Archive for the Burned at the stake Category

Execution of the Day – 2009 (part 21)

Posted in Burned at the stake, Death penalty, Drawn and quartered, Guillotine, Hanged, Lethal injection with tags , , , , on May 21 by Last Writes

Everyone loves a bit of infamy and this week we’ve got it in spades.

From mass murderers to serial killers, and regicidal to suicidal maniacs, it’s all happening.

In fact it’s so good, we’ve had to ditch fiesty, old Margaret Pole in our weekly round-up. She was axed thanks to a dodgy indictment of treason against her cousin Henry VIII, while our chosen Frenchman went quite a few steps further and assassinated the king of France.

So without further preamble, we’ll let you get on with it.

Emile Henry 21 May 1894 – Emile Henry
A Frenchman lost his head in pursuit of pure anarchy today in 1894.

Emile Henry went to guillotine after he bombed a station, killing one person and injuring 20 more.

22 May 1538 – John Forrest
A friar fried today in 1538 for daring to denounce moves to make the king head of the Church.

And that king was none other than Henry VIII…

William Kidd 23 May 1701 – William Kidd
Not just a cool pub in the heartland of the East End, William ‘Captain’ Kidd was alleged to have been a pirate.

He was hanged for his misdemeanours just minutes from where the drinking house in his honour is now situated.

Jonathan Wild 24 May 1725 – Jonathan Wild
Our next offender was the muse for many a playwright and author after he pillaged his way through the first part of the 18th century.

For Jonathan Wild led a double life, respectable lawman as well as the first known organised criminal in Britain.

Marcel Petiot 25 May 1946 – Marcel Petiot
You’d think there was enough bloodshed rife in Nazi-infested France during World War II.

Obviously not for Marcel André Henri Félix Petiot, who decided Paris was in dire need of a spot of serial killing.

John Richard Blackwelder 26 May 2004 – John Richard Blackwelder
Imagine you’ve got your heart set on the death penalty, but you’re stuck with parole-less life instead. How are you meant to go all the way? You kill a fellow convict, of course – at least that was Florida prisoner John Richard Blackwelder’s not-so bright idea.

Francois Ravaillac27 May 1610 – François Ravaillac
May’s obviously a popular month to bump off world leaders.

And hanging was considered way too quick for today’s candidate – a regicide no less.

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27 October 1441 – Margery Jordemaine

Posted in Burned at the stake, Death penalty with tags , , , , , , on October 27 by Last Writes

With four days to go before Hallowe’en, it seems fitting that we’ve unearthed someone who was slow roasted for being a witch.

Margery Jordemaine (or Jourdemaine or Jourdemayne) was flung on the barbecue at Smithfield after she was found guilty of witchcraft in the 15th century. But not just any old witchcraft – she’d apparently used her sorcery skills in an attempt to bring about the death of Henry VI.

Double trouble

Known as the ‘Witch of Eye’ she was reknowned for her aptitude in divination, and she’d already had her first brush with the law not nine years before, after she’d been arrested alongside two priests. But no charges stuck and she was released.

However she fell foul of the law again after she became embroiled in an apparent plot to overthrow the king, together with Roger Bolingbroke (aka Roger Whiche), John Hunn and Thomas Southwell, headed up by Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester.

Hunn (or Hume as some sources refer to him) is said to have shopped the lot of them.


While the duchess was exiled to the Isle of Man, Bolingbroke was hanged, drawn and quartered (more of him on 18 November) and Southwell died in prison, but not so Jordemaine.

Indeed, Jordemaine’s death bucked the trend. Most witches were hanged in those days, however, Jordemaine was burned at the stake as a heretic, because her crime was tantamount to treason.

In case you were wondering, the plot failed and Henry lived to the ripe-ish old age of 49, however he (and this episode) was immortalised in the trilogy by Shakespeare.

Also on this day…

27 October 2001 – Abdul Haq

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16 July 1546 – Anne Askew

Posted in Burned at the stake, Death penalty with tags , , , on July 16 by Old Sparky

Anne didn\'t find the offer of a toasted muffin amusing

Anne didn't find the offer of a toasted muffin amusing

Old habits die hard. OK, so Henry VIII may have turned his back on the Pope in the 16th century, in order to divorce his first wife, but, intrinsically, he was still a Catholic at heart.

So, when a lady at court started publically spouting her Protestant beliefs and dissing the Catholic mass, Henry felt compelled to put an immediate kibosh on her outspoken views, despite the fact that he was meant to be Protestant too and more importantly heading up the church she was busily bigging up.

