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So who was Guy Fawkes?

Reflects on Guy Fawkes’ motivation for his actions.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To reflect on Guy Fawkes’ motivation for his actions.

Preparation and materials

  • Find a copy of and have the means to play ‘Blowing in the wind’ by Bob Dylan at the end of the assembly.


  1. The year is 1605. Britain has endured almost 100 years of religious persecution. The Catholic Queen Mary I launched a cruel campaign of oppression against the Protestant population. Her successor, Elizabeth I, a Protestant, organized a similarly brutal crackdown on Catholicism. Hundreds were burned to death. The new king, James I, is a Protestant and, initially, more moderate. He still refuses to treat Catholics as equals, however. Wealthy Catholics have to pay large fines and plans are made to eventually outlaw the faith.

  2. A conspiracy is hatched to kill the king and restore a Catholic monarch. The leader of the plot is Robert Catesby, a nobleman who had aided a failed rebellion against Elizabeth. He is joined by Thomas Winter, John Wright, Thomas Percy, and Guy Fawkes. Eventually, the conspirators number 13.

  3. The plan is to store gunpowder under the House of Lords and blow up the king and many senior statesmen as they prepare for the state opening of Parliament on the 5 November. Guy Fawkes, being experienced as a result of action in Spain, volunteers to light the fuses. Lord Monteagle, however, receives an anonymous letter warning him not to go to Parliament on that day. Disturbed, he shows the letter to the king’s adviser. A thorough search is performed on the night of the 4 November and Fawkes, along with 36 barrels of gunpowder, is captured alive.

  4. After three days of terrible torture, Fawkes confesses and gives the names of the co-conspirators. Catesby dies fighting, but the other conspirators are captured. They are sentenced to a traitor’s death and die undergoing terrible torture.

Time for reflection

To this day, we celebrate the failure of the gunpowder plot with fireworks and bonfires. The question remains – why did the plot take place and how can such problems be resolved? The gunpowder plot was the culmination of 100 years of religious persecution and conflict. A just society must represent all its citizens, not a select group. If one group is given some rights over another, conflict is never far away.

Spend a few moments thinking about the religious freedoms we have in this country. Even if you have no faith, you are exercising the freedom to not have a faith – no one will make you go to church every week or follow a particular religion as they did at one time.

Let’s be glad we have that freedom to be ourselves and work to keep those freedoms alive. 





‘Blowing in the wind’ by Bob Dylan 

Publication date: November 2013   (Vol.15 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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