – who as a member of a provincial group of English Catholics was to take part in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605….

Birthplace of Guy Fawkes – 25, High Petergate, York – now the Guy Fawkes Inn public house

Guy was born in Stonegate, York – the second of four children, one of whom died – but he had two sisters, Anne and Elizabeth, who survived into adulthood…. His father, Edward Fawkes, worked as a Proctor for the Church and although his mother, Edith, came from a recusant Catholic family she too attended Church of England services….img_2830

When Guy was just 8-years-old his father died, leaving his son an estate in Clifton, York as an inheritance…. Edith remarried a few years later, this time to a Catholic, Dionis Bainbridge; it was around this time a now teenage Guy converted to Catholicism…. Although undoubtedly influenced by his step father it is likely that Guy was encouraged at school in his Catholic beliefs…. He attended St. Peter’s School in York where the Head Master, John Pulleyn, came from a family of strong Yorkshire recusants…. Also a governor at the school had spent 20 years imprisonment for recusancy…. It was a crime to be a Catholic in the time of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I….although there were those who refused to attend Anglican services and stayed loyal to the Pope….

On leaving school Guy went into service, working for Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu….but who took a dislike to the young Fawkes and so dismissed him…. In October 1591 Guy decided to sell his inherited estate and travel to the continent to fight for Spain in the Eighty Years War against the Dutch Republic….

Guy Fawkes as depicted by George Cruickshank – Public domain

He was to join Sir William Stanley, an English Catholic who had formed an army in Ireland to fight in the Netherlands…. Guy became a junior officer, taking part in the Siege of Calais in 1596 – and worked his way up through the ranks to gain a Captaincy…. Whilst in Flanders he met a disgruntled Englishman by the name of Thomas Wintour, who persuaded him to join a small band of angry Catholics planning a rebellion….

It was around this time that Guy became known as ‘Guido’ – the Italian version of his name….

Signature of “Guido” Fawkes – note the top example – this was made soon after his being tortured after the failed Gunpowder Plot…. Public domain

He travelled to Spain in an attempt to gain support for the English Catholic rebellion – and managed to secure an audience with the Spanish King…. Whilst politely listening to what ‘Guido’ had to say – that the newly crowned King James I was a heretic (and he also denounced Scotland plus all those favoured by the King) – Philip III offered no help; Spain was not going to declare war on England….

Contemporary engraving of 8 of the 13 conspirators – Crispijn van de Passe the Elder – Public domain

In 1604 as part of a group of 13 English rebellious Catholics, led by Robert Catesby, who conspired to assassinate the Protestant King James, Guy helped hatch the plans for the Gunpowder Plot – and we all know where that led….

Children preparing for Guy Fawkes night celebrations (1954) – Geoff Charles CCO

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