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Who was the real Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes birthplace in York
Guy Fawkes was born into a respectable Protestant family in York

History's most infamous act of treachery against the English government was committed by a man from York.

Guy Fawkes' effigy is burned on bonfires across the country in November; the man behind the myth was the only son of Protestant parents, Edward and Edith, both of York.

Guy's father Edward worked as a notary of the ecclesiastical courts and an advocate of the court of the Archbishop of York.

On his mother's side, Guy was descended from the Harrington family, eminent merchants and Aldermen of York.

Both of his parents appear to have been Protestants, so how did this middle-class Yorkshireman become a famous Catholic traitor?

Early years
Actor Bill Hurst is dressed as Guy Fawkes. Copyright PA
Guy served with the forces of the Spanish King in the Netherlands

Young Guy was a pupil of St Peter's School, York, under a tutor named John Pulleyn, who was a suspected Catholic. It's believed the tutor may have had an early effect on the impressionable Fawkes.

Another strong influence may have been some of his fellow pupils, among whom were the brothers John and Christopher Wright, who were later part of the Gunpowder Plot conspiracy.

Guy's father died when he was still only seven years old. His mother remained a respectable widow for nine years, but when she did remarry, her new husband was a Catholic.

In his mid-teens, Guy may have been influenced by his stepfather, Dennis Bainbridge, or fired with youthful zeal because of the perceived injustice that Catholics were subjected to under the rule of Elizabeth I.

Catholic convert & plotter

Whatever the reasons for his conversion, he became an ardent Catholic. In his early twenties, Guy went to Flanders and enlisted in the Spanish army. It was around this time that he changed his name to Guido.

He spent almost ten years fighting with the Spanish forces, achieving an early post of command, and gaining a reputation as a good fighting man of strong Catholic beliefs.

Concerned about the plight of Catholics in England, he travelled to Spain in 1603 to try to gain support for a Spanish invasion of England once the elderly Queen Elizabeth had died.

This mission failed, but when he returned to Brussels, he was introduced to Thomas Wintour, another fellow conspirator. It's believed that Wintour may have used this opportunity to recruit Guy as one of the Gunpowder Plotters.

The rest, as they say, is history. Guy Fawkes' life story shows how a reasonably wealthy, middle-class Protestant lad from York became embroiled in the annually remembered act of treachery for the Catholic cause.

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