DRAWING AND QUARTERING – MY FAVORITE NIGHTMARE

Daily Prompt: Just a Dream

For your Daily Downer, WordPress is offering up a peach. You’re having a nightmare, and have to choose between three doors. Pick one, and tell us about what you find on the other side. What a great prompt. I haven’t had any juicy nightmares recently. Just obnoxious, worrisome, nagging unpleasant dreams. Not real nightmares.

Lacking a juicy nightmare of my own, I thought we might take a little trip to Merry Olde England. This should give everyone nightmares and have you running for any door. Even the one which leads into the dark tunnel.

Acts I and II

The following information was gathered with the assistance of the Encyclopædia Britannica. You can find additional details, if this isn’t enough, in (where else?) Wikipedia.

Home rackDrawing and quartering was (the public) part of the grisly penalty anciently ordained in England (1283) for the crime of treason. Before they got to this part of the orgy of pain and agony, professionals had been privately torturing the traitor on the rack for weeks, months or years. Enhanced interrogation has a long, proud heritage.

The show’s finale often took several days. Its most important feature was that the star of the show had to be alive to fully participate in the event. He or she would be brought near death many times, then revived.

Ordained in England in 1283 for the crime of treason, this form of “execution” remained on the books — entirely legal — until 1867.

The full punishment for a traitor included a variety of creative mini-executions, none of which ended in death. First, Mr. Traitor was drawn. Which meant he was tied to a horse and dragged to the gallows. It was probably some kind of sledge. The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I (2nd ed., 1898; reissued 1996) indicates it was a way to deliver the live body to the hangman.

Act III, the Finale

The remainder of the punishment left the executioner with a few choices, based on what he thought the crowd would most enjoy, would cause the most agony without actually killing the object of his attentions, or both. These choices included hanging (not to the death) and/or live disembowelment and burning of the entrails (while the subject watched).

Drawing_of_William_de_Marisco

For the finale, you could take your choice of quartering — by tying each limb to a different horse and spurring them in different directions. Or, if that was impractical (not enough horses? insufficient room?), there was always a final beheading. Anyone who thinks the British are not a creative people, this should dispel that myth.

As for escaping the nightmare through one of 3 doors? I don’t think so. Just one door leading to a black-robed dude carrying a scythe. He will welcome you. At that point, Death looks like Mother Mercy.

I’m not making this up.

The first sentence of drawing and quartering was inflicted in 1283 on the Welsh prince David ap Gruffudd, whose punishment for myriad crimes included being drawn for treason, hanged for homicide, disemboweled for sacrilege, then beheaded and quartered for plotting the king’s death.

drawn-and-quartered3

In 1803 Edward Marcus Despard and six accomplices were drawn, hanged, and quartered for conspiring to assassinate George III. And finally, the sentence was last passed (but not carried out) on two Irish Fenians in 1867.

Are we having nightmares yet? Great! My job here is finished. Have a great day!



Categories: Daily Prompt, History, Humor, You can't make this stuff up

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

51 replies

  1. Dear brilliantly clever blogger,

    I’m a trained and lifelong passionate medievalist with both a BA and an MA in the subject (Brown University/Oxford’s Mansfield College/University College London) – and your site’s description of one of the many barbarisms which replaced crucifixion (because they couldn’t do to others what had been done to Their Lord and Savior) is just marvelous! Bravo, bravo, bravo!

    Drawing and quartering is precisely what I intend to do to The Fake Man In The Sky when I finally meet the sick, depraved motherfucker! ; } That said: why on earth do you blame the British for it??? ALL of Europe engaged in the practice with great relish! Today, no Western country has the death penalty except (surprise surprise!) Amerika, where the current and relentless preference is for chemical drawing and quartering: that is, incompetently pumping illegitimate and ineffective barbiturate-based cocktails into men (for the most part) on death row, and then watching them get savagely tortured to death when the poison doesn’t kill them for a whopping forty-five minutes or more!

    Everyone have a nice day in The Land of the Free! (Philosophically and ethically-speaking, I consider myself stateless – I’m French and English in all but passport, and I finally renounced the notion of Amerikan citizenship several months ago out of profound shame and bottomless disgust at the cesspit into which this once-great nation has devolved.)

    Warm regards,

    Pocahontas

    PS: I have horrid nightmares too. Lots of them! Makes me afraid to fall asleep sometimes. ; }

    Like

    • I call it British because Edward II invented it, but it was obviously an idea whose time had come. It was rapidly adopted all over the continent. But its origins are absolutely British, if you consider the Plantagenet dynasty British (because really, they were more French, or Norman to be really accurate). But hey, who’s looking at genealogy anyhow?

      Being formally stateless is a great political statement unless you want to (a) fly anywhere (b) cross a border, even Canada or Mexico, (c) travel. Our national political situation is pretty pathetic, but historically, this is far from the first time. I would like to believe that we will eventually come to our collective senses, hopefully before it’s too late.

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  2. I was able to read your entire post because it was nothing new to me. But I remember the first time I learned what “drawn and quartered” meant. I was upset for days. I am not now totally immune to it, but I can read about it and stay somewhat detached. I watched the “Railway Man” (with Colin Firth, always excellent IMHO) a few months ago, which bothered me a lot for a few days. We haven’t really come that far, have we.

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  3. Oh, I have a possum who I must try this on! I just gotta find a couple more unicorns…

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  4. Remember that at some point during the proceedings the victim has to paint his face blue and yell “Freeeedommmm!” 🙂 Or was that just in the movie I saw?

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  5. Looks like they weren’t short of an audience.
    I wonder how many people would show up if they held public executions today?

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  6. They were very imaginative with their torture back then. Enough to give nightmares

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  7. I think the worst part of the whole public punishing bit — any of them, hanging, drawn and quartering, guillotine, beheading, pillaring, dunking, whatever… was that people watched them. The powers that be handed down the sentences of torture to make a point, “Don’t conspire to kill the king (or whatever crime) or this will happen” and people watched either in horror, fascination, or they were truly entertained maybe because they thought the criminal got what they deserved… but they watched. And that is the stuff of my nightmares.

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    • I can’t watch scenes of violence or torture on TV or in the movies, but I bet if we held public executions today — and put them on TV — there would be a HUGE audience. I would rather not ponder too much on why. Public spectacles of slaughter and torture have always been extremely popular. Thing Roman gladiators. Christians and lions. I doubt it has anything to do with morality, legality, crime, or punishment. I think it’s purely popular entertainment for the masses.

      Like

  8. I thought they changed it to ‘night terrors’. What did mares ever do to have this hung on them?

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  9. Why isn’t there an opposite in blogs to “Like”?

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  10. It’s all part of the original english black humour. I saw the film once where William Wallace the famous scots guy, was drawn and quartered (Brave Heart). Mel gibson did it well. In some places in the middle ages they were skinned alive although I don’t know whether the spanish inquisition did it first. Oh yes they gave us enough events to fill the history books with. Strange that our teachers at school never went into details. I didn’t mind the prompt thinking of the newbies that have never done it before. I just get this dreams that keep repeating themselves.

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    • I had repetitive nightmares for many years, but not in a long time. I would prefer to not revisit them. This makes a fine nightmare. It also reminds me how depraved human beings can be and is a timely reminder that torture by any name, is still cruel, barbaric, and unworthy of us. It’s been a big issue in the U.S. in recent years, as I’m sure you’ve heard.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It has to be on of the most gruesome forms of capital punishment.

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  12. Well, I knew about all those medieval methods, but you’ve really put some excitement into them. And right between breakfast time and lunch time. Thank you, Marilyn.

    Like

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