Guy adopted the Italian for his name, Guido, and travelled to Spain to enlist support against the new English King James I, a Protestant heretic that Fawkes desired to kill. Spain at the time was seeking a political rapprochement with England, and gave little encouragement to the mercenary. Fawkes joined a home-grown Catholic conspiracy in 1604, led by one Robert Catesby, to blow up the King and Parliament. Fawkes, the professional soldier, looked the part with broad shoulders, long hair and a beard. He impressed the conspirators as a man of action and a trustworthy confederate of strong Catholic convictions.
Detail from a contemporary engraving of the gunpowder plot conspirators —
Guy (Guido) Fawkes is third from the right
The inside man, Thomas Percy, gained access to the house owned by the “Keeper of the King’s Wardrobe,” which proved a suitable place from which to access a room beneath Parliament House. Up to twenty kegs of gunpowder were stored there under the watchful guard of Guido Fawkes, living under the pseudonym of John Johnson, a servant of Percy. By August of 1605, the stage was set for action. Spoiled powder was replaced by fresh and Fawkes possessed of the slow match to ignite the fuse. He prepared an escape route to the continent once the deed was done.
Royalist soldier Sir Thomas Knevet apprehends Guy Fawkes
Some of the conspirators became nervous that fellow Catholics might be killed when the Parliament was blown up and, on November 5, sent a letter of warning to William Parker, Lord Monteagle, a Catholic, to skip the gathering of Parliament. The letter made its way to the King who promptly ordered Sir Thomas Knyvet to conduct a search. He and his assistants caught Guy Fawkes exiting the building where the powder was stored, and seized the assassin. After first denying everything, torture brought to light the whole plot and the identities of the conspirators, all eight of whom were rounded up, tried and sentenced to death in the exquisite manner English Kings reserved for those who committed high treason.
Guy Fawkes before King James I