Thursday, January 19, 2006

True Crime

Just when you think you think there is nothing of any interest left on the Net to discover along comes something like The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London 1674 to 1834. This site is keeping me awake. For instance, did you know that 1820 several men were sentenced to be drawn and quartered for Treason to George IV? While many of them men had their sentences commuted to transportation (I assume to Australia), the ring leaders were executed but
that part of the sentence with respect to their being drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution and the division of their bodies, being omittted. (source)

In 1780 George IV's father George III was apparently not so generous as he did afford the French spy Henry de La Motte, any mercy. According to Wikipedia, de la Motte was the last person to be executed by drawing and quartering in Britain.

Quite a few women between the time frame of the site were also sentenced to death by burning. Now you would expect that this would be for witchcraft, but the most common offense that lead to this punishment was Coining which it seems, according to the trials represented is an act of Treason against the crown. Another crime that lead to burning for women was petty treason which basically means murdering one's husband. According to the site, it is a medieval law (1351) which makes a murder aggravated since it upsets the "natural" hierarchy.

Of course one would expect a death penalty for crimes like murder or (perhaps) treason, but sentences of death were accorded for all manner of crimes ranging from theft to things like murder. The Old Bailey site does indicate, however, that many of these death sentences were not carried out.

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