Archive for Heresy

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

Bookmark this site | digg | facebook | reddit | StumbleUpon

29 August 1533 – Atahualpa

Posted in Death penalty, Garrotte with tags , , , on August 29 by Old Sparky


Curiosity killed the Inca today in 1533.

Once a former ruler of one of the most golden dynasties – the Incas – Atahualpa was executed after he served his useful purpose.

This was at a time when the Spanish were on the look-out to extend their territories. Christopher Columbus had been busy sailing the ocean blue 40-odd years back and they were now keen to extend their lands and gather booty as they went, headed up by Francisco Pizarro. So the Incas provided a real goldmine, literally.

The Spaniards were hell-bent on pillaging the lands and Atahualpa was inadvertently making it easy for them. They needed someone who could make pave the way for their takeover by minimising the resistance. Cue Atahualpa, who gave them an invitation, pretty much.

Don’t get us wrong, he was no pushover. He’d bumped off his milder-mannered half-brother (who was the legit heir) to get to where he was, just before the Spanish had appeared.

Andes realm

Naturally, the new leader was curious to know who they were, so he gave the Spaniards an invitation to enter the notoriously defensive Andean realm completely unopposed.

Having given up the supreme Incan advantage of inaccessibility, the tribe was now vulnerable and the Spanish wasted no time casing the joint and really liking what they saw.

But this was only a small deputation led by Pizarro’s brother, so the Spanish cunningly reciprocated by inviting the Inca ruler to meet their leader too. However, Pizarro had no intention of being friendly – his motives were far more sinister. They planned to jump Atahualpa as he unsuspectingly left his place of safety.

What good were the Incas’ axes and slingshots against Spanish guns – the relative weapons of mass destruction of the day? The Incas didn’t have a hope – many were killed, while others just legged it.

Rich pickings

Completely beaten into submission, Atahualpa soon cottoned on that they coveted gold and jewels, so he offered to provide them with a room full of riches.

This bought our man some time, but ultimately he became a burden and the Spanish sought ways to dispense with him. They used his religion and the fact that he’d killed his bruv to sentence him to death.

As for the date of his death, Atahualpa, Atabalipa or Atawallpa as he was also known is thought to have died on this day in 1533, aged roughly 31. Some sources, such as Wikipedia, go with 26 July 1533, however we’ve gone with the likes of and the encyclopaedias.

Burning issue

On one thing they all agreed, the sentence for heresy was burning.

The Inca leader was beside himself – if he was burned, his soul would never proceed to the Incas’ coveted afterlife. So he was forced to become a convert, thus earning himself the more palatable method of garrotting.

If you had the gruesome and unenviable choice, which method would you opt for? Vote in our macabre poll…

Also on this day

29 August 1800 – Thomas Wilmott
29-August 1801 – Edward Hughes
29 August 1803 – John Clarke

Bookmark this site | digg | facebook | reddit | StumbleUpon

27 July 1681 – Donald Cargill

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , , on July 27 by Last Writes

‘If believers loved Christ as He loves them, they would be in more haste to meet Him’, so said Donald Cargill, who met his maker on this day at the latter end of the 17th century. Maybe that’s why he did his level best to defy the laws of the land.


Ok, so the laws were being dictated by England, and the Scot was merely trying to practise his Presbyterianism north of the border, in Glasgow.

Sadly he was not being left alone to do so, after directives from London instructed clergy to adopt structural changes to the Church.

As a Presbyterian, he wholeheartedly believed that the ecclesiastical hierarchy centred around elders, while England was busy imposing a bishop-led organisation.

Well, the Scot wasn’t having a bar of it and he even went as far as to ‘excommunicate’ the then king, Charles II, during one of his sermons.

Bounty hunting

Yet, Cargill wasn’t alone. Many had vowed to uphold the faith of their forefathers and this open resistance had ensured that there was a price on their heads. As such, they became easy prey for bounty hunters.

Finally, Cargill was apprehended at Lanarkshire where he was dragged to jail, ‘with his feet tied tightly under a horse’s belly’, according to ‘Glimpses of Christian History’.

There, Cargill was tried and found guilty of heresy. Unsurprisingly, the death penalty was passed and his sentence was to be beheaded (although others reckon he was hanged).

His execution took place at Edinburgh, when he was aged roughly 70-odd.

Bookmark this site | digg | facebook | reddit | StumbleUpon

24 July 1588 – Blessed Nicholas Garlick

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered, Martyred with tags , , , , , on July 24 by Last Writes

‘Seducing’ the Queen’s subjects, that’s what Nicholas Garlick was found guilty of in 1588. Sadly his crimes were not racy as they sound.

Rome, if you want to

A priest by trade, he was a Catholic through and through, and despite harsh laws against anyone found spreading his religion, Garlick contrived to commit the cardinal sin.

As we’ve mentioned in relation to likes of Margaret Pole about 40-odd years beforehand, England was in the throes of the Reformation – which included a move away from the Pope towards Protestantism.

With the monarch (Elizabeth I) catapulted in to the prestigious religious top slot, the pro-Pope Catholics were in a tailspin.

But, hey, you can’t keep a good Catholic down and Garlick found illicit ways and means to spread the word.

Chopped and diced

Needless to say, the law eventually caught up with the 33ish-year-old and Garlick was roasted by his interrogators, alongside two other priests by the names of Robert Ludlam and Richard Simpson.

According to various sources devoted to Catholicism, the trio was found guilty and sentenced to death for heresy: ‘That you and each of you be carried to the place from whence you came, and from thence be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution, and be there severally hanged, but cut down while you are alive; that your privy members be cut off; that your bowels be taken out and burnt before your faces; that your heads be severed from your bodies; that your bodies be divided into four quarters, and that your quarters be at the Queen’s disposal; and the Lord have mercy on your souls.’

The very next day, the priests were strung up, before being rudely relieved of their bits and bowels, which were burned in front of them, then what was left was quartered.

Bits and bods

Their various bits were then strewn about Derby in a bid to put any would-be supporters off the thought of pursuing the same religion.

Apparently Garlick was still conscious when the second bit excruciatingly took place, but he, indeed all three met their fates so stoically that they were posthumously promoted to martyrs – the road to being blessed ended in 1987, when John Paul II successfully beautified them.

Also on this day

24 July 1923 – William Griffiths

Bookmark this site | digg | facebook | reddit | StumbleUpon

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

Bookmark this site | digg | facebook | reddit | StumbleUpon

1 June 1660 – Mary Dyer

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , , on June 1 by Old Sparky

Mary DyerBeing a Quaker in 17th-century America was a bit of a no-no, so Mary Dyer found on this day in 1660.

A bit of a militant, she did her best to circumvent crushing laws that condemned Quakerism as illegal. She fiestily found ways to sow the oats of Quakerism in New Haven and Massachusetts, before she wound up in Boston decrying the harsh laws against her faith. Of course she was apprehended.

Dyer dying

She was found guilty of heresy and taken to the execution elm tree amid great pomp and ceremony. She was given the chance to absolve herself of her crimes by repenting but she refused, vowing ‘Nay, man, I am not now to repent’. Her decision thus was considered to have taken the situation out of the law-makers hands and Captain Webb, who was presiding over the execution, stated ‘it is you, and you alone, who are guilty of spilling your own blood’.

With that she was strung up from the elm tree and hanged in what became known as one of the first acts of civil disobedience. However her legacy is rich – after her death, Charles II banned the Americans from executing merely for the crime of being a Quaker.

Bookmark this site | digg | facebook | reddit | StumbleUpon

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

Bookmark this site | digg | facebook | reddit | StumbleUpon