Hanged, drawn and quartered

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To be hanged, drawn and quartered was from 1351 a penalty in England for men convicted of high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

, although the ritual was first recorded during the reigns of King Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

 (1216–1272) and his successor, Edward I
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 (1272–1307). Convicts were fastened to a hurdle
Hurdle
A hurdle is a moveable section of light fence. Traditionally they were made from wattle , but modern hurdles are often made of metal. Hurdles are used for handling livestock, as decorative fencing, for horse racing and in the track and field event of hurdling.-Types:*Traditional hurdles are made...

, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where they were hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated
Emasculation
Emasculation is the removal of the genitalia of a male, notably the penis and/or the testicles.By extension, the word has also come to mean to render a male less of a man, or to make a male feel less of a man by humiliation. This metaphorical usage of the word is much more common than the...

, disembowelled
Disembowelment
Disembowelment is the removal of some or all of the organs of the gastrointestinal tract , usually through a horizontal incision made across the abdominal area. Disembowelment may result from an accident, but has also been used as a method of torture and execution...

, beheaded
Decapitation
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

 and quartered (chopped into four pieces). Their remains were often displayed in prominent places across the country, such as London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

. For reasons of public decency, women convicted of high treason were instead burnt at the stake.

The severity of the sentence was measured against the seriousness of the crime
Retributive justice
Retributive justice is a theory of justice that considers that punishment, if proportionate, is a morally acceptable response to crime, with an eye to the satisfaction and psychological benefits it can bestow to the aggrieved party, its intimates and society....

. As an attack on the monarch's authority, high treason was considered an act deplorable enough to demand the most extreme form of punishment, and although some convicts had their sentences modified and suffered a less ignominious end, over a period of several hundred years many men found guilty of high treason were subjected to the law's ultimate sanction. This included many English Catholic priests executed during the Elizabethan era
Elizabethan era
The Elizabethan era was the epoch in English history of Queen Elizabeth I's reign . Historians often depict it as the golden age in English history...

, and several of the regicides involved in the 1649 execution of King Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

.

Although the Act of Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 that defines high treason remains on the United Kingdom's statute books, during a long period of 19th-century legal reform the sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering was changed to drawing, hanging until dead, and posthumous beheading and quartering, before being rendered obsolete in England in 1870. The death penalty for treason was abolished in 1998.

Treason in England



During the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

 those in England guilty of treason were punished in a variety of ways, including drawing and hanging. In the 13th century other, more brutal penalties were introduced, such as disembowelling, burning, beheading and quartering. The 13th-century English chronicler Matthew Paris
Matthew Paris
Matthew Paris was a Benedictine monk, English chronicler, artist in illuminated manuscripts and cartographer, based at St Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire...

 described how in 1238 "a certain man at arms, a man of some education (armiger literatus)" attempted to kill Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

. His account records in gruesome detail how the would-be assassin was executed: "dragged asunder, then beheaded, and his body divided into three parts; each part was then dragged through one of the principal cities of England, and was afterwards hung on a gibbet used for robbers." He was apparently sent by William de Marisco, an outlaw who some years earlier had killed a man under royal protection before fleeing to Lundy Island. De Marisco was captured in 1242 and on Henry's order dragged from Westminster to the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 to be executed. There he was hanged from a gibbet
Gibbet
A gibbet is a gallows-type structure from which the dead bodies of executed criminals were hung on public display to deter other existing or potential criminals. In earlier times, up to the late 17th century, live gibbeting also took place, in which the criminal was placed alive in a metal cage...

 until dead. His corpse was disembowelled, his entrails burnt, his body quartered and the parts distributed to cities across the country. The punishment is more frequently recorded during Edward I
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

's reign. Welshman
Welsh people
The Welsh people are an ethnic group and nation associated with Wales and the Welsh language.John Davies argues that the origin of the "Welsh nation" can be traced to the late 4th and early 5th centuries, following the Roman departure from Britain, although Brythonic Celtic languages seem to have...

