A Brief History
On August 23, 1305, William Wallace, a military leader of the Scots against English rule was executed in the English style of execution for traitors, being drawn and quartered!
Far from seeking a humane way to execute people, the English of 1305 were looking for a way for execution to have a chilling and preventative effect on any would-be traitors.
In the 1995 movie, Braveheart, Wallace is depicted as courageously defying his executioners and screaming, “Freedom!” The reality was far worse than depicted in the film. Wallace was hanged until almost dead. He was then emasculated, and his “private parts” burned in front of his own eyes. Then he was disemboweled while still alive, no doubt screaming something other than “freedom.” His body was then cut into pieces, or “quartered,” with a main piece being delivered to Newcastle, Berwick, Perth and Stirling to be viewed by the public.
As a final note, various online sources suggest that the nickname of “Braveheart” refers to Robert the Bruce and not William Wallace, which is why we have the nickname in quotation marks in the title for this article.
Question for students (and subscribers): Should executions be humane or horrible? Should we have capital punishment at all? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Abbott, Geoffrey. Execution: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death. St. Martin’s Press , 2006.
Fisher, Andrew. William Wallace. Birlinn, 2007.
The featured image in this article, a painting by Daniel Maclise (1806–1870) of The Trial of William Wallace at Westminster, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.
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