The English, the English:
our nation is free, stout, haughty, prodigal of life and blood...More Holinshed today (I have wicked Stockholm Syndrome; I'm coming to like Holinshed). You sadists in the audience, or you law-and-order types, buckle your seat belts -- or whatever else it is you like to buckle -- and enjoy pages of punishment:
The greatest and most grievous punishment used in England for such as offend against the State is drawing from the prison to the place of execution upon an hurdle or sled, where they are hanged till they be half dead, and then taken down, and quartered alive; after that, their members and bowels are cut from their bodies, and thrown into a fire, provided near hand and within their own sight...Branding plus rewalting (whatever that is). And there's more. Much, much more. (Including a description of a 16th-century guillotine, peculiar to the town of Halifax.) The chapter is called "Of Sundry Kinds of Punishment," after all. And yet, despite all the punishments, they are still beset: "Our third annoyers of the commonwealth are rogues, which do very great mischief in all places where they become." Rogues, dammit! There's rogues in these here parts! And yet you get a sense that people are either unwilling to put the rogues through all the punishments lined up for them, or maybe they're just plain lazy:
...But if he be convicted of wilful murder, done either upon pretended malice or in any notable robbery, he is either hanged alive in chains near the place where the fact was committed (or else upon compassion taken, first strangled with a rope), and so continueth till his bones consume to nothing...
...If a woman poision her husband, she is burned alive; if the servant kill his master, he is to be executed for petty treason; he that poisoneth a man is to be boiled to death in water or lead, although the party die not of the practice...
Perjury is punished by the pillory, burning in the forehead with the letter P, the rewalting of the trees growing upon the grounds of the offenders, and loss of all his movables.
I have known by my own experience felons being taken to have escaped out of the stocks... because the covetous and greedy parishioners would neither take the pains nor be at the charge, to carry them to prison, if it were far off; that when hue and cry have been made even to the faces of some constables, they have said: “God restore your loss! I have other business at this time.”See? There's precedent for us lardasses!
Photo by flickr user John Worsely UK used with a Creative Commons license.