List of people hanged, drawn and quartered

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The execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger, as pictured in the Froissart of Louis of Gruuthuse

To be hanged, drawn and quartered was a penalty in England for men guilty of high treason. The convicted were fastened to a wooden hurdle which was dragged by horse to the place of execution. Once there, they were ritually hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces). As a warning against further dissent, these remains were often displayed at prominent places, such as London Bridge. For reasons of public decency, women convicted of high treason were burnt at the stake.

This article presents a list of several notable instances of those people executed by this method, which was abolished in England in 1870.


The Statute of Labourers was introduced in 1351. This and other social grievances including the Black Death, were instrumental in prompting the 1381 Peasants' Revolt.[1] Its leader, Wat Tyler, was killed in June 1381 at Smithfield, during a meeting with the young King Richard II.[2] The Lollard priest John Ball, also involved in the uprising, immediately fled, but was captured less than a month later. He was hanged, drawn and quartered on 15 July.[3]

Richard had succeeded to the throne while still a child, and in the ensuing power struggles between his advisers, Thomas Usk was one of those who fell foul of court politics. He was accused of misleading the young king, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered in 1388.[4] Soon after Richard was deposed by Henry IV, Owain Glyndŵr, a Welshman loyal to Richard, became the leader of the Glyndŵr Rising,[5] subsequently defeating Henry's army at the Battle of Mynydd Hyddgen. Henry responded by bringing up from Worcester a large army to capture Owain. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan was pressured into his service, but as a loyal patriot, and with two sons in Owain's army, he led the king in the wrong direction. This allowed Owain to escape, and when in 1401 Llywelyn admitted to Henry what he had done, the king had him disembowelled and dismembered at Llandovery Castle.[6]

At the start of Edward IV's reign in 1461, John Tiptoft, 1st Earl of Worcester, was appointed to the king's council. He became constable of the Tower of London, and the following year was made Constable of England, with authority to try all cases of treason. He was responsible for many executions, but the hanging, drawing and quartering of twenty of the Earl of Warwick's men provoked strong public condemnation, and when Edward fled the country to be replaced temporarily by Henry VI, Tiptoft was arraigned and condemned for high treason. He was beheaded on Tower Hill, in October 1470.[7]

Tudor England[edit]

Henry VIII, flanked by members of his family and court (c. 1545)

During Henry VII's reign treason law was again modified, on this occasion making it possible to commit treason only against the de facto king, and not de jure.[8] Between 1533 and 1540, Henry VII's son, Henry VIII, took control of the English Church from Rome, the start of years of religious tension in England.[9] The eighth Henry made it treason to ignore a legal summons to surrender, or to injure the king, or even to wish him injury.[10]

Henry later made it treasonous to deny the validity of his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and later still made it an offence to maintain the validity of the same marriage. His union later with Catherine Howard proved lethal for Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper, after it was discovered that they each had carnal knowledge of Catherine. Both men were executed in December 1541. Culpeper was drawn on a hurdle to Tyburn and beheaded there, in itself unusual since most beheadings were carried out at Tower Hill. There was nothing to distinguish Dereham's punishment however, as he was hanged, drawn and quartered in the same place. Catherine was deprived of her queenship, and was beheaded in February the following year.[11] Many of Henry's modifications to treason law were repealed but then re-enacted by Henry's son and heir, Edward VI, who also made it treason for more than 12 people to meet and discuss state affairs. Edward died a young man, however, and was succeeded by his half-sister, Mary I, who removed the changes from the statute books. Mary also attempted to return England to Catholicism, but her marriage in 1554 to Philip II of Spain proved to be deeply unpopular, so much so that it was made treasonous to pray for her death, or to preach against Philip's title as king.[12] Her marriage prompted Thomas Wyatt the younger to rebel against the union, but the rising failed and consequently he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. This was commuted to beheading; his head was later exhibited on a gallows near Berkeley Square, while his quarters were displayed at various places across the city. As many as 400 rebels may have been killed for their involvement in the uprising.[13] Also caught in the aftermath was William Thomas, a Welsh scholar accused by some of the rebels of planning to murder the queen. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in May that year. His head was placed on London Bridge, and the rest of his body at Cripplegate.[14]

