Spectacularizing Justice in Late Medieval England

Spectacularizing Justice in Late Medieval England

Raicek, Margot Andrea

Bachelor of Arts, Wesleyan University,  April, (2011)


In 1283, Davydd ap Gruffydd, the last prince of the loosely independent Wales, was publicly executed in a manner so intriguing that lengthy and varied descriptions of it span every contemporary English chronicle. The Chronicle of Lanercost describes the event in the most compelling terms:

David himself was first drawn as a traitor, then hanged as a thief; thirdly, he was beheaded alive, and his entrails burnt as an incendiary and homicide; fourthly, his limbs were cut into four parts as the penalty of a rebel, and exposed in four of the ceremonial places in England as a spectacle; to wit – the right arm with a ring on the finger in York; the left [leg] at Hereford. But the villain’s head was bound in iron, lest it should fall to pieces from putrefaction, and set conspicuously upon a long spear-shaft for the mockery of London.

Just over twenty years later, in 1305, a nearly identical punishment was inflicted on William Wallace, a fallen leader of the First Scottish War of Independence (c. 1298- 1328) against England. The same chronicle retells:

[...] it was adjudged that [Wallace] should be drawn and hanged, beheaded, disembowelled, and dismembered, and that his entrails should be burnt; which was done. And his head was exposed upon London Bridge, his right arm on the bridge of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, his left arm at Berwick, his right foot at Perth, and his left foot at Aberdeen.

Click here to read this thesis from Wesleyan University

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