Archive for the Hanged, drawn & quartered Category

31 January 1606 – Guy Fawkes

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , , , on January 31 by Old Sparky

Guy FawkesWhile 5 November may be more memorable where Guy Fawkes is concerned, today’s the day he paid for his crime. Fawkes was hanged for his treasonous attempts to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

Fawkes was also known as ‘Guido’, or the more mundane John Johnson and was tried at Westminster Hall as a member of a group of militant Roman Catholics. This posse of plotters was accused of trying to kill James I of England and Scotland. The plan was to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5 November 1605, in an attempt to overthrow Protestant rule. Their explosive idea infamously became known as the Gunpowder Plot.

Job lot

Some of the co-conspirators were executed on the previous day. But it was old Guido’s turn on 31 January. Fawkes and the remaining cohorts were dragged to Old Palace Yard in Westminster, where they were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, one by one.

First to go was Robert Winter’s younger brother, Thomas, followed by Ambrose Rookewood, then Robert Keyes, who, according to a local paper of the day, jumped off the scaffold. He was drawn, disembowelled and quartered nonethless.

Disembowelling knives and Fawkes

Fawkes was the last to go and was seen as the main perpertrator mainy because he would have been to one to set light to the gunpowder. However he was also the weakest, having been tortured and fallen ill. The executioner had to help him up the scaffold and he allegedly broke his neck when he was hanged, so never lived to witness the rude loss of his nether region, nor his quartering.

The hardcore among you may wish to peruse Derek Acorah’s Quest For Guy Fawkes on DVD, but let’s face it, life is too short.

Of course, if you fancy a slice of weird, Guy does features in the (I can’t make my mind up if it’s good or not) film V for Vendetta and as that has Natalie Portman in it it’s got to be worth a look.

Also on this day

31 January 1945 – Eddie Slovik
31 January 1923 – Eligiusz Niewiadomski

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30 January 1661 – Oliver Cromwell (posthumously)

Posted in Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , on January 30 by Old Sparky

Oliver CromwellIn the ultimate act of vengeance, the dead corpse of Oliver Cromwell was dug up from Westminster Abbey, then hanged, drawn and quartered in 1661.

Cromwell’s body was exhumed so he could be posthumously executed for treason.

OK, so he was dead already, but this was in response for the part he’d played in overthrowing the English Crown, which, in turn, had resulted in the execution of Charles I.

Corpse killer

His decayed remains were strung up in chains a year after the son of the executed monarch was restored to the throne in 1660. Charles II ordered the execution at Tyburn on the anniversary of his father’s death to avenge the Roundhead uprising.

Collector’s item

Cromwell’s skull was then stuck on a spike and exhibited outside Westminster Abbey for the next 24 years. But it didn’t stop there. Cromwell’s head then did the rounds, and, at one point, it was sold to a man in 1814. His head was finally laid to rest in Cambridge as recently as 1960.

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30 January 1606 – Sir Everard Digby, Robert Winter, John Graunt and Thomas Bates

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , , on January 30 by Old Sparky

Four men were hanged, drawn and quartered for their part in the Gunpowder Plot. This posse of men along with others, including Guy Fawkes, collaborated in a bid to blow up parliament, in the hope of erradicating Protestantism.

Sir Everard Digby, Robert Winter, John Graunt and Thomas Bates were executed at St Paul’s just one day before their colleagues, having been found guilty of treason.

Balls of fire

According to ‘James I, the King’s Book’, they were condemned to ‘be Strangled, being hanged up by the neck between Heaven and Earth, as deemed unworthy of both, or either; as likewise, that the eyes of men may behold, and their hearts contemn him.

‘Then is he to be cut down alive, and to have his Privy parts cut off, and burnt before his face, as being unworthily begotten, and unfit to leave any generation after him. His bowels and inlayed parts taken out and burnt, who inwardly had conceived and harboured in his heart such horrible Treason.

‘After, to have his head cut off, which had imagined the mischief. And lastly, his body to be quartered, and the quarters set up in some high and eminent place, to the view and detestation of men, and to become a prey for the Fouls of the Air.’


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5 December 1612 – Saint John Almond

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , on December 5 by Old Sparky

Saint John Almond was one of 40 Martyrs of England and Wales.

He was hanged, drawn and quartered aged 35, in Tyburn, London, for the crime of being a priest. He riled the anti-Catholics, rife at the time, with his effective arguments.

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29 November 1326 – Hugh Le Despenser

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , on November 29 by Old Sparky

Hugh Le Despenser's huge dispenser

Hugh Le Despenser's huge dispenser

Strongly rumoured to have been the bisexual lover of Edward II, Hugh Le Despenser the Younger was strung up today in an execution fraught with animosity.

Leading the way, was the woman scorned by the monarch’s adulterous affair – the Queen of England: Isabella of France.

There is even conjecture that Despenser dispensed with all social nicety by forcing himself upon her as well.