Mary was succeeded to the throne by her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth I. One of her first acts was the 1559 Act of Supremacy, which amongst other things made denying her title an act of treason. Further acts, such as the Bulls, etc., from Rome Act, increased the number of offences by which an individual could be tried for treason.[12] English Catholics struggled in a society dominated by the newly separate and increasingly Protestant Church of England. Elizabeth's response to the growing religious and political divide was to increase the severity of anti-Catholic legislation, with stiff penalties exacted on those who refused to comply.[9] Priests such as Cuthbert Mayne and Edmund Campion, two of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, fell foul of these laws and were hanged, drawn and quartered.[15][16] Other Tudor conspiracies, such as the Babington plot, resulted in further executions:

John Ballard a preest, and first persuader of Babington to these odious treasons, was laid aloue vpon an hurdell, and six others two and two in like sort, all drawne from Tower hill through the citie of London, untu a field at the vpper end of Holborne, hard by the high waie side to saint Giles in the field, where was erected a scaffold for their execution, and a paire of gallows of extraordinarie hight ... and although the thousands were thought (and indeed so seemed) to be numberlesse: yet somewhat to note the huge multitude, there were by computation able men enow to giue battell to a strong enimie ... On the first daie the traitors were placed vpon the scaffold, that the one might behold the reward of his fellowes treason. Ballard the preest, who was the first brocher of this treason, was the first that was hanged, who being cut downe (according to judgement) was dismembred, his bellie ript up, his bowels and traitorous heart taken out and throwne into the fire, his head also (seuered from his shoulders) was set on a short stake vpon the top of the gallows, and the trunke of his bodie quartered and imbrued in his owne bloud, wherewith the executioners hands were bathed, and some of the standers by (but to their great loathing, as not able for their liues to auoid it, such was the throng) beesprinkled.[17]

The Stuart era and English Interregnum[edit]

The Execution of Guy Fawkes, by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher

For their part in the Gunpowder Plot, a conspiracy to kill Elizabeth's successor James I and replace him with a Catholic monarch, from 30–31 January 1606 the surviving eight Catholic conspirators were hanged, drawn and quartered. The most notorious, Guy Fawkes, managed to cheat the executioner by jumping from the scaffold while his head was in the noose, breaking his neck.[18][19] His lifeless body was nevertheless drawn and quartered,[20][21] and his body parts distributed to "the four corners of the kingdom".[22]

Use of the sentence continued through the English Interregnum. John Southworth was the only Catholic priest executed during the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell, and the last person executed simply for being a priest in England. Arrested on 19 June 1654, he was tried before the common serjeant, and not the high court of justice (which had sole jurisdiction over treasons), meaning that he was probably executed under an earlier conviction. He refused to deny that he was a priest, an option which might have saved his life. Foreign ambassadors pleaded on his behalf, but unlike the kings and queens before him Cromwell had no authority to pardon the priest, who was to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 28 June. Instead Cromwell ordered that surgeons be present at his execution, to sew the corpse back together so that it could be sent to Douai College for burial. Exhumed when the college was demolished, it is the only corpse of an English Catholic martyr to have survived into modern times.[23]

Several years after Charles II was restored to the throne, about 100 men (including some former parliamentarian soldiers) launched a failed insurrection against the new regime. In what became known as the Farnley Wood Plot, the rebels were arrested and tried, and 26 of them condemned to death. Of those, 16 were hanged, drawn and quartered at York in a single morning, providing, in the words of historian Andrew Hopper, "a spectacle on a scale unseen in the city for nearly a century."[24]

The Glorious Revolution[edit]

Following the failed Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, almost 1,400 rebels involved in the plot to overthrow Charles' brother, King James II, were charged with treason, and tried during what became known as the Bloody Assizes. In less than a month over 200 of them were hanged, drawn and quartered. Their remains were parboiled, tarred, and displayed on poles, trees and lampposts; only when James conducted a progress through the area were they removed and buried.[25] James was, however, the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, abdicating during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. During Charles' reign it was made treason to imagine any physical injury to the king, but in 1702, according to the Act of Settlement, the offence was expanded to include interference with the succession. Asserting the right to the throne of anyone outside the line of succession became an offence in 1707. The 1715 Riot Act allowed the government to treat rioters as felons, dispensing with the requirement under the 1351 act to use constructive treason.[12]


