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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.[citation needed]

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]


No sooner did [Cambyses] enter the palace of Amasis that he gave orders for his [Amasis's] body to be taken from the tomb where it lay. This done, he proceeded to have it treated with every possible indignity, such as beating it with whips, sticking it with goads, and plucking its hairs... As the body had been embalmed and would not fall to pieces under the blows, Cambyses had it burned.[6]

The posthumous hanging of Gilles van Ledenberg in 1619


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  2. ^ Fiona Haslam (1996), From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medicine in Art in Eighteenth-century Britain, Liverpool University Press, ISBN 978-0-85323-640-5 p. 280 (Thomas Rowlandson, "The Resurrection or an Internal View of the Museum in W-D M-LL street on the last day) Archived 26 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine", 1782)
  3. ^ Staff. "Resurrection of the Body". Archived from the original on 23 October 2008. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  4. ^ Mary Abbott (1996). Life Cycles in England, 1560–1720: Cradle to Grave, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415108423. p. 33
  5. ^ Dr D.R.Johnson, Introductory Anatomy Archived 4 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Centre for Human Biology, (now renamed Faculty of Biological Sciences Archived 2 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Leeds University), Retrieved 2008-11-17
  6. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, Book III, Chapter 16
  7. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  8. ^ Frusher, J. (2010). "Hanging, Drawing and Quartering: the Anatomy of an Execution". Archived from the original on 12 July 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  9. ^ Juhala, Amy L. (2004). "Ruthven, John, third earl of Gowrie (1577/8–1600)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24371. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  10. ^ a b "The Origins of Canterbury Cathedral". Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  11. ^ "The Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket (Getty Museum)". The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 9 July 2007.
  12. ^ Henderson 1897, p. 19.
  13. ^ Juhala 2004.
  14. ^ Journal of the House of Commons: volume 8: 1660–1667 (1802), pp. 26–7 Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine House of Commons The attainder was predated to 1 January 1649 (1648 old style year).
  15. ^ Lee, Robert E. (1974). Blackbeard the Pirate (2002 ed.). North Carolina: John F. Blair. ISBN 0-89587-032-0.
  16. ^ "To John Adams from Benjamin Hichborn, 25 November 1775". National Archives. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  17. ^ Tourtellot, Arthur Bernon (1959). Lexington and Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-393-32056-5.
  18. ^ Schama, Simon (1989). Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 803–805. ISBN 0-394-55948-7.
  19. ^ Rollins, Patrick J. Wieczynski, Joseph L. (ed.). Rasputin, Grigorii Efimovich. Academic International Press. ISBN 0-87569-064-5. OCLC 2114860. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  20. ^ Becker, Jasper (2008). City of Heavenly Tranquility: Beijing in the History of China. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530997-3, pp 77–79.
  21. ^ Melvin, Sheila (7 September 2011). ""China's reluctant Emperor"". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  22. ^ Brooke, James; Times, Special to the New York (9 February 1986). "Haitisns Take Out 28 Years of Anger on Crypt". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017.