Amonges othere thynges that he wan,
Hir chaar, that was with gold wrought and peree,
This grete Romayn, this Aurelian,
Hath with hym lad, for that men sholde it see.
Biforn his triumphe walketh shee,
With gilte cheynes on hir nekke hangynge.
Coroned was she, as after hir degree,
And ful of peree charged hire clothynge.

From Chaucer's The Monk's Tale:  Lines 3549-3556

The Monk's Tale is a collection of biblical and historical stories that depicts the fall of great men and women. Most of these characters brought their demise through their own sin. This passage portrays the execution of Cenobia, the Palymeric queen who was noted for her skills in warfare. She was defeated in 272 A.D. by Emperor Aurelian. The city was destroyed the following year.

The Anglo-Saxon invaders first introduced hanging by the neck as capital punishment to England. It is a tradition that is English as Christianity itself. William the Conqueror used hanging as punishment for his conspirators only. It was not until the the reign of King Henry I that hanging was used as a suitable punishment for criminals guilty of murder, theft, and other severe crimes. (Bailey, Hangmen of England 3) This form of execution was popular on up to the reign of the Tudors. 2000 prisoners were executed by hanging a year during King Henry VIII's reign, and during Queen Elizabeth I's reign only fewer than 2000 were hanged. (Bailey, Hangmen of England 4)

In 1124, Ralph Bassett held a court at Hundehoh in Leicestershire. There he hanged more thieves than any other place during this time. 44 of them were hanged in all that day, and 6 of them had their eyes gouged out and were castrated.

Treason committed by an individual brought a justice upon them which was ferocious. For prisoners of war who committed acts of treason there was little clemency as well. Hanging was the primary method of of execution for anyone found guilty of treason in England. However, before the prisoner's life was extinguished, the prisoner was cut down barely alive and was disemboweled. This applied only to male prisoners. Women, on the other hand, met a horrible fate just as men. Instead of hanging or gutting them, a woman guilty of treason was either burned at the stake, flayed alive, or quartered by horses. (Boase, Death in the Middle Ages 16)


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