Pretty much everyone in the UK knows about Guy Fawkes, the conspirator who almost managed to blow up the Houses of Parliament back in the 17th Century.
But, 418 years later, how much do you know about the nitty-gritty details of his famous plot – and the surprising ways he still influences life today?
1. Was it actually Guy Fawkes’ plot?
Well, no – the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was devised by a group of English Catholics who were all frustrated that their branch of Christianity was not being treated fairly.
Just the year before, King James I had publicly condemned Catholicism as a superstition, and ordered all priests to leave England, according to History.com.
Led by Robert Catesby, the Catholic rebels wanted to blow up King James I and his ministers, during the State Opening of Parliament on November 5.
They planned to put James’ nine-year-old daughter on the throne instead because her protectorate was sympathetic to their cause.
The group actually met in May 1604 and swore an oath of secrecy upon a prayer book. They then gradually moved 2.5 tons of gunpowder into a cellar under the Palace of Westminster.
Had they succeeded, it would have reportedly been the largest terrorist plot England had ever seen, damaging everyone and everything within a 500-metre radius from the centre of the explosion.
Fawkes – who was actually born a Protestant but converted in his teens – was just the person meant to set to the fuse, because he had experience with gunpowder from his time as a soldier. He was never the group’s leader.
2. Why did it unravel?
An anonymous letter to a Lord Monteagle derailed the plot.
It read: “Out of the love I bear some of your friends... I would advise you as you tender your life to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament... for though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow.”
It’s still not known who sent this letter, but Monteagle told the King in exchange for £500 and a hefty lump of land. It was initially dismissed as a hoax – but officials set out to check the grounds anyway.
The first search, carried out by the Earl of Suffolk, was unsuccessful, but on the second attempt, they found Fawkes, a little after midnight.
Interestingly, the cellar where the bomb was meant to go off was actually destroyed in a 1834 fire which ripped through Parliament at the time.
3. What happened to Fawkes?
Fawkes initially refused to reveal any details about the plot – and even claimed his name was “John Johnson” – but he was still arrested and tortured.
Once he had confessed, he was dragged to the gallows by a horse, and had to watch as three of his co-conspirators were hung, cut down and dismembered.
He instead leapt from the platform of the gallows and broke his neck – and that’s what killed him.
Officials still went through with the hanging though, and sent his body quarters around the country as an example of what happened to anyone who committed treason.
However, History Extra claimed James I actually praised Fawkes for his dedication and for having a “Roman resolution”.
4. Why did this result in a national holiday?
Once news of the incident broke, people around the country started to light bonfires and put effigies on top to mark the occasion.
The UK government spotted that this was a chance to bolster its reputation, and so November 5 became a national holiday and it was made illegal not to join in – a law which only changed in 1859.
Initially it was the Pope who sat on the bonfire, not Fawkes. And when the celebration spread across the Atlantic to North America, they started to burn an effigy of the Pope too, in what was called Pope Day.
5. How is he remembered today?
Fawkes’ reputation has evolved over time, and some now see him as a representative of resistance.
The masks known as “Guy Fawkes” masks are famous around the world and have been adopted for a whole range of causes.
Although the Gunpowder Plot failed, he is still a key part of English history.
Even the school he went to – St Peter’s, in York – refers to Fawkes as “our most infamous student”, but refuses to burn his image out of respect for him as a former pupil.
A pub opposite the church where he was baptised is also the Guy Fawkes Inn.
And his influence extends beyond his hometown. The Palace of Westminster is still searched every year before the state opening of parliament, which has occurred in November every year since 1928, in case of any copycat attempts.
Two uninhabited pieces of land in the Galapagos are also named after him – Isla Guy Fawkes.
Historian William B Robison of Southeastern Louisiana University told History.com: “Every generation reinvents Guy Fawkes to suit their needs. But Fawkes was just one of the flunkies. It really should be Robert Catesby Day.”
6. Why he is sometimes known as Guido Fawkes?
When he was 21, Fawkes went to Europe to fight for Spain in the 80 Years’ War, and chose to take on the Italian version of his name. It is speculated that was meant to show his enthusiasm for the Vatican.
He also tried to bolster support for an English Catholic uprising from the Spanish King Phillip III during this time, but he failed.
The Atlantic also explains that his name, for a period, became a derogatory term. It said “Guy became a pejorative term used to describe someone as grotesque (though nowadays the word simply refers to a man or a person)”.