Hanged, Drawn and Quartered
The penalty of hanging, drawing, and quartering in England began to evolve as a penalty for treason in the thirteenth century. Matthew of Paris, a contemporary chronicler, recorded how a plot to kill Henry III resulted in two men, William de Marisco and his unnamed accomplice being put to death. The two men were drawn on hurdles to their place of execution and hung. De Marisco was posthumously disemboweled and quartered and his accomplice beheaded.
Henry’s son, Edward III elaborated on this grisly ritual. He was enraged when welsh nobleman Dafydd ap Gruffydd declared himself Prince of Wales and rebelled against the English crown in attempted to restore welsh independence. Once ap Gruffydd was captured, Edward came up with a suitable punishment for the recalcitrant Prince.
Firstly, he instigated a new law of High Treason, of which ap Gruffydd was found guilty and condemned to death. The manner of that death suitable expressed Edward’s ire. Ap Gruffydd was to be drawn to his place of execution because of his rebellion. He would then be hung for killing English nobles at Easter. He would be cut down and eviscerated while alive and his body quartered and displayed for his treachery to the King. In this way, Dafydd ap Gruffydd became the first noble to be hung, drawn and quartered.
The 1351 Treason Act made hanging, drawing and quartering the statutory punishment for treason- for men at least. Because it involved stripping the body, women were spared the penalty for modesties sake- and burned instead. Treason was not just against the king. The crime of petty treason: the murder of an employer or husband also earned the same penalty as high treason.
The victim was usually still alive during disemboweling. Major General Thomas Harrison, one of the signatories on the death warrant of Charles I actually hit the executioner as he cut him open. Others tried to avoid the worst by ensuring they died on the gallows. Guy Fawkes broke his own neck by jumping from the gallows at his execution in 1606. Often, sympathetic onlookers would pull on the condemned person’s legs to help them along before they were eviscerated.
The penalty for hanging, drawing, and quartering was modified from the late eighteenth century, with bodily mutilation occurring after death. The last person sentenced to it in 1839 after the Chartist Newport rising had their sentence transmuted to transportation and in 1870, the penalty was removed from the statute books.