Archive for Hanged drawn and quartered

23 August 1305 – William Wallace

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , on August 23 by Old Sparky
William Wallace

William Wallace

‘…they’ll never take our freedom’ was Mel Gibson’s rallying cry in the epic ‘Braveheart’, which chronicles the rise and fall of today’s main man. We are, of course, talking about Sir William Wallace, who led the Scots against the tyranny of English rule.

Let’s face it, they may not have taken the Scot’s freedom, but the English certainly whipped all his other bits away after he was hanged, drawn and quartered for leading the uprising during the War of Scottish Independence.


This all took place in Medieval times during the reign of Edward I, son of Henry III. A seasoned fighter, Edward had a couple of Crusades under his belt, along with a war with Wales. He’d won the Welsh campaign and the lands had been incorporated in England midway through his reign so he was free to turn his attention to the Highlands.

At first, Scotland actively asked him to intervene after it fell into disarray when Margaret Maid of Norway – the natural-born successor to the throne north of the border – died. Fearing in-fighting and civil war, they asked Edward to steer them towards another king.

Chinny reckon

But Edward, sniffing the opportunity to extend his domain ever further, intimidated the Scots into agreeing that he was the overlord and they eventually, albeit begrudgingly, agreed on the proviso that it was a temporary measure. Yeah, right…

A neutered King John Balliol was installed on the throne and the situation crumbled from there on in. Edward made it clear who was running the show and Scots didn’t like it one bit, especially after the English expected the Scots to provide armed forces in a war against France.

Instead, they teamed up with France and the first War of Independence broke out.

Cue William Wallace, a Scottish knight who had reason to be disgruntled after his fiancée was said to have been killed by an English sherrif.

Anyone for menace?

Steeled by initial success at Stirling Bridge in 1297, Wallace felt ready to take on the English army. Big mistake: the Scots were in way over their heads and were resoundingly defeated.

Wallace went into hiding for the next few years before someone shopped him and he was carted off to London for his reckoning. Needless to say, the 30-ish-year-old was found guilty of treason, despite the fact that he didn’t regard Edward as his king and he was sentenced to death by being hanged, before having his bits cut off and his organs roasted in front of him before having his head chopped off and what was left quartered at Smithfield. Indeed there is a semi-faithful account written at the time.


According to records entitled ‘Flores Historiarum’ – a book initiated by monks at St Albans and continued during this period by monks at Westminster – ‘he was led through the streets of London, dragged at the tail of a horse, and dragged to a very high gallows, made on purpose for him, where he was hanged with a halter, then taken down half dead, after which his body was vivisected in a most cruel and torturous manner, and after he had expired, his body was divided into four quarters, and his head fixed on a stake and set on London Bridge. But his four quarters thus divided, were sent to the four quarters of Scotland’.

Yet, it was not all doom and gloom. Wallace ultimately paved the way for Robert the Bruce’s highly successful guerrilla war against the English led by Edward’s not-so-successful son…Edward II, which saw Scotland gain Independence for a short while, at least.

Also on this day

23 August 1927 – Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti
23 August 2005 – Robert Alan Shields Jnr

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27 June 1497 – Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , on June 27 by Old Sparky

Michael An Gof and Thomas FlamankTaxes are never gonna be popular. Multiply that by 10 if you live at one end of the country and you know full well your money’s going towards a war at the other end.

Rewind roughly 500 years to 1497 and that’s precisely the position a couple of Cornish men found themselves in. So Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank were the West Country worms who turned and, for that rebellion, they paid the ultimate price – their lives.

Taxing times

Taxes were being levied to pay for a war with Scotland. Why, because Henry VII was trying to quash a rebellion. You see, Perkin Warbeck was trying to take over the throne of England by asserting that he was one of the royal offspring who’d been stashed in the Tower of London – nicknamed the Princes in the Tower.

Of course, everyone knew those children were probably dead – indeed the bodies of two young children turned up in the grounds near the Tower’s main building. But such conjecture would probably have sparked an investigation and Henry would have been in serious trouble. Warbeck knew this and seized the opportunity to really go for the throne. And Henry needed to work hard to eradicate the threat. Cue a war with Scotland, which was fully behind Warbeck’s offensive.

Getting crabby

But the Cornish were having none of it. Why should they fork out for war, after all, it had nothing to do with them? Cue the aggrieved blacksmith Michael Joseph, nicknamed An Gof (which was the Cornish phrase for his day job). He teamed up alongside a landowner’s son (James Tuchet Lord Audley) and a lawyer (Thomas Flamank) and together they stood up to the overzealous tax collection.

They were angry, not least because the really poor were meant to be exempt, however the Lizard’s collector of taxation ignored the directive and collected it from all irrespective. Well that was it, sick of being trodden on, they rose up in what became known as the Cornish Rebellion.

Pitching forth

Armed with…well…rubbish weapons really – pitchforks, axes etc, they were no match for the King’s army, but they weren’t to know that. They marched on London, amassing support as they went.

It was pretty impressive really because, by the time they reached London, they reckon about 15,000 men had joined the ranks. The army of supporters wanted to gather their thoughts before they marched on the city so they camped at Blackheath, but Henry had seen them coming and was ready with the troops.

No match

Well, one look at the soldiers and the state-of-the-art army equipment and roughly 5,000 West Country lads legged it, leaving equal numbers of men to army. Well matched? Nope! These men had no weapons to speak of, not compared with Henry’s men. They fought at Deptford Bridge and anything between 200 and 1,000 Cornishmen were lost after the West Country army became surrounded. (Apparently you could have counted army losses on two hands.)

An Gof scarpered, but he was soon apprehended, while Flamank was arrested right there on the battlefield.

Both were tried on 26 June 1497 and Joseph was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered– the sentence for treason. This was to take place at Tyburn the very next day. Flamank was too, however there are discrepancies as to the date. Some say they were done as a job lot, while others say Flamank followed 10 days later.

Whichever the case, both Joseph and Flamank’s heads were stuck on spikes and festooned on London Bridge as a lesson to all.

Lord Audley, who was also involved, followed the next day, but more of him tomorrow… You’ll have to wait until 23 November to find out what happened to old Perkin Warbeck, but then again we may just have given the game away.

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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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