Did you know that November 5 is Guy Fawkes Night in Great Britain?
The holiday commemorates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, an attempt by a group of English Catholics to assassinate England’s King James I. (Guy Fawkes wasn’t the leader of the group, but he had military experience, so he was in charge of setting up the explosives.)
The would-be mass murderers planned to blow up the new King James I and his entire parliament in assembly at the Palace of Westminster on 5 November. They dug a tunnel from a nearby rented house, piled up enough gunpowder beneath the palace to send it into the sky in flames, but when Fawkes was caught down there with the barrels and kindling, the failed assassin went down in popular memory as a demon to be ritually burned by Protestant crowds on smoky Autumn evenings.
Sounds like Guy was rather disliked, right? (Well, at least until the movie V for Vendetta came along and turned Fawkes-the-demon into “an icon of dissidence and defiance.”)
Despite this, a handful of parents named their babies after Guy Fawkes. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they were making a statement (i.e., they disliked the royals, or the government, or Protestants). Maybe their sons were born on November 5 (though none of the birth dates I found matched up). Maybe they were simply familiar with the name and liked it.
Most of the babies named Guy Fawkes were born in England, but I found several in the U.S. as well.
One example: Guy Fawkes Petch, born in Surrey, England, circa 1888. According to the London Gazette, he was working for the Post Office in 1913:
Another example: Guy Fawkes Matheny, born in Oregon. He was youngest son of Jasper Newton Matheny (1834-1893), one of the founders of Spokane, Washington.
On April 10, 1870, a son, Guy Fawkes Matheny, was born, thirteen years younger than his elder brother Lee. Guy was sometimes called Guido, as had been the famous English conspirator Guy Fawkes, for whom he apparently was named.
Where does the name Guy come from? It’s a Norman French version of the Germanic name Wido, which was based on either widu, “wood,” or wid, “wide.” In England, the name “was common until the time of Guy Fawkes,” then “revived in the 19th century.”
P.S. We have Guy Fawkes to thank for the word “guy.”
- Jasper Matheny – Spokane County, Washington, Genealogy and History
- Occupy’s V for Vendetta protest mask is a symbol of festive citizenship