On the 5th of November, 1605, Guy Fawkes and his Catholic co-conspirators attempted to assassinate Protestant King James I by trying to detonate 3600 pounds of gunpowder underneath the Houses of Parliament. While you may have heard the story, there are a couple of things you might not know.
The picture shown above is a mask hanging in my kitchen. The Guy Fawkes mask has become a symbol of rebellion and was most famously used in the 2005 movie V for Vendetta. The renegade hacking group Anonymous uses the Guy Fawkes mask as their symbol.
Guy Fawkes was born on the 13th of April, 1570. I share a birthday with him (13th of April, 1967). I also share a birthday with Thomas Jefferson (13th of April, 1743) which means that Guy Fawkes shares a birthday with Thomas Jefferson. Apart from the sensationalized and highly contested claim that he was the father of an illegitimate child to his slave Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson is most well known for drafting the United States Constitution; the rules of government for the young, new republic. Thomas Jefferson was a creator of government. Guy Fawkes was a destroyer of government, and they both share the same birthday with me who, through the Church of Solipsology advocates stable government but civil disobedience under oppressive regimes. How’s that for irony?
The name of Guy Fawkes beard is a Van Dyke, so named because it was popularized by the 17th Century Flemish painter Anthony Van Dyke. It has waxed and waned in popularity since then but is occasionally seen in Hollywood on the likes of Johnny Depp, Pierce Brosnan and Robert Downey Jr.
Because children would drag an effigy of Guy Fawkes around on Guy Fawkes Day, asking for a penny for the “Guy”, etymologists generally agree that this is root of the modern term “guy”, originally referring to the dummy, then later to a poorly dressed or slovenly male and eventually meaning a man, in general.
Contrary to common perception, Guy Fawkes was not the head of the gunpowder plot. He simply had the misfortune of being the person actually caught with the gunpowder (which was under his charge) and through which the conspirators were exposed (by way of torture). The man in charge was a gentleman by the name of Robert Catesby. Following the plot, Catesby was shot during a siege, decapitated and his head placed on the side of Parliament House so that he could be one of the “sightless spectators of his own failure.”
Due to the name, those unfamiliar with the history think that Guy Fawkes Day is a celebration of Guy Fawkes and are confused when they find out who he was. In fact, Guy Fawkes Day is a celebration of the failure of the plot, held every year on the 5th of November in Great Britain. It is also referred to as Guy Fawkes Night, when bonfires are lit and effigies of Guy Fawkes placed upon them, Bonfire Night and Fireworks Night. Originally it was called Gunpowder Treason Day. Officially, the Observance of 5th November Act was passed in 1606 and called for an annual thanksgiving of the failure of the plot.
There it is, a few fun facts that you might not know about Guy Fawkes. Doubt me? Go ahead and Google it. Maybe you can come up with something else interesting about this iconic historical figure.