Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 and though his father was a staunch Protestant, his mother married for a second time into a strongly Catholic family.
He went to St Peter’s School at York – like the Wright brothers – and later became a soldier, fighting for the Spanish against the Dutch.
Although not a senior officer, he gained a reputation for his technical expertise and on behalf of some of the English Catholics he discussed with the Spanish an invasion of England.
In 1604 he was recruited by Thomas Winter to join the Gunpowder conspiracy and came to London. Catesby initiated him and Thomas Percy into his plans in May.
Once Percy had rented the house next to the House of Lords later that month, it was decided that Fawkes would pretend to be Percy’s servant, and live there. He adopted the false identity of John Johnson, and was closely involved in the business of digging a tunnel under the House of Lords and procuring gunpowder.
Once the House of Lords basement was rented, the tunnel was abandoned. Fawkes went abroad during the middle of 1605, but was back in London in late October to finalise the plan, and was ready on 4 November to carry it out.
When the basement was searched later that day Fawkes was found looking after a large pile of firewood. His explanations were initially accepted. But suspicions were subsequently aroused and, in a second search later that evening, the gunpowder was found under the wood and Fawkes was arrested.
Guy Fawkes was interrogated several times, but – to the admiration of members of the government, including the King – admitted almost nothing.
The King authorised the use of torture on 6 November and Fawkes’s testimonies of 7, 8 and 9 November revealed much more information which the authorities used to begin to pick up some of the other conspirators.
Fawkes was tried with the other surviving conspirators on 27 January 1606 and executed in Old Palace Yard, Westminster, on 31 January. [ Excerpt from Living Heritage ]