The True Story Behind Guy Fawkes' Day



Fawkes and his fellow conspirators attempted to mount a terrorist attack on their own king and government. A popular symbol of protest today, Guy Fawkes was first the face of treason because of his role in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to blow up the British parliament. 

It All Started With A Letter

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

In late October 1605 in England, an English nobleman, Lord Monteagle, received a mysterious letter. Monteagle intended to attend the opening of Parliament a few days later, on November 5, with the rest of England’s peers and the king.

The unsigned letter read: “My lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation, therefore I would advise you as you tender your life to devise some excuse to shift of your attendance at this parliament . . . for though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow.”

The mysterious sender left instructions to Monteagle to burn the letter after having read its contents. Saving himself from the gruesome punishment that would soon befall on his co-religionists, Monteagle forwarded the letter to Robert Cecil, chief minister of King James I. It was believed that members of the Catholic minority were plotting to topple the monarchy and impose a Catholic regime with foreign funding and aid. The author of the letter was never found, but thanks to him the government was able to foil the conspiracy.