Archive for Politics

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 1649 – Charles I

Posted in Beheaded with tags , , , , on January 30 by Old Sparky

Charles I

Charles I of England Scotland and Ireland lost his head on this day in 1649. He was condemned to death for being ‘a tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy to the good of this nation’.

Following a battle between Charles I’s supporters – the Cavaliers – and Parliament’s supporters the Roundheads, led by Oliver Cromwell, the king was captured and sent to trial accused of treason for exercising his royal right to rule without the aid of Parliament. Up to that point he had refused to be beholden to his government when he needed money so he’d just got on with it for 11 years.

Tyrannical Rex

But his rule was seen as tyranny. Charles showed a knack for angering entire sections of society. Without a parliament he needed money, so he fined the aristocracy for failing to come to his coronation. He then ressurrected archaic taxes such as ship money, while angering the Scots with his moves to impose the Book of Common Prayer in church.

War looms

Naturally the government didn’t sit back and let him get on with it. They passed laws and, having failed to resist his actions, they formed a New Model Army of Parliamentarians under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. The two factions went head to head. Following a series of civil wars, Charles’s army was defeated and he was captured and imprisoned.

Trial and retribution

Following his trial Charles was found guilty of high treason and sentneced to be executed. But long line of executioners refused to behead their monarch. Finally two people agreed on the proviso that they wore masks to conceal their identities. They were paid the kingly sum of £100 for their efforts.

Proud to the last, Charles was said to have worn a thick cotton shirt – it was January so he wouldn’t be seen to be shivering as he didn’t want the crowd to mistake him as being frightened or weak. It took just one slice of the blade to decapitate the deposed monarch.

Apparently there was a groan as the execution took place. And following his execution, some say the paying public were then permitted to dip their hankies in Charles’s blood as it was believed to be a cure-all for illnesses or wounds.

Alec Guiness donned the dodgy wig to play Charles as he squares up to Richard Harris’ Cromwell in Ken Hughes’ 1970 film “Cromwell” and although its pretty good I don’t like the look on Harris’ face after the execution scene.  I can’t work out if he’s pleased or a little but gutted…but maybe that’s the point.

Also on this day

30 January 1661 – Oliver Cromwell (posthumously)
30 January 1606 – Sir Everard Digby, Robert Winter, John Graunt and Thomas Bates

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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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21 January 1793 – Louis XVI

Posted in Guillotine with tags , , , , on January 21 by Old Sparky

Louis XVI

Even royalty was not beyond the law as Louis XVI of France found out in 1793.

The French king was sent to the guillotine for treason, following the insurrection on 10 August 1792. And, with his execution came the end of total monarchy in France.


He was born Louis-Auguste de France and ruled as King until 1792. But in the grip of famine, disease, increasing poverty, spiralling inflation and a growing communist spirit, the French people turned on their monarch for living in apparent luxury. They directed their ire particularly at his Austrian wife, Marie Antoinette, supposedly because she was of foreign birth.

Prison break

The royal family were virtually imprisoned in their palace as the angry mob closed in. Storming the Bastille, they took the two reigning monarchs into custody.

Louis was tried by the National Convention for treason and found guilty. He immediately had his titles stripped from him. Known from then on as citizen Louis Capet, he lost his head in one clean swipe of the blade, aged 38, watched by a jubilant crowd.

His wife, already in the grip of cancer and TB, and the real focus for the mob’s animosity, was to follow 9 months later, following a sham of a trial, in which she was accused of sexually abusing her son.

King Louis was portrayed by Robert Morley in the 1938 film Marie Antoinette and by Jason Schwartzman in Sophia Coppola’s 2006 cleverly titled update Marie Antoinette.

Neither fine performance should be confused with the character of King Louie from The Jungle Book who was a singing cartoon ape.

Also on this day

21 January 1801 – John Fisher

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3 January 1946 – William Joyce

Posted in Hanged with tags , , , , , on January 3 by Last Writes

William Joyce

Fascist William Joyce was the penultimate man to be executed in the UK for a crime other than murder.

He was found guilty of treason for being a fascist politician and broadcasting Nazi propaganda to the British during World War II.

Nazi splinter group

Joyce started off as a member of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) under Sir Oswald Mosley before forming a breakaway organisation, the National Socialist League.

Anti-semitic Joyce, infamously nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw of Zeesen, was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Wandsworth Prison on 3 January 1946, aged 39.

Fellow Nazi sympathiser Theodore Schurch was set to meet Mr P. the following day and has the dubious honour of being the final person to be hanged for a crime that wasn’t murder.

You may also wish to check out Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce and Germany Calling: A Personal Biography of William Joyce – Lord Haw-Haw for more treachery and intrigue.

Also on this day

1928 – Frederick Fielding

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2 January 1663 – Illiam Dhone

Posted in Shot with tags , , , on January 2 by Last Writes

Illiam DhoneIlliam Dhone was shot for embezzlement, despite having already done time for his crime.

Dhone (whose English name was William Christian) was a Isle of Man, aka Manx nationalist and politician. He led a successful revolt against the then Lord of Mann who’d been imprisoned, and was eventually made Governor of the Isle of Man in the mid-17th century.

But power went to Dhone’s head. He misappropriated funds and when his crime caught up with him, he hot-footed it over to England. There Dhone was slammed in jail for a year.

Crime and retribution

When released, he returned to the Isle of Man, where the new Lord, Charles Stanley, the 8th Earl of Derby was keen to see Dhone properly punished for all his deeds, not least for leading the revolt against his father.

In the ensuing trial, Isle of Man judges, known as Deemsters, found against him after he refused to hand over all his assets to the State. For that, Dhone was shot on 2 January 1663, aged 54. But he was already considered to have done time for his crime, so, of course, retribution was swift for the Deemsters who’d ordered his execution. The newly instated King of England, Charles II made sure they were punished and Dhone’s family got compensation.

Also on this day

1924 – Matthew Nunn

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