15 July 1685 – James Scott, Duke of Monmouth

Executed for having a dodgy wig? You decide.

James Scott or Brian May? You decide.

After a right religious overhaul, the last thing England wanted was to revert back to Catholicism in the 17th century.

The English Reformation had turned the country’s back on the Pope and installed the King at the head of the Church of England instead. Then, up loomed James II, successor to the newly restored Charles II, who as an ardent Catholic, embodied the threat that England would slide back to Rome for all things ecclesiastical.

Borne out of that ungodly panic came the ill-fated Monmouth rebellion, which was primarily aimed at stopping James II from getting his Catholic mitts on the throne.

Brother and a half

England was relaxed into Protestantism now and James posed a threat to the newly established religion. So, the plot was to pave the way for his popular, but oh-so-illegitimate bro to step in and take the royal reins – and it was led by the main man himself.

James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, had been happily biding his time, living in Holland up to this point and on Charles II’s death, he thought maybe he’d get the throne peaceably. Of course that looked increasingly unlikely, so Scott hot-footed it over and amassed an army to muscle his way in.

What was he thinking? The monarchy had not long been re-established – they were hardly going to ignore an uprising which could wound the very institution that had been reinstated not 15 years beforehand.


As with previous plots, retribution was swift, sharp and shocking – Judge Jeffreys led what became gruesomely known as the ‘Bloody Assizes’ which took care of the majority of the rebels. A band of five judges ensured they were strung up, before their bits were rudely whipped off and out – what was left was then quartered.

As the bastard son of the former King of England however, the Duke of Monmouth was carted off to the Tower of London to face the method reserved for aristocracy – beheading.

Sadly his demise was not so swift, nor so sharp, thanks largely to the dodgy wrist action of his less-than-proficient executioner – it took ‘five choppes’ to detach the duke’s head. Although some say this protracted death was saved for special cases, where the crimes were particularly heinous.

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