The Tudor Society

Execution Methods – Hanging, drawing and quartering

In this week's Claire Chats video talk, I discuss the brutal penalty for the crime of high treason - hanging, drawing and quartering - and just what it entailed, as well as its history and famous people who suffered this awful end.

Apologies for the rather graphic descriptions!


There are 7 comments Go To Comment

  1. L

    Only the Tudor Society explains the gorey details of Hanging, drawing and quartering on their site, brilliant.

    1. C - Post Author

      Ha! I can be a bit gruesome!

  2. L

    The full horror was an extremely nasty way to die, but thoughout history there have been other equally barbaric method of execution.
    What gets me is that executions were viewed as a great day out for the family??

    1. C - Post Author

      My grandmother, when she was little, used to go and watch animals being slaughtered as she lived right near the slaughterhouse. My grandmother was the most loving and gentle woman ever and I couldn’t imagine her doing it, but for the kids in her street it’s what they did. Horrible!

  3. R

    The Chartists were sentenced to be hanged drawn and quartered in the 1830s because they were found guilty of high treason. They had been protesting in Newport in Wales when the young Queen Victoria visited. It was a peaceful protest and they intended to present their charter to the Queen. As Victoria got to them, a few people pushing sparked an over reaction and some people got into trouble. A number of arrests were made and because violence during a protest or rioting was high treason as it disturbed the peace and authority, they were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The news reached the Queen who was shocked and distressed and used her discretion of clemency. The sentencing was reduced to either prison or deportation and six left Chepstow for the colonies.

    Several Irish rebels were also sentenced thus in the Rising in the 1780s and 1810,_Robert Emmet was sentenced but he was hanged, then beheaded after he was dead. Most others were hung. It was a sentence which as in your video was frighteningly still around until 1870, although it was obviously used much more sparingly than in the Tudor and Medieval and Stuart periods.

    An interesting example of things being a bit odd with such sentences is that occasionally already dead traitors were also hanged, drawn and quartered. The most famous example was Oliver Cromwell, who in 1661_when Charles ii decided on a grissly end for the men who had condemned his father, was dug up from his tomb in Westminster Abbey, his skeleton put on trial and then, hanged, his ribs symbolically cut open, as his insides had gone, then his head cut off and his remains divided up. His head was put on display, later mummified and given to science. It remained a curiosity for centuries before being reburied quietly. 29 men from 59 were sentenced, but after 13 were butchered the King had had enough and commuted the rest to imprisonment.


    1. C - Post Author

      I’m so glad that Queen Victoria stepped in with that situation.

      Yes, and dead ‘heretics’ were exhumed and burnt too. Brutal times, but sometimes I’m not sure we’ve moved on much.

      1. R

        I am also thinking this is a subject I know far too much about. We are fascinated by the macabre. Yes, John Wycliffe was at some point dug up and his bones thrown into the river. See too many grisly stories stored in my brain.

        Yes, one of the more positive things about Queen Victoria was that she did try to understand the suffering of people, even if she didn’t agree with their demand for one man, one vote. I believe she heard of the terrible sentence because one of her staff had a brother who was condemned. Fancy having such a sentence still in the nineteenth century. Terrible times, I hope we have moved on. Having said that, before hanging went inside the prison people would pay for the best seats, arriving at Tyburn in carriages, or in the city, at Cheapside, pay for window seats in nearby homes. Yeap, we are a very macabre people.

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Execution Methods – Hanging, drawing and quartering