So it came as no surprise that she was at the front of the queue to exact her revenge with her lover Roger Mortimer right by her side.


Le Despenser had been busy amassing enemies throughout his Medieval life. He’d done well out of his kingly sexual conquest for Edward had proven to be a lucrative cash cow.

He’d made sure he had been on hand whenever Edward fancied going to war, such as the ill-fated run-in with Scotland led by Robert the Bruce or the clash with the Welsh barons, which was more lucrative. Hence, Le Despenser was always up for scooping up the spoils of their victories.


This favouritism really got the other nobles’ goats and Le Despenser became pretty unpopular, so much so that the pair really had to watch their backs.


Finally, the queen could take no more and she put a sharp end to the halcyon days for the king and his alleged lover.

She teamed up with her own bit of stuff, Justice of Wales Baron Roger Mortimer, who jumped the pair at Llantrinsaint and they were apprehended on 16 November 1326.

Of course, the king was unpopular but the real object of the exercise was to get a collar Le Despenser. That done, the disaffected nobles wasted no time in dispensing Le Despenser at Hereford where they set about exacting their inimitable brand of revenge.


Following a ropey trial-less set of accusations branding him a traitor, Le Despenser was given an equally ropey sentence, all headed up by the mistress of ceremonies: Isabella.

He was to be drawn and quartered as was to be expected if the crime was against crown or country.

But this was no ordinary hanging. According to a bizarrely over-zealous account on a Welsh government website, he was suspended between the prongs of a pitchfork 50 feet up and literally bounced until dead, but there is no evidence of this seeming embellishment.

Then he was relieved of his nether regions before being quartered and shipped off to be displayed round the country and his head festooned on London Bridge for all to see.

Head case

While his skull disappeared, Le Despenser’s headless corpse made a reappearance. It was apparently unearthed at Hulton Abbey in the 1970s.

According to ‘The Daily Telegraph’, carbon dating helped provide evidence that the remains could well have been his.

Sadly the same certainty does not surround the date of his execution. We’ve gone with the peerage date of 29 November 1326. But others state anything from 16 November onwards.

‘Wikpedia’ unfortunately bucks all the other sources by stating it took place in 1325. But seeing as Edward was officially deposed in favour of his own son ‘a couple of months later’ in January 1327, that date is completely wrong. And yes, you’ve guessed it, that act was the final humiliation and was instigated by none other than Isabella.

If you have come across any compelling evidence around his execution date, please drop us a line below.

Also on this day

29 November 1603 – William Clark
29 November 1920 – James Riley

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29 November 1603 – William Clark

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , on November 29 by Last Writes

Catholic priest William Clarke lost his head for being in cahoots with another priest to try to kidnap King James I.

The plan was to hold the king until he agreed to relax his stance on anti-Catholic laws, in what became known as the Bye Plot.

Bearing in mind James had only just got his hands on the throne, the scheming priests were nothing if not keen.

But other Jesuits got cold feet, fearing that if the plot was discovered the law would come down hard on the already beleaguered Catholics. So they outed the two priests to the authorities and they were promptly dealt with.

Although some sources state that Clark was done as a job-lot alongside fellow priestly plotter William Watson, he was apparently executed on his tod at Winchester on this day in 1603 – the first of three to be strung up, according to RC Bald in his book ‘The Chronology of Middleton’s Plays’.

Watch out for the others in December.

As for the Jesuits, their hope for leniency backfired – James threw all the Catholic priests out in 1604, so they’d shopped the plotters for no reason.

Also on this day

29 November 1920 – James Riley

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12 November 1660 – Thomas Harrison

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , on November 12 by Old Sparky

Thomas Harrison

Thomas Harrison

General Thomas Harrison lost his life and a lot more for being a staunch roundhead, during the 17th century Civil War. It was his duties of taking the deposed King Charles I to trial and incriminatingly signing his death warrant that led to Harrison’s execution.

When King Charles’s son Charles II was then put on the throne in 1660, it was on the understanding that all who’d been involved in deposing his father would be exonerated. Well…almost all.

The Declaration of Breda set out the ground rules for Charles II restoration to the throne on the proviso that all would be pardoned ‘ excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by Parliament…’

Of course Harrison was one such exception, because he was branded a ‘Regicide’ – a member of the group who’d actively killed King Charles I.

For that he was hauled across London from Newgate to Charing Cross where he was to die an agonisingly slow and painful death.

He was strung up by his neck then cut down before he had time to lose consciousness. Still conscious, the lower half of his body was then spliced open and his internal organs out and thrown onto a fire, before they cut off his head and quartered him. His bits were displayed around London.

Apparently he was conscious and aware right up until his head was detached. Samuel Pepys said of the event in his diary: ‘he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy… Thus it was my chance to see the King beheaded at White Hall, and to see the first blood shed in revenge for the blood of the King at Charing Cross.’

Also on this day

12 November 1914 – Arnold Warren

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