In Britain, it was not until 1964 that execution was abolished as a form of capital punishment. Ever since the Anglo-Saxon era, the condemned were either hung with a noose around the neck before suspending them from the branch of a tree. Later on, beheading and cutting off the limbs also became part of the ritual. All through time, a lot of people met the unfortunate fate of being executed, with some of them being Britain’s most famous historical figures. Here are three of them:
Anne Boleyn was no doubt one of the most famous historical figures who met an unfortunate ending when she was beheaded at the Tower of London on May 19, 1536. She was Henry VIII’s second wife who was found guilty of incest, adultery, and some other grave charges, including plotting to kill the king.
Anne Boleyn requested to be executed by a French swordsman as she believed it would be quicker and less painful rather than the traditional beheading using an ax. She wrote, “I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck.”
Before she was executed, her speech included, “Pray God, save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me, he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord,” and she was taken out with a single blow.
There were some speculations by historians that all the accusations against her were not true and that Henry only wanted to get rid of his wife because she failed to give him a son and heir. As we know, Henry married Jane Seymour shortly after Anne Boleyn’s death.
Thomas More was the author of “Utopia” and “The History of King Richard III.” He also served as King Henry’s lawyer and Councilor. From 1529 to 1532, he served as Lord High Chancellor of England until he lost King Henry’s favor when he refused to accept him as the new Head of the Church of England and refused to attend Anne Boleyn’s coronation ceremony.
At first, Henry could not find enough evidence to charge Thomas with treason until he was tried before a team of judges that included Anne Boleyn’s father, brother, and uncle. Only then was he found guilty of high treason.
As a result, he was sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered. However, Henry requested that he be beheaded instead. And so he was. As he was to be executed, before the ax hit his neck, he supposedly said, “I pray you, I pray you, Mr. Lieutenant, see me safe up, and for my coming down, I can shift for myself.”
Guy Fawkes’ case was different, as he was found to be a chief conspirator in the plan to blow up the British Parliament building, restore Catholicism in England and kill King James I. It was Sir Thomas Knyvet who found Fawkes lurking within the cells of the British Parliament Building on November 5, 1605, along with two tons of gunpowder. That day, King James I was supposed to attend Parliament.
As a result, Fawkes was immediately arrested and tortured, and he later admitted to his and his fellow conspirators’ plans. In the following months, the authorities were able to arrest and kill his accomplices while Fawkes was sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered (his legs would be cut off after he was hung) in London on January 31, 1606.
On the day of his execution, Fawkes climbed the ladder to the noose at the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, but he jumped and broke his neck, which caused his death. There were speculations on whether he purposefully jumped to avoid the agony of being hung or if he accidentally fell because his body was weakened by the tortures that he endured. Whichever it was, his body was still quartered, and his parts were displayed to warn others who were planning to betray the king.