First she was jailed at Newgate, but then they hatched a cunning plan – in a bid to take others down with her, they had the unwitting female tortured to make her confess.

Stretching the truth

Off they scooted her to the Tower of London, when Askew was promptly put on the rack. Apparently the torturer refused to operate the equipment, so it was left to the dignitaries to carry out Henry’s command.

The rack was a gruesome bit of kit – your hands and feet were attached with ropes to rollers and when the equipment turned you were stretched out agonisingly. Yet Askew never whimpered according to a book entitled ‘Prisoners of the Tower’ – here are some detail of the session in her own words.

‘They did put me on the rack because I confessed no ladies or gentlewomen to be of my opinion, and thereon they kept me a long time. And because I did lay still and did not cry, my Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands till I was nigh dead…Then the Lieutenant caused me to be loosed from the rack; incontinently, I swooned and they recovered me again…’

The heat is on

Unable to extract any other names from Askew, she was eventually taken from her jail in Newgate to Smithfields where a nice little pyre had been put together. She was tied to a stake in its midst and slowly spit roasted for her heretical views, aged just 25.

Also on this day

16 July 1907 – William Slack

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21 June 1786 – Phoebe Harris

Posted in Burned at the stake, Death penalty with tags , , , on June 21 by Old Sparky

You’re probably used to us by now – giving you lurid accounts about people being hanged for coining (eg forgery). But did you know women were burned at the stake for it before 1790?

We’re not sure why they got such preferential treatment, but the crime was classed as treason and, as a result, it was punishable by death. Cue Phoebe Harris, AKA Mrs Brown (very ‘Reservoir Dogs’).

According to Richard Clarke, she took up residence in Drury Lane, under the guise of being a captain’s widow with her own income…

A close shave

She had her own income alright. Just none of it was legal. On the quiet, she’d file off shavings from kosher coins and clip bits off, melt it all down and make new coins. It was a very nice little earner, until she got busted.

Based on a tip-off, the law forced its way into her lodgings where her counterfeiting conspiracy was blown wide open.

Harris, alongside two accomplices, was taken in, but her defence was little short of desperate. She blamed the crime on the fictitious ‘John Brown’ – obviously coming up with creative names wasn’t her strong point.

Feeble defence

Harris maintained that she had just stashed the equipment away on ‘his’ orders. She then pleaded ignorance as to the nature of the kit.

Convincing? No, the jury didn’t think so either and Harris ended up bearing the brunt of the blame. The other two got off scott-free, while she was sentenced to be burned.

To add to her infamy, she became the first person to be burned at Newgate – most of the others had taken place in Tyburn or Smithfield up to that point.

But this new venue didn’t go down to well – the neighbours didn’t take kindly to the putrid smell of frying flesh, after all, it was considered a respectable area in those days. Luckily for inhabitants the law was changed four years later, but that didn’t help Harris’ plight. She sizzled for over two hours in front of a gawping crowd of around 20,000 today in 1786.

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30 May 1431 – Joan of Arc

Posted in Burned at the stake, Death penalty with tags , , , on May 30 by Old Sparky

Joan of ArcFrench national treasure, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a heretic despite a prolific career on the battlefield.

Fact was she’d been a visionary leader, quite literally – her actions were governed and dictated by visions from God plus other martyrs. Indeed word got around that a saint was heading up the French army and the people liked the sound of those odds and joined in their droves.

Or maybe it was the thought of 17-year-old eye candy that reeled them in.

But old Joanie was no pushover and if they thought life would be relaxed under her womanly leadership, boy were they wrong. She kicked serious soldier arse, ridding the camps of prostitutes and swearing, barring them from looting and pillaging civilian camps, instead encouraging them to go to church.

Fight back

By all accounts they were in a bit if a state so she came along and drilled them into shape just in time. It was 1428 and they were on the brink of a crucial set-to with England amid the 100 Years’ War, which would have made or broken access to the Loire – their stronghold. And they needed all the help they could get against what had been a pretty successful opposition in the shape of Henry V. But he’d died in 1421 and his son was not as effective, so it was time to fight back.

Cue Joanie, whose appointment really paid off. Her leadership skills were blinding and she managed to give the Valois army the much-needed upper-hand against an increasingly embattled Burgundy. For France was leaderless and there was a power struggle for the throne. Burgundy was batting for the opposition, having teamed up with the Plantagenet Henries from England who were descended from Anjou blood. And in the blue corner was the House of Valois, which claimed pure-bred accession. Joan was for the latter, headed up by Charles of Ponthieu, who was to become Charles VII of France.

