Everyone knows November 5th is a day filled with fireworks and giant bonfires. It’s about burning quirky effigies and eating hearty soups whilst drinking cider. But there’s quite an exhilarating story behind this uniquely British festival – and it all centres around a bloke called Guy Fawkes.
In this two-part series, we’ll be exploring the history of Guy Fawkes and how he ended up being the face of this funky November occasion.
The early years
Guy Fawkes was born in Stonegate, York on April 13th, 1570. He was the second of four children; with his father Edward working as a proctor. His parents – his mother’s name was Edith – were devoted members of the Church of England. However, his mother’s family were recusant Catholics and Edith’s cousin even became a Jesuit priest.
Interestingly, his birth date is not necessarily accurate but based on predictions. At that time, the only record kept was the date of baptism, which for Guy Fawkes was April 16th. Experts assume he was born a few days earlier since it usually only took a few days to baptise a child.
Guy’s older sister had died at the age of seven weeks, but he did have two younger siblings to keep him company. His siblings were called Anne and Elizabeth – he was the only boy.
When Guy was eight years old, his father died. Several years later, Edith tied the knot with a Catholic Dionis Baynbrigge of Scotton, Harrogate. It could be that Guy turned into Catholicism during this time or when he attended St. Peter’s School in York. The governor of the school had spent around 20 years in prison for recusancy and the headmaster John Pulleyn was from a family of noted Yorkshire Recusants.
Guy’s fellow students included John Wright and his brother Christopher, who were both later part of the Gunpowder Plot.
Guy entered the service of Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, after leaving school but his time under the Viscount didn’t go according to plan. The two didn’t get along, although the 2nd Viscount Montagu, Anthony-Maria Browne, subsequently employed him again.
But Guy Fawkes had enough of this type of employment and life in England. In 1591, Guy Fawkes sold his estate in Clifton and travelled to the continent. His goal was to be part of the Eighty Years War in which the Catholic Spain fought against the Dutch Republic and later France. It is during his time in Spain that he also adopted his other name, Guido Fawkes.
Guy fought alongside Sir William Stanley, who was an English Catholic and a veteran commander. Sir William was once highly regarded by Elizabeth 1 but things soured as he switched allegiance to Spain. Guy operated as a junior officer and after his victorious fight during the siege of Calais, he was recommended for a captaincy.
In 1603, Guy Fawkes decided to return to England. What happened after his return? Well, you’ll have to wait for the second part of the series to find out.
In the meantime, you can prepare your November 5th party and purchase some of our newest fireworks. These are sure to put on a great show!