 Dafydd ap Gruffydd
Dafydd ap Gruffydd
Dafydd ap Gruffydd was Prince of Wales from 11 December 1282 until his execution on 3 October 1283 by King Edward I of England...

 became the first nobleman in England to be hanged, drawn and quartered after he turned against the king and proclaimed himself Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales is a title traditionally granted to the heir apparent to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the 15 other independent Commonwealth realms...

 and Lord of Snowdon. Dafydd's rebellion infuriated Edward so much that he demanded a novel punishment. Therefore, following his capture and trial in 1283, for his betrayal he was drawn by horse to his place of execution. For killing English nobles he was hanged alive. For killing those nobles at Easter he was eviscerated and his entrails burnt. For conspiring to kill the king in various parts of the realm, his body was quartered and the parts sent across the country; his head was placed on top of the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

. A similar fate was suffered by the Scottish
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

 rebel leader William Wallace
William Wallace
Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight and landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence....

. Captured and tried in 1305, he was forced to wear a crown of laurel leaves and was drawn to Smithfield
Smithfield, London
Smithfield is an area of the City of London, in the ward of Farringdon Without. It is located in the north-west part of the City, and is mostly known for its centuries-old meat market, today the last surviving historical wholesale market in Central London...

, where he was hanged and beheaded. His entrails were then burnt and his corpse quartered. His head was set on London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

 and the quarters sent to Newcastle
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is a city and metropolitan borough of Tyne and Wear, in North East England. Historically a part of Northumberland, it is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne...

, Berwick
Berwick-upon-Tweed
Berwick-upon-Tweed or simply Berwick is a town in the county of Northumberland and is the northernmost town in England, on the east coast at the mouth of the River Tweed. It is situated 2.5 miles south of the Scottish border....

, Stirling
Stirling
Stirling is a city and former ancient burgh in Scotland, and is at the heart of the wider Stirling council area. The city is clustered around a large fortress and medieval old-town beside the River Forth...

 and Perth
Perth, Scotland
Perth is a town and former city and royal burgh in central Scotland. Located on the banks of the River Tay, it is the administrative centre of Perth and Kinross council area and the historic county town of Perthshire...

.


These and other executions, such as those of Andrew Harclay, 1st Earl of Carlisle
Andrew Harclay, 1st Earl of Carlisle
Andrew Harclay, 1st Earl of Carlisle , alternatively Andreas de Harcla, was an important English military leader in the borderlands with Scotland during the reign of Edward II. Coming from a knightly family in Westmorland, he was appointed sheriff of Cumberland in 1311...

 and Hugh Despenser the Younger, which each occurred during Edward II
Edward II of England
Edward II , called Edward of Caernarfon, was King of England from 1307 until he was deposed by his wife Isabella in January 1327. He was the sixth Plantagenet king, in a line that began with the reign of Henry II...

's reign, happened when acts of treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 in England, and their punishments, were not clearly defined in common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

. Treason was based on an allegiance to the sovereign from all subjects aged 14 or over and it remained for the king and his judges to determine if that allegiance had been broken. Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

's justices had offered somewhat over-zealous interpretations of what activities constituted treason, "calling felonies treasons and afforcing indictments by talk of accroachment of the royal power", prompting parliamentary demands to clarify the law. Edward therefore introduced the Treason Act 1351
Treason Act 1351
The Treason Act 1351 is an Act of the Parliament of England which codified and curtailed the common law offence of treason. No new offences were created by the statute. It is one of the earliest English statutes still in force, although it has been very significantly amended. It was extended to...

. It was enacted at a time in English history when a monarch's right to rule was indisputable and was therefore written principally to protect the throne and sovereign. The new law offered a narrower definition of treason than had existed before and split the old feudal offence into two classes. Petty treason
Petty treason
Petty treason or petit treason was an offence under the common law of England which involved the betrayal of a superior by a subordinate. It differed from the better-known high treason in that high treason can only be committed against the Sovereign...

 referred to the killing of a master (or lord) by his servant, a husband by his wife, or a prelate by his clergyman. Men guilty of petty treason were drawn and hanged, whereas women were burnt.

