Men behaving badly

It is comforting to note that punishments are no longer as extreme as this.

Beheading first appeared in England in 1075 when the Earl of Northumberland lost his head. Those condemned to be beheaded were advised to tip the axeman so he’d sharpen his blade to ensure the job was done with one blow. In 1683 when William Russell was condemned for plotting to kill King Charles II, he paid Ketch, the worst executioner, £21 to make it quick. When the first blow bounced off the side of his neck, Russell said, ‘You dog. Did I pay you to treat me so inhumanely?’ It took 3 further blows to sever the head and Ketch was jeered off the scaffold. When employed to behead the Duke of Monmouth in 1685, after 4 blows the head was still in place so he finished the job with a knife.

Hanging, drawing and quartering was only abolished in 1870. The victim was strung up by the neck and partially hanged, then castrated and disembowelled while still alive; his entrails were burned in front of his face and his body cut into 4. When the body was cut down, the head and heart would be shown to the throng of bystanders who would greet it with shouts of joy. This terrible punishment was inflicted because, in a time when life could be unpleasant, brutish and short, to be despatched swiftly with a blow from an axe was no deterrent.

Burning. Women were not hanged, drawn and quartered due to "decency to their sex"! They were dragged to the gallows and burned alive, often tied to a stake and burnt naked (a bit contradictory!). Heretics were also burnt alive.

Ref: The Strange Laws of Old England by Nigel Cawthorne 2004