|Guy Fawkes, the most infamous conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot, was a tall athletic man with brown hair and auburn beard, modest, self contained and valiant. He was highly intelligent, direct of purpose, simple of heart, well-read and, as a soldier of fortune in the Netherlands, not only “Skilful in the wars” but apart from his fanaticism, which seems to have grown by degrees into a positive megalomania, possessed of many attractive and even endearing moral qualities. “He was a man of great piety, of exemplary temperance, of mild and cheerful demeanour, an enemy of broils and disputes, a faithful friend and remarkable for his punctual attendance upon religious observances” wrote Jardine.||In 1595 Guy Fawkes was present at the capture of Calais by the Spaniards and according to the testimony of Father Greenway, “was sought and admired by all the most distinguished in the camp for his nobility and virtue”. On the death of Elizabeth, Fawkes and Christopher Wright visited Philip Ill of Spain with a view to securing relief for their Catholic countrymen.|
Fawkes was selected to join the Gunpowder Plot by Robert Catesby on account of his military qualities and his face being unknown to the Government spies. At that time he was aged about 35 and was unmarried.
The firing of the gunpowder was entrusted to Fawkes whose coolness and courage had been remarkable. Indeed after three distinct warnings that the Government had intelligence of the Plot he still returned to his post in the cellar which he undertook to guard alone.
He was discovered and arrested just before midnight on 4th November 1605. Under torture, he revealed the names of his fellow conspirators and in January the following year he was tried, found guilty and hanged.
Some further reading:
GuyFawkes.me.uk A biography and career summary of the Gunpowder Plot conspirator
Sonja Hydes Guy Fawkes site. Another good look at the Guy Fawkes story.
The Gunpowder Plot Society Excellent site for historical reference.
The ScrapAlbum – Victorian greetings cards for Guy Fawkes Day (see left).
Read about another character with historical associations with fireworks: Green Man. Both a mythical figure and a ceremonial functionary, Green Man is a part of our fireworks heritage.