Stretching things out: Hanged, Drawn and Quartered


E. C. Ambrose

During the Middle Ages, execution was a big deal–usually a very public big deal, with citizens gathering from all around to witness the event, both as a celebration of justice (the king’s and therefore, the Lord’s) and a warning to others, as well as a social occasion, in the way that following an important trial might be today. The details of the crime may be horrifying, the “common interest” in the preservation of law and order is emphasized, and, well, it was a bloody good show. Tension, drama, high stakes. . .sometimes literally.
One artist's conception of the execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger. One artist’s conception of the execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger.

In England for many centuries, the official punishment for traitors was to be Hanged, Drawn and Quartered (sometimes with disemboweling thrown in for good measure, as in the executions of William Wallace or Hugh Despenser the Younger during the 14th century). It’s important to make a…

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