High treason
High treason in the United Kingdom
Under the law of the United Kingdom, high treason is the crime of disloyalty to the Crown. Offences constituting high treason include plotting the murder of the sovereign; having sexual intercourse with the sovereign's consort, with his eldest unmarried daughter, or with the wife of the heir to the...

 was the most egregious offence an individual could commit. Attempts to undermine the king's authority were viewed with as much seriousness as if the accused had attacked him personally, which itself would be an assault on his status as sovereign and a direct threat to his right to govern. As this might undermine the state, retribution was considered an absolute necessity and the crime deserving of the ultimate punishment. The practical difference between the two offences therefore was in the consequence of being convicted; rather than being drawn and hanged, men were to be hanged, drawn and quartered, while for reasons of public decency (their anatomy being considered inappropriate for the sentence), women were instead drawn and burnt. The Act declared that a person had committed high treason if they were: compassing or imagining the death of the king, his wife or his eldest son and heir; violating the king's wife, his eldest daughter if she was unmarried, or the wife of his eldest son and heir; levying war against the king in his realm
Realm
A realm is a dominion of a monarch or other sovereign ruler.The Old French word reaume, modern French royaume, was the word first adopted in English; the fixed modern spelling does not appear until the beginning of the 17th century...

; adhering to the king's enemies in his realm, giving them aid and comfort in his realm or elsewhere; counterfeiting the Great Seal
Great Seal of the Realm
The Great Seal of the Realm or Great Seal of the United Kingdom is a seal that is used to symbolise the Sovereign's approval of important state documents...

 or the Privy Seal
Privy Seal
A privy seal refers to the personal seal of a reigning monarch, used for the purpose of authenticating official government document.-Privy Seal of England:The Privy Seal of England can be traced back to the reign of King John...

, or the king's coinage; knowingly importing counterfeit money; killing the Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

, Treasurer
Lord High Treasurer
The post of Lord High Treasurer or Lord Treasurer was an English government position and has been a British government position since the Act of Union of 1707. A holder of the post would be the third highest ranked Great Officer of State, below the Lord High Chancellor and above the Lord President...

 or one of the king's Justices while performing their offices. However, the Act did not limit the king's authority in defining the scope of treason. It contained a proviso giving English judges discretion to extend that scope whenever required, a process more commonly known as constructive treason
Constructive treason
Constructive treason refers to the judicial extension of the statutory definition of the crime of treason. For example, the English Treason Act 1351 declares it to be treason "When a Man doth compass or imagine the Death of our Lord the King." This was subsequently interpreted by the courts to...

. It also applied to subjects overseas in British colonies in the Americas
British colonization of the Americas
British colonization of the Americas began in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia and reached its peak when colonies had been established throughout the Americas...

 and although some executions for treason were performed in the provinces of Maryland
Province of Maryland
The Province of Maryland was an English and later British colony in North America that existed from 1632 until 1776, when it joined the other twelve of the Thirteen Colonies in rebellion against Great Britain and became the U.S...

 and Virginia, only two colonists were hanged, drawn and quartered; in 1630, William Matthews in Virginia, and in the 1670s, Joshua Tefft in New England
New England Confederation
The United Colonies of New England, commonly known as the New England Confederation, was a short-lived military alliance of the English colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. Established in 1643, its primary purpose was to unite the Puritan colonies against the Native...

. Later sentences resulted either in a pardon or a hanging.

Only one witness was required to convict a person of treason, although in 1552 this was increased to two. Suspects were first questioned in private by the Privy Council
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

 before they were publicly tried. They were allowed no witnesses, or any defence counsel
Counsel
A counsel or a counselor gives advice, more particularly in legal matters.-U.K. and Ireland:The legal system in England uses the term counsel as an approximate synonym for a barrister-at-law, and may apply it to mean either a single person who pleads a cause, or collectively, the body of barristers...

 and were generally presumed guilty from the outset. This meant that for centuries anyone accused of treason found himself or herself severely legally disadvantaged, a situation which lasted until the late 17th century, when several years of politically-motivated treason charges made against Whig politicians prompted the introduction of the Treason Act of 1695
Treason Act 1695
The Treason Act 1695 is an Act of the Parliament of England which laid down rules of evidence and procedure in high treason trials. It was passed by the English Parliament but was extended to cover Scotland in 1708 and Ireland in 1821...

. This allowed defendants counsel, witnesses, a copy of their indictment and a jury, and when not charged with an attempt on the monarch's life, they were to be prosecuted within three years of the alleged offence.

Execution of the sentence



Once sentenced, malefactors were usually held in prison for a few days before being taken to the place of execution. During the early Middle Ages this journey may have been made tied directly to the back of a horse, but it subsequently became customary to be fastened instead to a wicker hurdle
Hurdle
A hurdle is a moveable section of light fence. Traditionally they were made from wattle , but modern hurdles are often made of metal. Hurdles are used for handling livestock, as decorative fencing, for horse racing and in the track and field event of hurdling.-Types:*Traditional hurdles are made...

