ESPECIALLY BAD WAYS TO DIE – Marilyn Armstrong

Drawing and Quartering – A Fun Day for a Crowd!

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 attention or both. These choices included hanging (not to 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. This was done by tying each limb (four – two arms, two legs) 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. If anyone thinks the British are not creative, this should dispel that myth.

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!

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

21 thoughts on “ESPECIALLY BAD WAYS TO DIE – Marilyn Armstrong”

    1. And these were public events. Parent and children all came to watch the show. Just in case we think we are more violent now, nope. We were just as violent then. Different tools, but SO creative!

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  1. Welcome to crime in medieval England! A great account of the fate of the first victim of this grisly punishment that Edward I did, indeed, invent for Dafydd ap Gruffydd after the second welsh war. By then, Edward was thoroughly fed up with the pesky welsh nobles, so the lesson here is – don’t be a traitor, especially not to Edward 1st. This is the time period when Edward built his castles in North Wales that I’m going to be trekking round in summer and charting the story of the welsh wars and how England and Wales became united. Nice to see someone else writing about this period, and I love your dark humour. 🙂

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    1. I spent about six weeks in Wales, Cornwall, and Devon, as well as another few weeks in London. And Garry and I spent almost a month in Ireland (our honeymoon — my first trip, his fourth of fifth). I had a little Fodor’s book which had most of the earthworks, Celtic crosses and other interesting odds and ends and how to find them when there were no roads. Garry and I followed our way through sheepfolds (watch out for your shoes!). I really loved England. I had read SO much about it.

      There was a time when I could easily recite the entire English (from Willie I through Lizzie II) including all the cousins … AND their castles and who they offended and whether or not they were beheaded or just hanged, Actually, during Liz I, I think they finished off every last Plantagenet, including one 86-year-old granny, although they have found some lineal descendants (since they found Richard III’s grave and DNA) in Canada, England, and I think Australia. None of them are rich (one is a carpenter, another is an artist) — and ALL of them are direct descendants of the last British Plantagenet king.I’ve never figured out exactly how that could be, but DNA is a great mystery.

      My favorite little climb was the Tor at Glastonbury. When we got to the top, there was a powerful wind blowing that could literally blow you right off the Tor if you didn’t hang on … but there was NO wind on the ground below. Someone tried to explain it, but I was sure it was Avalon reaching for me.

      What was also interesting, because I lived in Israel for almost a decade, was how much old British Crusade architecture was open for viewing. That was before Israel fenced everything off to protect the tourists. In the 1970s and 1980s, you could crawl down tiny staircases from the 1300s and explore the lower levels of huge castles up by the Hermon.

      I remember one day, sitting on the edge of a wall of a castle built by whatshisname who conquered Jerusalem for those few brief years? There wasn’t much of it left except an exterior wall and some crumbling inner areas which were too fragile to stand on … and looking across the plain which was full of grapes for wine and asking “Where did those conquerors go?” and my then husband said “Exactly where we will be in 800 years.” He so rarely got anything right, but that was definitely on target.

      My favorite castle was Acre (pronounced Akko in Arabic and Hebrew). When you see it, you can’t imagine how ANYONE could conquer it, but those ancient armies were very clever with big rocks and wood and tar and oil and fire. There’s a valley next to the Old City which was originally the place where babies were sacrificed to Moloch. It’s also where the Romans stages their destruction of Jerusalem (the second war of the Romans against the Jews — the first one was the Babylonians — and probably, before Jews arrived, there were other incursions, Jerusalem having been an oft-conquered city). Today, it’s a concert location. There’s a natural acoustic there and it’s always cold in that little valley. I saw Ray Charles there. It’s not very comfortable (you have to sit on the ground) but the walls of the Old City are lit and it has to be THE most romantic place in the world to hear a concert.

      Sorry. I just got into this whole memory thing!

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      1. Wow, what a lot of fascinating historical destinations you have been to! Please don’t apologise for giving such a wonderful account of your travels and all you saw. I’ve never been to Acre, but I can imagine it’s very impressive. And I know the direct descendent of RIII you refer to. He made the coffin that Richard was reburied in, and was at the service. He seemed a nice chap. And yes, the Tudors did a pretty good job in wiping out the Plantagenets, sadly. I’ll think of you when I’m walking around North Wales and Edward’s castles then! Sounds like you had a great time there. 🙂

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    1. Yes, the slaughter of human beings for the entertainment of their peers is an old standby throughout the world. I’m waiting for Trump to bring back public executions. Maybe group hangings of people trying to escape from the murderers back home. That would really light up his base, don’t you think?

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    1. It’s why I don’t find violent video games all that odd. We have ALWAYS like violence — games and things that were fun for the viewers (I assume) and no fun at all for the center of attention.

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  2. I have to admit I skimmed this time. I’ve read about drawing and quartering before but I always like hearing about places you have been to. I guess the only reason there is still any Plantagenet DNA around is that there were so many illegitimate children and even the Tudors couldn’t get them all despite giving it their best shot.

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  3. I’m sure we’ve all been on both ends of that stick in some lifetime – or another.
    They are still doing stuff like this – or worse – in some places. Did you see that some outfit was still practicing stoning?

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