Interesting article from the BBC about the German spies executed at the Tower of London during World War One.
Check out the audio link too for a step by step account of the dreadful deed
While 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.
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.
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.
Jealous adversaries deposed the Duke of Somerset on this day in 1552.
Despite being popular for a time in the eyes of the public, Edward, Duke of Somerset was beheaded in London for supposed treason.
He was the brother of Jane Seymour, who died giving her husband Henry VIII his only son and heir to the English throne – Edward VI.
In fact, as his uncle, the duke took it upon himself to help his young nephew to rule the country following the death of Henry VIII. And, in doing so, he became Lord Protector.
But his meteoric ascendency to power came with a catch, natch. He amassed the prerequesite jealous adversaries along the way, who were only too happy to plot against him, as was the order of the day.
His protestant reforms narked the Catholics, while his land laws aggrieved the land owners and the Duke of Northumberland. Even his own brother hatched a plot to depose him and failed, leaving Somerset with no choice but to execute him.
But it was the Earl of Warwick who successfully overthrew Somerset in 1549, following a peasant uprising. Somerset was jailed leaving Warwick free to take up the mantle.
They eventually had Somerset up on some flimsy charge of treason in 1551. Though the case could not be proven, Somerset was still found guilty of some lesser charge and unceremoniously stripped of his peerage. And despite the tenuous nature of his offence, the penalty was still death.
Somerset was executed at Tower Hill just after 8am. According to an account written by Henry Machyn, a London undertaker, just before Somerset lost his head ‘there was a sudden rumbling a little before he died, as if it had been guns shooting and great horses coming, so that a thousand fell to the ground for fear, for they who were at one side thought no other but that one was killing another, so that they fell down to the ground, one upon another with their halberds, some fell into the ditch of the Tower and other places, and a hundred into the Tower ditch, and some ran away for fear.’
Despite all that, Somerset’s head was cut off, and he was buried in the Tower’s Chapel Royal of St. Peter.
An earl lost his head on this day at the turn of the 15th century. And his uncle followed a week later.
The 1st Earl of Surrey Thomas Holland were executed for treason after he tried to overthrow the king in 1399.
He’d teamed up with a host of other nobles including his uncle John to overthrown Henry IV and reinstate the imprisoned Richard II. Known as the Epiphany Rising, the plot failed because one of the team betrayed his so-called mates.
The grassed up earls fled to the West Country while Henry rallied his troops in London. But he needn’t have bothered as the traitors failed to drum up much support by way of an army. Thomas was soon caught at Cirencester and John at Pleshley.
Retribution was fast and fatal. Thomas was beheaded without even having a trial, aged roughly 26. And his uncle Earl of Huntingdon, John Holland followed just over a week later on 16 January 1400.
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.
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.
Today is a busy day on the execution front, thanks largely to Stalin.
In a KGB killing fest, skilled foreigners, who’d originally been drafted in to help Stalin strengthen Russia, met their deaths.
After Stalin had taken control of the country by fair means and foul, he’d embarked on his five-year plan – this comprised rigorous farming quotas and enlisting skilled labourers among other things. Where there was a skills shortage he looked elsewhere.
Canada and America happened to have a wealth of Finnish expats who’d settled across the Pond. But they were easily seduced by Communism and the lure of an egalitarian society where they could help make a difference.
And they did for a while until the very leader who had welcomed them into Russia turned on them.
For Stalin was getting paranoid. Party members were starting to vote against him and no wonder. His reforms for the greater good were relentless and they claimed the lives of many.
With waning popularity and the irresitible rise of right-wing Fascism rife throughout the rest of Europe, he began to hunker down.
Foreigners bore the brunt of his genocide. This included 141 Finnish expats.
In 1937, Samuel Ivanovich (Juho) Eskola, August Olavich (Olavi) Hakkarainen and Andrew Osvaldovich Hannula were three of many to face a firing squad. Exactly one year later Evert Stepanovich (Teppo) Helin and Karl (Kalle) Karlovich Huuki met exactly the same fate among others.
Of course, Stalin didn’t stop there. Millions were deemed to be expendable in the Russian purges – sentences ranged from hard labour, to deportation and death.
He helped both Hitler and Mussolini spread their propaganda during the Second World War.
Judge Humphreys presiding damningly indicted the part-Jewish 33-year-old:
‘You now stand a self-confessed traitor to your King and country, and you have forfeited your right to live’.