Born and educated in York, Fawkes was a Catholic convert who fought in the Eighty Years’ War on the Catholic Spanish side against Protestant Dutch rebels. It was during this time he adopted the pseudonym ‘Guido’.
On the continent he met Thomas Wintour, with whom he returned to England. Wintour introduced Fawkes to a band of provincial Catholics bent on assassinating King James I and restoring a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plotters secured a space beneath the House of Lords where on 5 November 1605, after an anonymous tip-off, Fawkes was discovered with a stockpile of explosives and arrested.
To his captors, Fawkes openly expressed regret at the plot’s failure. Curiously, this gained him the admiration of the King who declared Fawkes to be possessed of “a Roman resolution”. Still, he was tortured into divulging the names of his co-conspirators and the following January, leapt free from the gallows where he was to be hanged. He jumped, broke his neck and died.
In England, the Gunpowder Plot is commemorated annually on 5 November by the burning of Fawkes’s effigy on bonfires.