Why Guy Fawkes Wasn’t The Main Man In The Gunpowder Plot

Guy Fawkes mask and a silhouette Although the 5th of November famously carries his name, Guy Fawkes actually wasn’t the main man in the famous Gunpowder Plot. In fact, out of the main conspirators, he had the least to avenge. So, who was the brain of the operation, and why is Fawkes the famous one?

How Guy Fawkes Day Came to Be

A depiction of the main conspirators behind the failed Gunpowder Plot including Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby
To every person in present-day Britain, Guy Fawkes Day is a celebration of dubious origin where people get to have fun with fireworks. The Gunpowder Plot of November 5th, 1605, was an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the British Parliament along with the ruler of the time, King James I of England. The date wasn’t coincidental. It was supposed to be the opening meeting of Parliament on November 5th, and if the plot was successful, it would likely have killed all members of the House of Lords. However, they were tipped off in advance, and at around midnight of November 4th, Guy Fawkes (also known as Guido Fawkes) was discovered hiding in the cellar in the Palace of Westminster under the House of Lords.

A drawing of Guy FawkesHe was taken into custody, and after significant questioning and torturing, he gave up the names of his fellow conspirators. One of the 12 names he gave belonged to the so-called main man. His name was Robert Catesby.

The Man Behind the Gunpowder Plot

Robert had fairly strong motives to organize the plot. His father was an English Catholic who was persecuted by Queen Elizabeth I’s Protestant Government for refusing to follow the Church of England. Robert, too, refused to give up Catholicism and thought that by blowing up the current government, he could replace it with a Catholic one, thus ending persecution against Catholics. One of his allies, Thomas Wintour, is the one who found Guy Fawkes, a soldier, in Spain and asked him to join their cause.

Present-day celebration of Guy Fawkes Day and Bonfire NightNeedless to say, Robert’s plot failed, but a couple of centuries later, his goal finally succeeded, and attitudes toward Catholicism began to change in the 1850s. The “Observance of 5th November Act” was repealed, and Guy Fawkes Day remained a social celebration and a lovely excuse for fireworks.