In 1653 Irish nobleman Felim O'Neill of Kinard was hanged, drawn and quartered at Dublin for his part in the Irish Rebellion of 1641 during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.[26][27] Robert Keon publicly whipped a man called George Nugent Reynolds and as a result was challenged to a duel. When they met, before the Seconds could pace out the ground and prepare, Reynolds advanced to meet Keon and was immediately shot and killed by Keon in defiance of all the rules of duelling. Reynolds was not even armed. Keon was tried for murder at the Leitrim Spring Assizes in 1786, convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The sentence was carried out in full 16 Feb 1788 [28] Robert Emmet was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered after being convicted of high treason in the Irish Rebellion of 1803.[29][30][31] He was hanged and then beheaded once dead.[32]


  1. ^ Oman 1906, p. 5
  2. ^ Oman 1906, p. 75
  3. ^ Prescott, Andrew (2008) [2004], "Ball, John (d. 1381)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1214, retrieved 22 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  4. ^ Waldron, Ronald (2008) [2004], "Usk, Thomas (c.1354–1388)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28030, retrieved 22 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  5. ^ Smith, Llinos (2008) [2004], "Glyn Dŵr , Owain (c.1359–c.1416)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10816, retrieved 22 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  6. ^ Steffan, Rhobert ap (2006), Llywelyn Ap Gruffydd Fychan,, retrieved 22 August 2010 
  7. ^ Kohl, Benjamin G. (2006) [2004], "Tiptoft , John, first earl of Worcester (1427–1470)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27471, retrieved 22 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  8. ^ Feilden 2009, p. 4
  9. ^ a b Haynes 2005, p. 12
  10. ^ Feilden 2009, pp. 4–5
  11. ^ Warnicke, Retha M. (2008) [2004], "Katherine [Katherine Howard] (1518x24–1542)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4892, retrieved 19 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  12. ^ a b c Feilden 2009, p. 5
  13. ^ Jesse 1847, pp. 386–387
  14. ^ Hamilton, Dakota L. (2005) [2004], "Thomas, William (d. 1554)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27242, retrieved 20 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  15. ^ Trudgian, Raymond Francis (2008) [2004], "Mayne, Cuthbert [St Cuthbert Mayne] (bap. 1544, d. 1577)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18440, retrieved 19 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  16. ^ Graves, Michael A. R. (2008) [2004], "Campion, Edmund [St Edmund Campion] (1540–1581)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4539, retrieved 19 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  17. ^ Holinshed 1808, pp. 915–916
  18. ^ Northcote Parkinson 1976, pp. 91–92
  19. ^ Fraser 2005, pp. 283
  20. ^ Allen 1973, p. 37
  21. ^ Thompson 2008, p. 102
  22. ^ Guy Fawkes, York Museums Trust, retrieved 16 May 2010 
  23. ^ Morrill, John (2004), "Southworth, John [St John Southworth] (1592–1654)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, hosted at, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/67460, retrieved 19 August 2010, (Subscription required (help)) 
  24. ^ Hopper, Andrew (June 2002), "The Farnley Wood Plot and the Memory of the Civil Wars in Yorkshire", The Historical Journal, Cambridge University Press, hosted at, 45 (2): 281, 296–297, doi:10.1017/s0018246x02002406, JSTOR 3133646, (Subscription required (help)) 
  25. ^ Zook 1999, p. 141
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ James Kelly "'That Damn'd Thing Called Honour'" Cork University Press 1995 pp194-196
  29. ^ Brooke-Tyrrell, Alma (1983). "Focus on Thomas Street". Dublin Historical Record. 36 (3): 107–117. JSTOR 30100607. 
  30. ^ Dawson, T. (1971). "Between the Steps". Dublin Historical Record. 24 (3): 65–75. JSTOR 30103977. 
  31. ^ Cobbett, William; Jardine, David (1820). "Cobbett's complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high treason: And other crimes and misdemeanor from the earliest period to the present time ... From the ninth year of the reign of King Henry, the Second, A.D.1163, to ... \George IV, A.D.1820]". 
  32. ^ "Irish Historical Mysteries: The Grave of Robert Emmet". Retrieved 7 May 2013.