Gunpowder, Fireworks, and a Bit of Guy Fawkes History

Guy Fawkes Night FireworksMost people look forward to Guy Fawkes Night for the fireworks, which is on November 5. You would think that all the fireworks for sale in Leicester are to celebrate a great man. But, according to, that is not the case. Guy Fawkes was a traitor, and hung, drawn, and quartered for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. 

Here is a bit of Guy Fawkes history to yarn about between lighting Catherine wheels.

He was not born a Catholic

The Gunpowder Plot was a scheme by Roman Catholic extremists led by Robert Catesby to kill King James I and his parliament by blowing them up. A man born as Protestant such as Fawkes should not even be part of such a group. However, his grandparents were Catholic, and his widowed mother married a Catholic. As such, his upbringing was mostly Catholic.

He did not die by hanging

His sentence was to die by hanging, and then be drawn, and quartered, as was the fashion for traitors in those days. However, he chose to jump before the noose could go around his neck, and he died from a broken neck. Nevertheless, his body was drawn and quartered, and parts delivered to the four corners of England as a warning.

He is not the 'guy'

The term 'guy' is a 13th-Century word to refer to a dummy or effigy, so the colloquial use of the word is not a reference to Fawkes. However, the Protestants did make use of the coincidence by burning an effigy of Fawkes as part of the celebration of the king’s survival from the assassination plot.

He was a hero

He is one of the most infamous villains in UK history, but he should have been a hero. He was a skilled soldier, and testimonies showed he was loyal to his friends and intelligent. It took two days of rigorous torture before Fawkes confessed. King James I admired his fortitude, referring to his 'Roman resolution'. It was unfortunate that Fawkes’s expertise with gunpowder and Catholic upbringing would draw him into the plot.

Guy Fawkes Night is not about the man, but his failure to carry out a treasonous plot against the king of England. However, history shows that things are not always as simple as they seem.