Whizz, pop, ooh, aah. Bonfire Night is upon us again. This year I decided I would forego the muddy fields, numb feet and soggy cheeseburgers and instead delve into the history of these fiery celebrations and find out why we continue to mark the events of four hundred years ago.
However, while conducting my research (which of course involved reading many dusty books by flickering candlelight) I got sidetracked by one recurring theme: Guy Fawkes was a badass. Like, a real, legitimate badass…
He looked and acted like a badass
Fawkes was described as a tall, powerfully built man with reddish-brown hair and enviable facial hair. He was fearsome to look at and even harder to fight, known as a ‘man of action’ and ‘highly skilled in matters of war’.
He was no mere bruiser though. He was a cheerful man and loyal to his friends, and apparently hated any sort of quarrel or strife.
Being a nice guy and a respected warrior gets him double points. It’s hard enough to be one or the other, being both is very badass-like.
He had a Spanish nickname
When he fought for the Spanish in the epically-named Eighty Years’ War, Guy Fawkes was known as Guido Fawkes. Not only was he a massive cheery bloke who probably liked a drop of ye olde ale, he also picked and chose nicknames depending on where he was fighting.
Plus Guido sounds like something he just made up one evening after a few tankards of Rioja in order to impress some scrumptious Spanish senorita.
He stood guard on his own
When Sir Thomas Knyvet burst into the cellars of Parliament in the early hours of November 5th 1604, on the orders of the King, he found Guy Fawkes on his own, armed with a slow match, a watch, and 20 barrels of highly-explosive gunpowder. Whether this shows over-confidence in the scheme or in his fighting abilities, it’s pretty badass either way.
If only he’d piped up with some interesting one-liner and gone back to looking at his watch.
Oh wait, he did.
He couldn’t give a stuff about torture
When first interrogated, Fawkes told the members of the King’s Privy Chamber that his name was John Johnson. When they then asked what his intention was, hanging around beneath Parliament in the dead of night with copious amounts of explosive, he replied ‘to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains’.
He supposedly slept soundly on the night of the 6th, even though he was warned he would be tortured for an indeterminate amount of time the next day.
Not only could he come up with ridiculous aliases at the drop of a hat and pass them off as real, befuddling the King of England, he was also full of witty replies and unafraid of torture. Serious man points.
He was defiant until the end
When the jury found him and his co-conspirators guilty of high treason they were sentenced to death, the sentence to be carried out in as grisly a way as possible. According to the record they would have their genitals cut off and burnt before their eyes. Following that they’d have their bowels and heart removed. As if that wasn’t enough being put to death, they’d then be decapitated and their dismembered body parts would be taken around the country and shown off to the masses.
In true badass fashion, Fawkes was the last on to the scaffold and had other ideas. Despite hours of relentless torture he still had the strength to leap from the gallows and break his neck, avoiding the agony of the quartering.
He was cut up and displayed anyway but by then it was too late. If we’ve learned anything from the new Batman films it’s that you can’t kill a legend.
So that’s that. Not only was Guy Fawkes a good chap and handy with a sword, he was charming and tough to boot [and a Catholic terrorist who deserved everything he got – Ed]. Kind of like a ginger, Renaissance-period James Bond. With a story like that I think he deserves a Hollywood film (V for Vendetta doesn’t count), don’t you?