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Home  > News  > Bonfire Night: The Real Story Of Guy Fawkes

Bonfire Night: The Real Story Of Guy Fawkes

October 27 2010

Have you wondered why we make bonfires and say 'Remember, remember, the 5th of November'? Did you know that the 5th of November is also called Guy Fawkes Night?

Guy Fawkes was part of a group of men who wanted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London but he was caught red-handed with the explosives!

Line engraving drawing of bearded men with big floppy wide brimmed hats on from the 1700s.

Here's Guy Fawkes (real name: Guido Fawkes) second from the right.

The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators by Heinrich Ulrich, line engraving, early 17th century.

Click on the link to see a large version.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Guy Fawkes wasn't even the ringleader, but has become the one we remember most.

All this happened in 1605, more than 400 years ago, and nowadays we call the story the Gunpowder Plot.

After Guy Fawkes was captured he was imprisoned in the Tower of London where many people think he was tortured during his questioning.

This is his signature before and after questioning - what do you think happened to him from the way his signature changed?

Click here to see a bigger version of the signatures.

© The National Archives

screenshot of a website showing two examples of a person's signature - the top one is quite neat but the bottom one is very scrawled

Part of the

Guy Fawkes and many of his fellow plotters were executed.

Here's the picture in the National Portrait Gallery of his execution:

The execution of Guy Fawkes, (Guy Fawkes), by Claes Jansz Visscher, etching, 1606.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Find out more about the fascinating and gruesome story behind Bonfire Night on the Parliamentary Archives' Gunpowder Plot website.

screenshot of a website with the words 'Gunpowder, Treason and Plot'

photo of some big fireworks going off

Have fun on Bonfire Night but be safe and let the adults look after the fireworks.

Thanks to the Parliamentary Archives, the National Portrait Gallery and The National Archives for their help with this story.

Please note: This story was originally published in 2007 and has been updated for 2010.

By Graham Spicer and Rachel Hayward