04 August 2006

William wallace execution-England

Gory and humiliating execution of William wallace

Some of what you saw in the movie Braveheart was true, other parts were heavily sanitized, else the movie would have banned for the brutal depiction of the execution.Legend says that Wallace was led from Westminster Hall, stripped naked and bound to a hurdle and then dragged through the streeets of London at the tails of two horses. (Please bear in mind that this was long before sewage systems had been devised and chamberpots were simply dumped in the street.)He was dragged approximately 6 miles, to Smoothfield, which is now known as Smithfield, where the Church of St Bartholomew the Greater (the oldest church in all London) is located. He was then taken up to the gallows, hung and drawn. Drawing was the practice of looping a rope around the ankles of a hung man and tying the rope to a horse that would be led away from the gallows, to stretch the condemned man's body and tighten the noose around his neck.Since executioners were typically doctors, Wallace's condition could be carefully monitored so he could be cut down before actually dying. He would then have been tied to an executioner's table.The first to have gone would have been his penis and testicles, in order to inflict the maximum dishonor.Then an incision would have been made, so that his intestines could be pulled out and burned before his eyes. The last act would have been to pull his still-beating heart from the chest cavity, just prior to cutting off his head.The body would then be quartered, each portion with a limb still attached to it.Wallace's head was then dipped in pitch to slow the rotting process, spiked and placed on display on London Bridge.Here, legend differs somewhat, but it is generally accepted that the quarter with the right arm was hung above the bridge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, his left arm at Stirling, his right leg at Berwick and his left leg at Perth. (Dumfries and Aberdeen are also mentioned as possible places for the gory display)

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With Wallace out of the picture, Edward I relaxed a bit, but still began to crack down on Scotland. Year after year, he became more powerful. Then, in 1305 came possibly the most joyous time of his life. In this year, an English knight captured Wallace and brought him to Westminster Hall in London. Edward, now in his early sixties and on his deathbed, put Wallace to trial. The commissioners charged him with treason against the King. Wallace was found guilty and sentenced as a traitor who, in those days, would be brutally executed. Edward lived to see this happen. Mackay (1995) gives an account of the scene, "Outside Westminster Hall, he was stripped naked and bound to a hurdle, face upwards, head pointing downward and dragged through the streets at the tails of two horses. The four-mile journey through the fetid streets on a hot summer's day would have been extremely unpleasant at the best of times, but the circuitous route was chosen with care to ensure maximum expose to London." (p.263) He goes on to say, "They pelted their humble enemy with offal, and garbage and excrement, and struck him with their cudgels and whips as he bounced along the cobblestones." (p.264) The final stage of his sentence consisted of Edward watching Wallace get humiliated. Mackay believed, "the hanging, mutilation and disemboweling, and final beheading were all regarded as death three times over." (p.265)

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Stripped naked and bound, Wallace was dragged through the streets for miles while the London mobs jeered and pelted him with offal and garbage and stones. No doubt his religious training recalled to him the sufferings of Jesus Christ on His way to Golgotha as Wallace was led to his own death. By all accounts, he bore the pain, the curses and the humiliation of his final journey with bravery and quiet stoicism. When Wallace reached the place of execution, he made his last confession and asked for the psalter he often carried into battle. A priest held the book open for him so Wallace could take what comfort he could in the Psalms while the ultimate sentence was carried out.

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