Joan proved a real powerhouse on the battlefield and she managed to secure Orleans back from the English. Sadly those round the mediating table were not empowered with the same gumption – they pretty much sold themselves down the river to Burgundy, despite Joan having them on the run.

The end

Well, that was the beginning of the end really. Also they declared a 15-day truce so Charles VII could be crowned. But this just bought Burgundy and the English time to regroup. During September 1429, the demise of Joan’s army was more or less in the bag. They had advanced even as far as Paris when she was injured during battle. The king and his advisors ordered a defensive position and even destroyed a bridge. The army then retreated back to the Loire and they even went as far as to disband.

But Joan didn’t have a bar of it – she wasn’t about to give up so easily, despite the fact that, at Easter, she foresaw her own capture in 1430. And she was right – she and her small band of rallied troops were penned in just outside Compeigne where they were forced to surrender.

Charles offered to pay a ransom and all sorts to try and secure her safe return, but the Duke of Burgundy knew that would be a huge mistake. So she was left to stew for four months before they handed her over to the English, who wasted no time in sending her to trial in Rouen, during February and March of 1431.

Dressed to kill

There they threw all sorts of muck at her including witchcraft, but nothing stuck, so desperate times called for nothing short of ridiculous measures. She was sentenced to death for…cross dressing. Yep, you read right – she was had up on charges of dressing like a man. Indeed they even stripped her of her dress, forcing her to wear men’s clothes to cover her modesty. But that was her undoing, because it is said to have cemented her heretical tendencies.

Strapped to a stake, she was left to slow roast, and despite her saintly demeanour she certainly wasn’t above feeling the acutely excruciating pain and is said to have ‘screamed’ for Jesus. Not that it did her any good – she was burned alive on this day in 1431.


And all this took place in the space of two years and Joan was just 19 when she died.

The 100 Years’ War lasted another 20-odd years, and was finally crushed mainly because a very young and very green Henry VI had taken over where Henry V left off. He didn’t have the experience to see it through and the French won the day. And that was quick compared to Joan’s sainthood, which took virtually five centuries to secure. The Maid of Orleans was finally beatified in 1909.

Joan’s life has been replayed on the big screen on several occasions but our favourites are Milla Jovovich in Joan Of Arc: The Messenger and Jane Wiedlin (you know, her off The Go-Go’s) in Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Also on this day

30 May 1922 – Hyram Thompson

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22 May 1538 – John Forrest

Posted in Burned at the stake, Death penalty with tags , , , , on May 22 by Old Sparky

A friar fried today in 1538 for daring to denounce moves to make the king head of the Church.

A vehement opposer to the English Reformation, Forrest and the other monks in the Franciscan Friars Minor overtly rejected plans to split away from Catholicism. Maybe they saw through Henry VIII’s motive – after all, the king only wanted to be able to divorce. He wanted shot of his current wife so he could bed Anne Boleyn legitimately. But ultimately the devout Catholics rejected the whole idea as ungodly.

You see, the Brits were in the throes of a religious overhaul, spurred on by our friends across the water in Europe. A priest by the name of Luther had inadvertently and unwittingly kicked off a whole, new religious faction in Germany – aptly named Lutheranism – which was to morph into Protestantism as we know it today.

Forrest trumped

However, that meant defecting away from Catholicism, but not if Forrest could help it. Forrest had trained as a theologian at Oxford before moving on to become confessor to none other than Catherine of Aragon – the wife Henry VIII was hell-bent on ditching to marry Boleyn.

Needless to say Forrest absolutely refused to accept Henry as head of all things ecclesiastical. But did he really think he could take on the king and win? Who knows, yet the prospect of death certainly didn’t stop him.

In fact, he was so against what he saw as blasphemous nonsense that his antagonism landed him in front of Thomas Cranmer at Lambeth Palace, where he had to answer to charges of treason. There Forrest was found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake.

Ash Forrest

It was some stake they found for him. A special statue was shipped in from Wales – one effigy of Darvell Gatheren, which according to legend would be responsible for setting a forest alight. Somehow, we’re pretty certain when the prophecy first came to light, no-one could have ever imagined the Forrest would be human.

The wooden statue was stuck on the pyre, with Friar Forrest attached for all to see, in the middle of Smithfields, in London.

It took two long hours for Forrest’s fire to burn him to a crisp. And to this day it is said that his remains can be found in one corner of St Bart’s Hospital – which sits opposite the gates of the Friars’ monastery. For his pains, Forrest was canonised in 1886 and today is his feast day.

