6. James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, invented a brutally effective killing machine and ended up losing his own head on it
In 1564, the city of Edinburgh invited inventors to submit their designs for a clean, efficient killing machine. This was a time of great unrest in Scotland, with the supporters of the exiled Mary, Queen of Scots being hunted down by those loyal to King James VI. James Douglas, the 4th Earl of Morton, accepted the challenge. The aristocrat, who was serving as the regent of Scotland, stepped forward with his Maiden, an early type of guillotine designed to slice off a person’s head in a single swift stroke.
It was perhaps fitting then, that, when Morton was arrested in 1580 and charged with being an accessory to murder, he was condemned to be killed by the very execution device he introduced into Scotland. Morton would have been impressed. According to eyewitness accounts, his death was instantaneous. His body was buried in an unmarked grave in the center of Edinburgh. His head, however, was put on a spike at the city gates and it stayed there for 18 months until it was taken down and buried alongside the rest of his remains.