, or wooden panel, itself tied to the horse. Historian Frederic William Maitland
Frederic William Maitland
Frederic William Maitland was an English jurist and historian, generally regarded as the modern father of English legal history.-Biography:...

 thought that this was probably to "[secure] for the hangman a yet living body". The use of the word drawn, as in "to draw", has caused a degree of confusion. One of the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

s definitions of draw is "to draw out the viscera or intestines of; to disembowel (a fowl, etc. before cooking, a traitor or other criminal after hanging)", but this is followed by "in many cases of executions it is uncertain whether this, or sense 4 [To drag (a criminal) at a horse's tail, or on a hurdle or the like, to the place of execution; formerly a legal punishment of high treason], is meant. The presumption is that where drawn is mentioned after hanged, the sense is as here." Historian Ram Sharan Sharma
Ram Sharan Sharma
Ram Sharan Sharma was an eminent historian of Ancient and early Medieval India. He had taught at Patna University, Delhi University and the University of Toronto and was a senior fellow at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; University Grants Commission National Fellow...

 arrives at the same conclusion: "Where, as in the popular hung, drawn and quartered (meaning, facetiously, of a person, completely disposed of), drawn follows hanged or hung, it is to be referred to as the disembowelling of the traitor." The historian and author Ian Mortimer
Ian Mortimer (historian)
Ian Mortimer is a British historian. He was educated at Eastbourne College, the University of Exeter and University College London . Between 1993 and 2003 he worked for several major research institutions, including the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, and the universities of Exeter...

 disagrees. In an essay published on his website, he writes that the separate mention of evisceration is a relatively modern device, and that while it certainly took place on many occasions, the presumption that drawing means to disembowel is spurious. Instead, drawing (as a method of transportation) may be mentioned after hanging because it was a supplementary part of the execution.
Although some reports indicate that during Mary I
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

's reign bystanders were vocal in their support, while in transit convicts sometimes suffered directly at the hands of the crowd. William Wallace was whipped, attacked and had rotten food and waste thrown at him, and the priest Thomas Prichard was reportedly barely alive by the time he reached the gallows in 1587. Others found themselves admonished by "zealous and godly men"; it became customary for a preacher to follow the condemned, asking them to repent. According to Samuel Clarke
Samuel Clarke
thumb|right|200px|Samuel ClarkeSamuel Clarke was an English philosopher and Anglican clergyman.-Early life and studies:...

, the Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 clergyman William Perkins (1558–1602) once managed to convince a young man at the gallows that he had been forgiven, enabling the youth to go to his death "with tears of joy in his eyes ... as if he actually saw himself delivered from the hell which he feared before, and heaven opened for receiving his soul".

After the king's commission had been read aloud, and the crowd asked to move back from the scaffold, convicts normally addressed the spectators. While these speeches were mostly an admission of guilt (although few admitted treason), still they were carefully monitored by the sheriff and chaplain, who were occasionally forced to act; in 1588 the Catholic priest William Dean
William Dean (priest)
William Dean was an English Roman Catholic priest. He is a Catholic martyr, beatified in 1929.-Life:...

's address to the crowd was considered so inappropriate that he was gagged almost to the point of suffocation. Questions on matters of allegiance and politics were sometimes put to the prisoner, as happened to Edmund Gennings
Edmund Gennings
Saint Edmund Gennings was an English martyr, who was executed during the English Reformation for being a Catholic priest. He came from Lichfield, Staffordshire. His name is sometimes spelled Jennings....

 in 1591. He was asked by Priest-hunter Richard Topcliffe
Richard Topcliffe
Richard Topcliffe was a landowner and Member of Parliament during the reign of Elizabeth I of England. He became notorious as a priest-hunter and torturer and was often referred to as the Queen's principal "interrogator"....

 to "confess his treason", but when Gennings responded "if to say Mass be treason, I confess to have done it and glory in it", Topcliffe ordered him to be quiet and instructed the hangman to push him off the ladder. Sometimes the witness responsible for the condemned man's execution was also present. A government spy, John Munday, was in 1582 present for the execution of Thomas Ford
Thomas Ford (martyr)
Blessed Thomas Ford , a Devonshire native, was a Catholic martyr executed during the reign of Elizabeth I.He received an MA at Trinity College, Oxford, on 24 July 1567, and became a fellow there...

