Posthumous execution

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Posthumous execution is the ritual or ceremonial mutilation of an already dead body as a punishment. It is typically performed to show that even in death, one cannot escape justice.

Dissection as a punishment in England[edit]

Some Christians believed that the resurrection of the dead on Judgment Day requires that the body be buried whole facing east so that the body could rise facing God.[1][2] If dismemberment stopped the possibility of the resurrection of an intact body, then a posthumous execution was an effective way of punishing a criminal.[3][4]

In England Henry VIII granted the annual right to the bodies of four hanged felons. Charles II later increased this to six ... Dissection was now a recognised punishment, a fate worse than death to be added to hanging for the worst offenders. The dissections performed on hanged felons were public: indeed part of the punishment was the delivery from hangman to surgeons at the gallows following public execution, and later public exhibition of the open body itself ... In 1752 an act was passed allowing dissection of all murderers as an alternative to hanging in chains. This was a grisly fate, the tarred body being suspended in a cage until it fell to pieces. The object of this and dissection was to deny a grave ... Dissection was described as "a further terror and peculiar Mark of Infamy" and "in no case whatsoever shall the body of any murderer be suffered to be buried". The rescue, or attempted rescue of the corpse was punishable by transportation for seven years.

— Dr D. R. Johnson, Introductory Anatomy.[5]


The posthumous hanging of Gilles van Ledenberg in 1619


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