Hanging, Drawing, and Quartering

treason -noun

1. the offense of acting to overthrow one’s government or to harm or kill its sovereign.
2. a violation of allegiance to one’s sovereign or to one’s state.
3. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.

Until 1870, those convicted of treason in England received the following sentence: “That you be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck and being alive cut down, your privy members shall be cut off and your bowels taken out and burned before you, your head severed from your body and your body divided into four quarters to be disposed of at the King’s pleasure.”

This was a man’s punishment, as women were burned at the stake for treason.

So, to clarify, first the guilty man was to be dragged on a wooden frame to the pre-determined place of execution. Since this was quite a spectacle in those days, a crowd eagerly awaited the grisly scene. Once there, the man would be hanged by the neck until nearly dead. Then, removed from the noose and still alive, he would be disemboweled and castrated. (A good executioner would do this quickly so that the man did not die too early in the process.) While the condemned man watched, his genitalia and entrails were burned. Of course, this is only if he did not die from strangulation, loss of blood, and/or shock. Next, the man would be quartered, which simply means that his four limbs would be separated from his midsection. Often this was done with an ax on a quartering table, but in some places the man’s arms and legs were each tied to a different horse. At the same time the horses would be commanded to run, tearing the man’s limbs from his body.

Hanging, drawing, and quartering remained legal punishment for high treason in England until it was abolished in 1870.

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