. Munday supported the sheriff, who had reminded the priest of his confession when he protested his innocence. The sentiments expressed in such speeches may be related to the conditions encountered during imprisonment. Many Jesuit priests suffered badly at the hands of their captors but were frequently the most defiant; conversely, those of a higher station were often the most apologetic. Such contrition may have arisen from the sheer terror felt by those who thought they might be disembowelled rather than simply beheaded as they would normally expect, and any apparent acceptance of their fate may have stemmed from the belief that a serious, but not treasonable act, had been committed. Good behaviour at the gallows may also have been due to a convict's desire for his heirs not to be disinherited.

The condemned were occasionally forced to watch as other traitors, sometimes their confederates, were executed before them. The priest James Bell was in 1584 made to watch as his companion, John Finch
John Finch (martyr)
John Finch was an English Roman Catholic farmer. He is a Catholic martyr, beatified in 1929.-Life:He was a yeoman of Eccleston, Lancashire, from a Catholic family, but brought up an Anglican. When he was twenty years old he went to London where he spent nearly a year with some cousins at Inner...

, was "a-quarter-inge". Edward James
Edward James (martyr)
Blessed Edward James Blessed Edward James Blessed Edward James (born at Barton, Breaston, near Long Eaton, Derbyshire, c. 1557, executed at Chichester, Sussex, 1 October 1588, was an English Catholic priest and martyr.-Education:...

 and Francis Edwardes were made to witness Ralph Crockett
Ralph Crockett
Blessed Ralph Crockett was an English Roman Catholic priest. He is a Catholic martyr, beatified in 1929.-Life:...

's execution in 1588, in an effort to elicit their cooperation and acceptance of Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

's religious supremacy before they were themselves executed. Normally stripped to the shirt with their arms bound in front of them, prisoners were then hanged for a short period, either from a ladder or cart. On the sheriff's orders the cart would be taken away (or if a ladder, turned), leaving the man suspended in mid-air. The aim was usually to cause strangulation and near-death, although some victims were killed prematurely, the priest John Payne's death in 1582 being hastened by a group of men pulling on his legs. Conversely, some, such as the deeply unpopular William Hacket
William Hacket
William Hacket, also known as Hackett , was an English puritan and religious fanatic, who claimed to be a messiah and called for the removal of Queen Elizabeth I...

 (d. 1591), were cut down instantly and taken to be disembowelled and normally emasculated—the latter, according to Sir Edward Coke
Edward Coke
Sir Edward Coke SL PC was an English barrister, judge and politician considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. Born into a middle class family, Coke was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge before leaving to study at the Inner Temple, where he was called to the...

, to "show his issue was disinherited with corruption of blood.".
Those still conscious at that point might have seen their entrails burnt, before their heart was removed and the body decapitated and quartered (chopped into four pieces). The regicide Major-General Thomas Harrison, after being hanged for several minutes and then cut open in October 1660, was reported to have leaned across and hit his executioner—resulting in the swift removal of his head. His entrails were thrown onto a nearby fire. John Houghton was reported to have prayed while being disembowelled in 1535, and in his final moments to have cried "Good Jesu, what will you do with my heart?" Executioners were often inexperienced and proceedings did not always run smoothly. In 1584 Richard White's executioner removed his bowels piece by piece, through a small hole in his belly, "the which device taking no good success, he mangled his breast with a butcher's axe to the very chine most pitifully". At his execution in January 1606 for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot
Gunpowder Plot
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.The plan was to blow up the House of...

, Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes , also known as Guido Fawkes, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish in the Low Countries, belonged to a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.Fawkes was born and educated in York...

 managed to break his neck by jumping from the gallows, cheating the executioner.
No records exist to demonstrate exactly how the corpse was quartered, although the image on the right, of the quartering of Sir Thomas Armstrong
Sir Thomas Armstrong
Sir Thomas Armstrong was an army officer and MP executed for Treason.During the Interregnum he was a supporter of Charles II, participating in the plot to seize Chester Castle in 1655, and carrying funds from Aubrey de Vere, 20th Earl of Oxford to Charles in exile. He was possibly imprisoned for a...

 in 1684, shows the executioner making vertical cuts through the spine and removing the legs at the hip. The distribution of Dafydd ap Gruffydd's remains was described by Herbert Maxwell
Sir Herbert Maxwell, 7th Baronet
The Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Eustace Maxwell, 7th Baronet of Monreith, KT, PC, FRS, FRGS was a Scottish novelist, essayist, horticulturalist and Conservative politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1880 to 1906....

