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Hanged, drawn and quartered #comment

It is the 5th of November, remember? We are supposed to celebrate the failure of Guido Fawkes and co-conspirators attempt to blow up parliament and the King in 1605. You might instead prefer to reflect on the barbarity of their punishment. They were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

hanged, drawn and quartered


Guido, otherwise know as Guy Fawkes was driven by some religious belief and was probably as crazy as a bucket load of frogs. He died on the scaffold, maybe he jumped to his death like Dick Turpin or maybe his executioners messed up. His co-conspirators were not so lucky. They were hanged until nearly dead and then they were taken down for part two of their punishment:

“Each of the condemned would be drawn backwards to his death, by a horse, his head near the ground. They were to be “put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both”. Their genitals would be cut off and burnt before their eyes and their bowels and hearts removed. They would then be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of their bodies displayed so that they might become ‘prey for the fowls of the air’.

This punishment tells us something about the rulers of the country at the time and maybe they needed blowing up.


The rich and the powerful can afford to hire others to inflict cruelty and there are always others who, if you cross their palm with silver, will carry out the most inhumane acts. They will see families go hungry and made homeless, they will turn a blind eye to abuse and they will join the rabble that delights in a good old condemnation of those who are seen less worthy of a life. The barbarity reaches across religious and political divides. In the United States, hatred for people of different religions and cultures will drive those in power to want to inflict a punishment worse than death on their enemies. They will support other despots like Assad and turn a blind eye to the killing and maiming of innocent people. We have largely moved on from burning people’s genitals before their very eyes but some religious fanatics still burn people to death, however. Mankind is still primitive, we are still animals and for all the technology we can still become a primitive rabble.


When I turn off the television, I  see acts of kindness. I see people who have empathy for their fellow human beings. I see parents who will do anything for their children. There are teachers who get great pleasure from sharing their knowledge with the next generation. I see doctors and nurses who have a vocation rather than a job, who find self-respect in caring for others. I see artisans who simply take pride in their work and enjoy a simple thank you at the end of it. There are people for whom power holds no attraction, who know the value of simple things. Power corrupted in 1605 and it still does so today…

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