On this Day – 31st January 1606

Guy Fawkes Signature on His Confession

On the 31st of January 1606, Guy Fawkes was taken from the Tower of London to the Garden of St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster, where he was hung, drawn and quartered.

Guy Fawxe was born on the 13th of April 1570 and baptised on the 16th of April that years at Saint Michael-le-Belfrey, York. He was the only son of Edward Fawkes and Edith Blake. Edward was proctor of the ecclesiastical courts and advocate of the consistory court of the Archbishop of York.  Guy’s paternal grandmother was the daughter of a merchant, one time mayor of York. When she died in 1575 she left Guy her ‘best whistle and an angel of Gold’.

Guy went to St  Peter’s School in York, where possibly  John and Christopher Wright, both conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot, were also educated.  At St Peter’s, Guy was taught by John Pulleyn, who was a suspected Catholic. How much influence he may have had on Guy cannot be determined at this stage, but it is clear that Guy’s parents were staunch Protestants and brought their son up in that faith.

Edward Fawkes died intestate in 1579 and his property went to Guy. 

Some time after 1585, Edith Fawkes married Dionis Baynbridge of Scotton, Yorkshire. Dionis was related to many great Catholic families and was a known recusant. and it would seem that Guy renounced his earlier faith and became a Catholic at this time.

As soon as he came of age and took possession of his inheritance, Guy made arrangements to lease the property and in 1593 left England for Flanders where he enlisted in the Spanish Army. In 1595, Guy was in the Spanish army that captured Calais and he was, according to one source, ‘sought by all the most distinguished in the archduke’s camp for nobility and virtue’.

The story of the Gunpowder Plot is too well known to be recounted here. Guy Fawkes was arrested at the proposed scene of the crime, and refused to divulge his co-conspirators until tortured on the rack.

Recently some historians have argued that the conspiracy was really devised by Robert Cecil,who, it is claimed, blackmailed one of the conspirators into organising  the plot. The idea was to make Catholics so hated that Cecil would have no problem in passing further laws restricting and passing Catholics. Certainly such laws were passed immediately following the plot.

James I adapted the existing custom of celebrating the accession of a monarch with nationwide bonfires by passing a law making the festivities an annual event on November the 5th.

It may be that in 1605 Guy Fawkes was seen as the ‘ultimate’ villain, however, times change and according to  to Wiki, Guy Fawkes was ranked 30th in the 2002 list of the 100 Greatest Britons, sponsored by the BBC.

18 thoughts on “On this Day – 31st January 1606”

  1. Bo, Another excellent piece.

    As he signs his name ‘Guido Fawkes’ why is he not known by his proper name?

    This man is an early form of Terrorist, but like the mythical Robin Hood and the infamous Dick Turpin, he is seen as a folk hero and figure of romance. A man of the people fighting the tyranny of the state. I am sure many people associate with him for this very reason when we have an age of government tyranny.

    Here in the UK, people wonder about the principle of democracy and the need for a return of the balance of power to a more representative and accountable form of social democracy over the draconian authoritarianism of a state dictatorship and centralised authority in hands of an overly powerful and unaccountable prime minister.

  2. Hello Boadicea, Would you believe it, my name is already in use elsewhere on WordPress. The cheek of it. Anyway, ’tis I and I would like to become an author on this site, if Bearsy can arrange it. Thanks. I like your history blogs.

  3. Greetings Sipu – you are now an author.
    If you want to, you can change your displayed name to whatever you like. Glance down the FAQs page.

  4. Boa, just think! If Cecil had been credited with the Plot, the kids would now be touting for a penny for the Bob! Sounds like value, huh?

  5. Paul, ref. you last para. The UK’s democratic gubmint is representative and accountable.

    The whole world admires, e.g., the Chilcot enquiry, for example. The US and (parochially) Denmark don’t do such commissions in the same way.

    The fact that Labour has such a big majority means they can ‘dictate’ for now; but that will change in line with the 5-year rule. The ‘power’ of any PM is of course only the outward and visible show of unity within a gubmint – which, whether we like it or not, Labour has achieved. Tories, by contrast, usually come unstuck when they try to be tough on European issues.

    As I’ve mentioned before gubmint by popular referendum is impractical and depends on a politically committed electorate – which the UK ain’t! So we are left with other more ‘democratic’ chices, like proportional representation, an issue which arises quite often but which is unlikely to be championed by either major party. The result of its implementation here explains why: a plethora of small, new parties would dilute the majorities in most constituencies and lead inevitably to effete coalitions in the House.

    Let’s see democracy at work in May – and discuss it again then!

  6. “When questioned by the King how he could conspire such a hideous treason, Fawkes replied that a dangerous disease required a desperate remedy, and that his intentions were to blow the Scotsmen present back into Scotland.”

    Hi Boadicea, perhaps this would explain his current popularity 😉

  7. According to Wiki Guy Fawkes actually escaped the drawing and quartering by jumping off the scaffold with the rope around his neck so he was killed by hanging.

  8. Bearsy read this blog and asked if I’d really meant to write ‘Guy Fawxe’ and I said yes I did, that was the way the name was spelt in the parish register of 1570. Apparently Guy used the name ‘Guido’ when he was fighting with the Spaniards.

    It has been suggested that his signature on this confession was a forgery, since it was unlike other signatures – but he had been tortured and, I think, the fact that the name used ‘Guido’ the name he chose rather than his baptismal name suggests that the signature is authentic.

    For you comment regarding his ‘folk hero’ status I can do no more than direct you to Araminta’s remark!

  9. I think you have a very good point there… sometimes, I have to admit, I wish we were not quite as civilised as we have become… 🙂

  10. Interesting Sheona. I look at a variety of sources for these blog: Wiki (who doesn’t!), other internet material (with a very big question mark!) and from the books on my shelves. The Dictionary of National Biography states that ‘Fawkes was the last to mount [the scaffold]. He was weak and ill from torture and had to be helped up the ladder.’

    The last seems to be a quotation from a contemporary description of the executions:
    http://www.exmsft.com/~davidco/History/fawkes2.htm

    It doesn’t say anything about him jumping off the scaffold, but certainly does seem to imply that he died from hanging.

  11. Janus, Thanks for your comments.

    I happen to think that the Chilcot enquiry is simply window dressing. It will achieve nothing other enquiries haven’t already considered concerning Iraq. It is seven years after the war and there is no likelihood of any meaningful actions being taken, so what does it achieve except a great deal of public money? Meanwhile the cripple Government wastes a bit more time pre-election and uses the opportunity to slip a few awkward announcements through unnoticed.

    MikeyP raised just such a point on MyT last week.

    I won’t go into the political argument here, but we will get back to it (I am a little under the weather today and so lacking the energy for the effort required). I suspect you’ve read my arguments over recent months and know my view. You do however raise the interesting ‘chicken and egg’ debate about democracy. 🙂

  12. Absolute conviction and deseperation or a feeling of helplessness are the key drivers to such desperate acts. The authoritarian a regime becomes the more it excludes and pushes citizens and fringe groups outside the boundaries of the law and acceptable society. Engaging with and responding to concerns is a far better solution to many of these problems.

    Ideaology is however the most dangerous of absolute convictions.

  13. Paul, such cynicism in one so young! Your best plan is to move to a civilised country where you can trust the politicians and be happy with the people’s lot. So off you go to……..?

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