Born: 13 April 1570
Died: 31 January 1606
Birthplace: Stonegate, York, England
Best known as: Most famous member of England's "Gunpowder Plot"
Guy Fawkes is the most famous among the conspirators who took part in 1605's "Gunpowder Plot," a failed attempt to blow up King James I of England and the Houses of Parliament. Fawkes and his partners were Roman Catholics who decided desperate measures were required to replace the king, a Protestant. The plot was hatched in the spring of 1604 by Robert Catesby, and eventually came down to a plan to blow up the parliament on 5 November 1605, the date of an official opening attended by members of both houses as well as the king. Fawkes and a dozen others took part in the plot, with Fawkes designated as the one in charge of the explosives. (During the 1590s he served in the Spanish army in the Netherlands, and it is thought he had experience with munitions.) Fawkes and his cohorts stashed 36 barrels -- nearly two tons -- of gunpowder in a rented cellar beneath the House of Lords. A search of the cellar the night of 4 November found the explosives and Fawkes, and he was arrested and tortured; within a few days the other conspirators were either killed or captured. On 31 January he was executed, after being tried and convicted of treason. Because the plot was foiled, 5 November was designated a holiday, but over time the holiday has also become a celebration of Fawkes's revolutionary intent. English traditions on Guy Fawkes Night include bonfires, fireworks and the burning of effigies known as "guys."
Extra credit: Fawkes picked up the nickname "Guido" after his stint in the Spanish army... Fawkes was an inspiration for Alan Moore's 1982 book, V for Vendetta.
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