Thursday, June 7, 2012

Justice Prevails

by Katherine Pym

Over the centuries, public executions were entertainment.  Crowds gathered en masse to watch these events. They brought their children and baskets of food.  They picnicked and laughed. 

England’s justice would not allow a guilty person to escape his sentence. One such fellow condemned to be hanged found a way to escape when brought to the gallows.

As the magistrates hauled the poor fellow to his hanging, legs shackled, the condemned man jerked out of the way. The crowd impeded the gaolers from catching him. He ran down the hill and jumped into the river, the weight of the shackles pulling him down. He drowned. 

Not content to have the prisoner die before being properly executed, he was hauled back up to the gallows, and there hanged with the other prisoners. (They did this during the French Revolution, too. Not hanging - guillotined.)

Enter Oliver Cromwell who was very dead when executed for treason.    

King Charles I
When King Charles II returned from exile, he brought back a few things. One – a French tradition – put women on stage. His style of clothing tended toward the French rather than the prevailing Dutch.  Another, he sought revenge for the regicide of his father. 

Charles II did not want to execute every regicide. Men around him did. After a while, Charles II waved his hand in dismissal when new names were recommended.  He did, however, accept revenge on the head of Oliver Cromwell.  

Excerpt from Of Carrion Feathers by KPym: “The Protector died of an illness on a stormy night (not kidding) in September of 1658.  Wind blew and rain pelted the earth.  With his son incapable to lead the people, Cromwell’s death left an appalling void.  Those left in the Commonwealth tucked their heads into their bolsters, and shivered under the calamity of a terrible loss.  They begged the Lord God to deliver them from the shocking death of their loved one.  

Cromwell's Death Mask
"Finally, with nothing else for it, God not returning their Saint to a now beleaguered people, the country gathered in great pomp and ceremony to give the Protector a proper fare-thee-well.  His doctors had embalmed him and filled his coffin with spices.  After a long ceremony of viewing his effigy with infinite prayers and speeches, Cromwell was enshrined in Westminster Abbey amongst dead kings and queens of the realm.  
"When the new king returned, Charles II could not forgive the men who tried to kill him and succeeded in killing his father.  The king ordered Cromwell to be disinterred from his shrine.  They yanked him from the grave to endure a rigorous execution.  

"Along with other regicides, Cromwell was hanged at Tyburn.  After many strokes of the axe through fabric of the shroud, he was beheaded, his body cast in a hole beneath Tyburn gallows.  They stuck his head on a pike for the whole world to see at Westminster Hall.”  It remained there for 20-30 years before it was spirited away on another dark and dreary night...  

For more of London 1662 and espionage during the reign of King Charles II, see my book Of Carrion Feathers which was released June 1st, 2012 from And the Nook.  

1 comment:

  1. Intriguingly not all hangings were fatal! In one extraordinary incident in Bristol on Friday, 3 September 1736 not one but two men who had been hanged, their bodies cut down and taken to be buried, were found to exhibit signs of life. One (Mr Vernon) died later that evening. The other (Mr Harding) survived, was expected to be taken back to the gallows, but was instead sentenced to be transported to the colonies.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.