: "the right arm with a ring on the finger in York; the left arm in Bristol; the right leg and hip at Northampton; the left [leg] at Hereford. But the villain's head was bound with iron, lest it should fall to pieces from putrefaction, and set conspicuously upon a long spear-shaft for the mockery of London." After the execution in 1660 of several of the regicides involved in the death of Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 eleven years earlier, the diarist John Evelyn
John Evelyn
John Evelyn was an English writer, gardener and diarist.Evelyn's diaries or Memoirs are largely contemporaneous with those of the other noted diarist of the time, Samuel Pepys, and cast considerable light on the art, culture and politics of the time John Evelyn (31 October 1620 – 27 February...

 remarked: "I saw not their execution, but met their quarters, mangled, and cut, and reeking, as they were brought from the gallows in baskets on the hurdle." Such remains were typically parboiled and displayed as a gruesome reminder of the penalty for high treason, usually wherever the traitor had conspired or found support. The head was often displayed on London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

, for centuries the route by which many travellers from the south entered the city. Several eminent commentators remarked on the displays. In 1566 Joseph Justus Scaliger
Joseph Justus Scaliger
Joseph Justus Scaliger was a French religious leader and scholar, known for expanding the notion of classical history from Greek and Ancient Roman history to include Persian, Babylonian, Jewish and Ancient Egyptian history.-Early life:He was born at Agen, the tenth child and third son of Italian...

 wrote that "in London there were many heads on the bridge ... I have seen there, as if they were masts of ships, and at the top of them, quarters of men's corpses". In 1602 the Duke of Stettin emphasised the ominous nature of their presence when he wrote "near the end of the bridge, on the suburb side, were stuck up the heads of thirty gentlemen of high standing who had been beheaded on account of treason and secret practices against the Queen". The practice of using London Bridge in this manner ended following the hanging, drawing and quartering in 1678 of William Staley, a victim of the fictitious Popish Plot
Popish Plot
The Popish Plot was a fictitious conspiracy concocted by Titus Oates that gripped England, Wales and Scotland in Anti-Catholic hysteria between 1678 and 1681. Oates alleged that there existed an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II, accusations that led to the execution of at...

. His quarters were given to his relatives, who promptly arranged a "grand" funeral, but this incensed the coroner so much that he ordered the body to be dug up and set upon the city gates. Staley's was the last head to be placed on London Bridge.

Later history


Another victim of the Popish plot, Oliver Plunket the Archbishop of Armagh
Archbishop of Armagh
The Archbishop of Armagh is the title of the presiding ecclesiastical figure of each of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland in the region around Armagh in Northern Ireland...

, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in July 1681. His executioner was bribed so that Plunket's body parts were saved from the fire; the head is now displayed at St Peter's Church in Drogheda
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Drogheda
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is a Roman Catholic church located in Drogheda, Ireland.The first Church on the site was built in 1791 to a design by Francis Johnston and was partly incorporated into the present building one hundred years later. The facade is an imposing structure in the Gothic...

. Plunket was the last Catholic priest in England to be martyred but not the last person in England to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Several captured Jacobite
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 officers involved in the Jacobite Rising of 1745
Jacobite Rising of 1745
The Jacobite rising of 1745, often referred to as "The 'Forty-Five," was the attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for the exiled House of Stuart. The rising occurred during the War of the Austrian Succession when most of the British Army was on the European continent...

 were executed, but by then the executioner possessed some discretion as to how much they should suffer and thus they were killed before their bodies were eviscerated. The French spy François Henri de la Motte
François Henri de la Motte
Francis Henry de la Motte, or François Henri de la Motte, was a French citizen and ex-French army officer executed in London for High Treason on 27 July 1781. He had been arrested in January 1781 on suspicion of being a spy, and held for six months in the Tower of London...

 was hanged in 1781 for almost an hour before his heart was cut out and burnt, and the following year David Tyrie was hanged, decapitated and then quartered at Portsmouth. Pieces of his corpse were fought over by members of the 20,000-strong crowd there, some making trophies of his limbs and fingers. In 1803 Edward Despard and six co-conspirators were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Before they were hanged and beheaded at Horsemonger Lane Gaol
Horsemonger Lane Gaol
Horsemonger Lane Gaol was a prison close to present-day Newington Causeway in Southwark, south London.-History:...

