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

Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Anne Boleyn (1507–1536), 18th century. (National Trust, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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

Thomas More. (Nicolas de Larmessin III, Esme de Boulonais, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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.”