Hello and welcome to 2020 and part two in our series of the history of state executions. To start 2020 off on a truly odd note, I thought it would be interesting to explore arguably the most grotesque public spectacle in English history, the act of hanging, drawing, and quartering. HDQ was a state-sponsored execution that was held for the only the most grievous of offenses, treason, specifically treason against the crown. Dating back to the reign of Edward Longshanks in the 13th century, the practice lasted until the Irish Rebellion of the early 19th century.
When I teach my sixth and seventh graders about public executions, I always get some awesome reactions when I describe HDQ, because it defies understanding to our modern sensibilities. In our world today, we debate about even putting people to death by the most humane ways imaginable, but for the crowned heads of England, the spectacle was the point. Capitol punishment meant nothing to these Kings if it wasn’t carried out in front of a large audience because the purpose was to fortify standing and declare dominance. The crime was almost always treason, and the King would parade the accused through the streets before the process began.
The accused it tied to the back legs of a horse and is dragged from the holding cell to the public square where the execution is to take place.
The accused is hanged in the public square, but not until dead; they are effectively strangled until near death. As the accused is still alive, the stomach is cut open and the intestines are spilled out in front of the accused and the entire crowd.
As the intestines are spilling out, sometimes these guts are set afire, but always the testicles and penis are cut off, all the while the person is still alive and feels everything.
Sweet relief, the head is cut off, the body is sliced into four quarters and the head and body sections are spread throughout England and put on public display to show everyone what a traitor gets.
There were many men who met this fate, but the two most famous were the first man, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the last independent ruler of Wales that was executed by Edward Longshanks. The second is the most famous, William Wallace, the Scot freedom fighter who was executed as a traitor by the crown.