, they were first placed on sledges attached to horses, and ritually pulled in circuits around the gaol yards. Their execution was attended by an audience of about 20,000. A contemporary report describes the scene after Despard had made his speech:
At the burnings of Isabella Condon in 1779 and Phoebe Harris in 1786, the sheriffs present inflated their expenses; in the opinion of Dr Simon Devereaux they were probably dismayed at being forced to attend such spectacles. Harris's fate prompted William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce was a British politician, a philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire...

 to sponsor a bill which if passed would have abolished the practice, but as one of its proposals would have allowed the anatomical dissection of criminals other than murderers, the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 rejected it. The burning in 1789 of Catherine Murphy
Catherine Murphy (counterfeiter)
Catherine Murphy was an English counterfeiter, the last woman to be officially sentenced and executed by the method of burning in England and Great Britain....

, a counterfeiter, prompted Sir Benjamin Hammett to impugn her sentence in Parliament. He called it one of "the savage remains of Norman policy" and subsequently, amidst a growing tide of public disgust at the burning of women, Parliament passed the Treason Act 1790
Treason Act 1790
The Treason Act 1790 was an Act of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Great Britain which abolished burning at the stake as the penalty for women convicted of high treason, petty treason and abetting, procuring or counselling petty treason, and replaced it with drawing and hanging.Identical...

, which for women guilty of treason substituted hanging for burning. It was followed by the Treason Act 1814
Treason Act 1814
The Treason Act 1814 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland which modified the penalty for high treason for male convicts....

, introduced by Samuel Romilly
Samuel Romilly
Sir Samuel Romilly , was a British legal reformer.-Background and education:Romilly was born in Frith Street, Soho, London, the second son of Peter Romilly, a watchmaker and jeweller...

, a legal reformer. Influenced by his friend, Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

, Romilly had long argued that punitive laws should serve to reform criminal behaviour and that far from acting as a deterrent, the severity of England's laws was responsible for an increase in crime. When appointed the MP for Queensborough in 1806 he resolved to improve what he described as "Our sanguinary and barbarous penal code, written in blood". He managed to repeal the death penalty for certain thefts and vagrancy, and in 1814 proposed to change the sentence for men guilty of treason to being hanged until dead and the body left at the king's disposal. However, when it was pointed out that this would be a less severe punishment than that given for murder, he agreed that the corpse should also be decollated, "as a fit punishment and appropriate stigma." This is what happened to Jeremiah Brandreth
Jeremiah Brandreth
Jeremiah Brandreth was an out-of-work stocking maker who lived in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, who was hanged for treason. He was known as "The Nottingham Captain"...

, leader of a 100-strong contingent of men in the Pentrich Rising and one of three men executed in 1817 at Derby Gaol
Derby Gaol
The term Derby Gaol historically refers to the five gaols in Derby, England. Today, the term usually refers to one of two tourist attractions, the gaol which stood on Friar Gate from 1756 to 1846 and the cells of which still exist and are open to the public as a museum, and the 1843 to 1929 Vernon...

. As with Edward Despard and his confederates the three were drawn to the scaffold on sledges before being hanged for about an hour, and then on the insistence of the Prince Regent
George IV of the United Kingdom
George IV was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also of Hanover from the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820 until his own death ten years later...

 were beheaded with an axe. The local miner appointed to the task of beheading them was inexperienced though, and having failed with the first two blows, completed his job with a knife. As he held the first head up and made the customary announcement, the crowd reacted with horror and fled. A different reaction was seen in 1820, when amidst more social unrest five men involved in the Cato Street Conspiracy
Cato Street Conspiracy
The Cato Street Conspiracy was an attempt to murder all the British cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Lord Liverpool in 1820. The name comes from the meeting place near Edgware Road in London. The Cato Street Conspiracy is notable due to dissenting public opinions regarding the punishment of the...

 were hanged and beheaded at Newgate Prison. Although the beheading was performed by a surgeon, following the usual proclamation the crowd was angry enough to force the executioners to find safety behind the prison walls. The plot was the last real crime for which the sentence was applied.

