Scotlands History

Guy Fawkes

Guy ‘Guido’ Fawkes was in charge of carrying out the Gunpowder Plot. Robert Catesby led the plot but Fawkes knew explosives and had military experience fighting for Catholic Spain for ten years.

As a soldier Fawkes had become skilled with gunpowder. In 1605 he joined the Catholic Gunpowder Plotters in a conspiracy to kill King James VI and I, the Lords and Bishops at the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November.

The plotters rented a cellar in the under croft beneath the House of Lords. Over many months Fawkes had barrels of gunpowder stored in the cellar. By 4 November there were 36 barrels of gunpowder in place.

Following a tip off, the authorities searched the cellars and found Guy Fawkes. He was captured and taken into custody. He said that his name was ‘John Johnson’. On 5 November Fawkes was brought before the King he had tried to kill. James questioned Fawkes. Fawkes told King James that, ‘Our intention was to blow back the beggarly Scots to their native mountains.’

In the days that followed Guy Fawkes was brutally tortured. The effects of torture are clear from his scrawled signature on a written confession. King James himself had ordered that:

The gentler tortours are to be first used unto him, et sic per gradus ad maiora tenditur, and so God speed your good work.
[The gentler tortures are to be first used upon him, and so by degrees proceeding to the worst, and so God speed your good work.]

Fawkes was tortured in the Tower of London. He was tried in Westminster Hall – the building he had plotted to destroy – and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered for treason. On 31 January 1606, Guy Fawkes was executed. He managed to leap from the scaffold and died by hanging. Every year, effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned on bonfires on 5 November.

  • Image of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators
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Listen to King James’s orders for the interrogation of Guy Fawkes.