Also on this day

22 May 1793 – Agnes M’callum

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What are the Top 10 Movie Executions?

Posted in Burned at the stake, Crucified, Death penalty, Electric chair, Guillotine, Hanged, Hanged, drawn & quartered, Lethal injection with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 14 by Old Sparky

Evil sinners and Oscar winners…but who does it best?

** Warning: here be spoilers **

Obviously, with the terminal nature of all successful executions, some of what follows could give away the endings (and, in some cases, middles and beginnings) of films you still haven’t seen.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to warn you which ones we’re talking about without actually giving the game away. So, if you’re at all concerned, please click the other stories on the site, where you can be sure someone will be dead at the end of each one you read.

The rules

If, however, you care to join in the discussion, here are some things to bear in mind:

  • we’re only interested in scenes played out by actors, where no-one has actually died in real life. Shaky footage taken on a camcorder or camera phone, which has been punted round the web doesn’t count
  • the film needs to actually include scenes of the execution. So, although it’s a good movie, ‘Monster’ starring Charlize Theron, isn’t admissable, as they gloss over the lethal injection with some text at the end
  • although I don’t specialise solely in films featuring death and execution (I’m more of a James Bond kinda guy) I do know my onions. So think long and hard before you try suggesting the hangings at the start of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 3 : At World’s End or the end of ‘Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves, because they just won’t wash.

The top 10

So, here are the ‘Execution of the Day’ top 10 celluoid executions. If you think you can do better…bring the noise.

10. ‘Schindler’s List – there are plenty of summary executions along the way and there’s no denying Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece has so many memorable scenes, but it’s the short-drop hanging of Ralph Fiennes’ Amon Goeth that sticks in the mind. Evil on a rope.

9. ‘Dead Man Walking – Sean Penn’s character was largely based on the story of one Elmo Sonnier, but while Sonnier met his demise in the electric chair, Sean’s Matthew Poncelet was strapped to a gurney and lethally injected…while Tim Robbins and his missus just looked on smiling and nodding. Those two!!

8. ‘Cromwell – a long time ago in a London square far, far away, Obi Wan gets in some practice at dying. Whether Charles I became more powerful than Oliver Cromwell could ever imagine is debatable, but Sir Alec Guinness does his usual trick of sticking his hands above his head before the fateful blow is struck, just in case.

7. ‘The Name Of The Rose – Connery does Cadfael, in a monk murdering monastry mudbath. But when Sean’s super sleuth bangs heads with the Grand Inquisitor ‘Bernado Gui’, it’s professional uglyman, Ron Perlman’s turn as the hunchback ‘Salvatore’ that gets a roasting, as he’s burned at the stake for heresy.

6. ‘Braveheart – Our first taste of Gibson gore as Mel mashes up the story of William Wallace to produce a decent film…even if it does take a few liberties with the facts. I’m not sure if being tied to a post and having your throat cut is strictly an execution, but it was the only example of hanged, drawn and quartered that I could think of.

5. ‘Sophie Scholl – it’s a pretty gripping film throughout, but when you consider the guillotine used in the final scenes as Julia Jentsch’s Sophie is put to death was the same one that executed the real Sophie back in 1943, it makes it all the more poignant.

4. ‘The Passion of the Christ – if you make it through the torturous 20-minute beating scene during the second act of Mel Gibson’s biblical epic, your stomach is probably strong enough to take the eventual nailing of Jim Caviezel’s Jesus to the cross. As he was rumoured to have coughed up $40 million of his own money, Gibbo decided to save a bit of cash by using his own hands for the close-up of the nails being hammered home.

3. ‘Pierrepoint – so many to choose from here (Ruth Ellis and the luckless Timothy Evans among them), but it has to be the quickfire dispatch of 13 Nazi war criminals – including Irma Grese and the Beast of Belsen, Josef Kramer – that define the film and the efficiency of the man himself.

2. ‘Let Him Have It – the final scenes where Christopher Ecclestone’s Derek Bentley comes face to face with hangman Albert Pierrepoint (via ‘Boon’ star Michael Elphick) are seriously shocking. It’s difficult to comprehend how quick it all happens – it’s enough to shake your shoes off.

And the winner is…

The Green Mile DVD1. ‘The Green Mile – although it’s all pure fiction, the ‘Shawshank Redemption’s’ darker cousin has three electric chair executions to pick from, but the clincher has to be Eduard ‘Del’ Delacroix’s roasting at the hands of the evil Percy. Grim reaping indeed.

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