Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Curious History: Hung, Drawn and Quartered

  Quartering was the third part of an execution method known as hanging, drawing and quartering, and most commonly applied to those convicted of high treason in England. First the condemned was half hanged, usually from a gibbet. However, the neck was not broken, but they were left hanging so as to almost choke. it was important that the condemned was left alive at this point for the following stage of execution. 
  Next, they were taken down and laid out, and had their abdomen cut open and their entrails pulled out in front of them. The entrails were often burnt at this point. Somewhere about now the condemned usually died. Finally, the corpse was cut into four parts, and those parts sent to different points of the kingdom to be displayed over city gates.
  Usually one portion was sent their county of origin. Note, because high treason was a conviction imposed by Act of Attainder, it almost inevitably applied only to nobles. Commoners involved in rebellion would normally be cut down on the spot of battle, or summarily executed shortly after capture. Also, note that there were some creative variations on the theme.
  When Hugh Le Despenser the Younger was executed, he was hanged from a ladder. This enabled the executioners to perform an additional humiliation. His genitals were cut from him and stuffed in his mouth. Queen Isabella reportedly insisted on this because he was also convicted of sodomising the king.

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