Reformation of England's capital punishment laws continued throughout the 19th century, as politicians such as John Russell, 1st Earl Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, KG, GCMG, PC , known as Lord John Russell before 1861, was an English Whig and Liberal politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century....

, sought to remove from the statute books many of the capital offences that remained. Robert Peel
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846...

's drive to ameliorate law enforcement saw petty treason abolished by the Offences against the Person Act 1828
Offences Against the Person Act 1828
The Offences against the Person Act 1828 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act...

, which removed the distinction between crimes formerly considered as petty treason, and murder. The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment 1864-1866
Royal Commission on Capital Punishment 1864-1866
The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment was chaired by the Duke of Richmond. It worked from 1864 to 1866 and was in disagreement on abolition.-Appointment:The Government agreed to a Royal Commission on 3 May 1864...

 recommended that there be no change to treason law, quoting the "more merciful" Treason Felony Act 1848
Treason Felony Act 1848
The Treason Felony Act 1848 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Act is still in force. It is a law which protects HM the Queen and the Crown....

, which limited the punishment for most treasonous acts to penal servitude. Its report recommended that for "rebellion, assassination or other violence ...we are of opinion that the extreme penalty must remain", although the most recent occasion (and ultimately, the last) on which anyone had been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered was in November 1839, following the Chartist
Chartism
Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom during the mid-19th century, between 1838 and 1859. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838. Chartism was possibly the first mass working class labour movement in the world...

 Newport Rising
Newport Rising
The Newport Rising was the last large-scale armed rebellion against authority in mainland Britain, when on 4 November 1839, somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 Chartist sympathisers, including many coal-miners, most with home-made arms, led by John Frost, marched on the town of Newport,...

—and those men sentenced to death were instead transported
Penal transportation
Transportation or penal transportation is the deporting of convicted criminals to a penal colony. Examples include transportation by France to Devil's Island and by the UK to its colonies in the Americas, from the 1610s through the American Revolution in the 1770s, and then to Australia between...

. The report highlighted the changing public mood toward public executions (brought about in part by the growing prosperity created by the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

). Home Secretary
Home Secretary
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, commonly known as the Home Secretary, is the minister in charge of the Home Office of the United Kingdom, and one of the country's four Great Offices of State...

 Spencer Horatio Walpole
Spencer Horatio Walpole
Spencer Horatio Walpole, QC, LLD was a British Conservative politician who served three times as Home Secretary in the administrations of Lord Derby.-Background and education:...

 told the commission that executions had "become so demoralizing that, instead of its having a good effect, it has a tendency rather to brutalize the public mind than to deter the criminal class from committing crime". The commission recommended that executions should be performed privately, behind prison walls and away from the public's view, "under such regulations as may be considered necessary to prevent abuse, and to satisfy the public that the law has been complied with." The practice of executing criminals in public was ended two years later by the Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868
Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868
The Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868 received Royal Assent on 29 May 1868, putting an end to public executions in the United Kingdom. The Act required that all prisoners sentenced to death be executed within the walls of the prison in which they were being held,and that their bodies be...

, introduced by Home Secretary Gathorne Hardy. An amendment to abolish capital punishment completely, suggested before the bill's third reading, failed by 127 votes to 23.

Hanging, drawing and quartering was rendered obsolete in England by the Forfeiture Act 1870
Forfeiture Act 1870
The Forfeiture Act 1870 is a British Act of Parliament that abolished forfeiture of goods and land as a punishment for treason and felony. It does not apply to Scotland...

, Liberal politician Charles Forster
Sir Charles Forster, 1st Baronet
Sir Charles Forster, 1st Baronet was an English Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1852 to 1891-Biography:Forster was born at Worcester, the only son of Charles Smith Forster of Lysways...

's second attempt since 1864 to end the forfeiture
Forfeiture (law)
Forfeiture is deprivation or destruction of a right in consequence of the non-performance of some obligation or condition. It can be accidental, and therefore is distinguished from waiver; see waiver and forfeiture....

 of a felon's lands and goods (thereby not making paupers of his family). The Act also limited the penalty for treason to hanging alone, although it did not remove the monarch's right under the 1814 Act to substitute hanging with beheading. The death penalty for treason was abolished by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
Crime and Disorder Act 1998
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act was published on 2 December 1997 and received Royal Assent in July 1998...

, enabling the UK to ratify protocol six of the European Convention on Human Rights
European Convention on Human Rights
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953...

in 1999.