"V for Vendetta" — a 2005 movie starring Natalie Portman — brought the image of Guy Fawkes to the American masses, though his infamous role in British history is observed annually.

The smiling, moustachioed mask donned by the movie’s hero (or villain, depending on your take) was a likeness of Fawkes, who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605.

In what is known as the Gunpowder Plot, the plan was foiled when Fawkes was discovered guarding barrels of explosives under the House of Lords on the night before the government’s ceremonial opening on Nov. 5, according to Parliament’s Web site.

Fawkes was in charge of detonating the bomb but was not the sole mastermind. He was a member of a group of radicals set on avenging the persecution of Catholics in England by killing King James I and other members of the Protestant ruling class.

Fawkes was jailed in the Tower of London, eventually giving up his accomplices under the duress of torture. The group was prosecuted and sentenced to a public execution shortly after the incident.

On Jan. 31, 1606, Fawkes and several co-conspirators were hanged in Old Palace Yard in Westminster. Legend has it that Fawkes jumped from the gallows to snap his neck before he could be drawn and quartered alive.

Parliament met for the first time after the plot in January 1606. Members passed the Thanksgiving Act, formalizing the annual commemoration of the foiled Gunpowder Plot.

From large-scale public events, such as the Bridgewater Guy Fawkes Carnival in Somerset, to backyard fireworks displays, towns and villages across the country take part in the revelry centered on this thwarted 17th-century terrorist attack and its poster boy, Guy Fawkes.

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