In the days before there was really an official police force to catch criminals, many societies focused on trying to stop people from committing crimes in the first place. Usually, that meant making it very clear that even the pettiest crimes would be brutally punished with a public execution. And of course, the most serious crimes required the most brutal punishments. In 14th-century England, no crime was worse than trying to betray the crown. So what suitably horrific punishment do you dish out for high treason? Well, why not just combine a few different forms of execution into one agonizing, slow death? Thus, the punishment of being hanged, drawn, and quartered was born.
So, what does it mean when someone is hanged, drawn and quartered?
Related Terms: Treason. During his submissions on sentencing at the trial of Guy Fawkes, convicted of treason , Edward Coke gave this description of the ancient punishment:. Also, for that he has been retrograde to nature, therefore is he drawn backward His bowels For it is a psychic of state and government to let out our corrupt blood from the heart. In the third volume of his Institutes , Coke adds that the condemned trader also loses all his property and titles. The first recorded instance of drawn and quartering was in William Marise and the last, May 1, , when John Brunt, William Davidson, James Ings, Arthur Thistlewood and Richard Tidd were hung and beheaded, the government commuting the other traditional components of the sentence. After William Wallace was drawn and quartered in , his head was placed on a pole on London Bridge.
The more a crime threatened the person who actually made the laws, the greater, gorier and more terrible the retribution. Which leads us nicely to the infamous punishment of hanging, drawing and quartering, one of the most spectacularly gruesome and appalling methods of execution in Britain. Although it became the official capital punishment for high treason in , it was used in England for nearly six hundred years.
Drawing and quartering , part of the grisly penalty anciently ordained in England for the crime of treason. The full punishment for a traitor could include several steps. First he was drawn, that is, tied to a horse and dragged to the gallows. A so-called hurdle, or sledge, is sometimes mentioned in this context. The remainder of the punishment might include hanging usually not to the death , usually live disemboweling, burning of the entrails, beheading , and quartering. This last step was sometimes accomplished by tying each of the four limbs to a different horse and spurring them in different directions.