In the year 1606, on the last day of January, Guy Fawkes was executed for his part in the Gunpowder plot of the previous year.
He was born in York in 1570. As a young man, he went to the continent to fight for the Catholic Spanish armies against the Protestants.
When King James VI/I came to the throne of England, upon the death of Elizabeth I, he brought his protestant views with him, which angered many English Catholics. A plot to kill the King was devised and Fawkes was an integral part.
A cellar under Westminster was leased and barrels of gunpowder stored there. Fawkes was put in charge of these barrels and was the conspirator who was found with the gunpowder in the cellar on the evening of 5th November.
Taken to the Tower dungeons, he was tortured and questioned to within an inch of his life, while his co-conspirators were rounded up.
Found guilty of treason, his fate was sealed and he was taken to the scaffold on the 31st January. The punishment was to be hung, drawn and quartered. It is said that he fell from the scaffold immediately prior to his execution and broke his neck, depriving the crowd of watching his suffering.
Being hung, drawn and quartered was a hellish death. We have all seen the scene where William Wallace is killed in this way on Braveheart, but the reality was even bloodier.
The accused would be stood on the scaffold and a noose placed about his neck. He would be lifted into the air, the noose tightening about his neck, slowly suffocating him. He would swing for a few minutes, taking him to the brink of unconciousness but not allowing him to slip into that, so that he could suffer the pains that were to follow.
He would then be tied down on a bench on the scaffold (have to be up high enough for the crowd to see him bleed!), and his clothes ripped open down his front.
His genitals (am being polite!) would be cut off and sometimes forced into his mouth or sometimes burned in a brazier beside him, where he could watch. His head would often be held facing the brazier so that he could watch as parts of himself were burned while he lived.
Next a knife would slice through his belly, no anaesthetic, you can imagine how painful that would have been, and his bowels pulled out and sliced off. These would be shown to the crowd then also burned as he watched. Other organs such as the stomach, kidneys, liver etc were sometimes removed and burned, depending on the ways of the executioner. The heart was the last thing to be removed and burned as this obviously killed the prisoner.
Once he had been disembowelled and killed, his head would be taken from his body and placed on a spike. It was traditional that the executioner would lift the head high and declare “So dies the traitor!” or similar words, before impaling it on the spike.
The body would then be cut into four pieces and displayed in various quarters of the city or country, as their sentence decided.
Crowds would come to watch the executions, bringing their families. Food sellers would come to sell their wares, a bit like a cup final match nowadays!!
Sometimes I hear of people in the news who I think probably deserve this punishment to be brought back, but maybe I am just cruel !!!!
Might be more interesting than some of these reality shows to watch, don’t you think??