Braveheart - EXECUTION

"The Elms," at Smithfield, was the scene of notorious executions during the medieval era. These events would draw a crowd as people gathered to watch the spectacle (and the plight of the convicted individual). This image, depicting an artist's impression of such a scene, is online via "Historic UK." Image provided here as fair use for educational purposes. Click on it for a better view.


Immediately after the "trial," Wallace was taken to the place of execution. Today that place is known as Smithfield, in London.

He was stripped naked, bound and dragged face down four miles, under the tails of two horses. As he was led to the scaffold, William asked for his psalter to be held open where he could see it. 

To ensure Wallace felt the most extreme effects of the sentence, officials made sure he hanged but did not die.  Then:

  • While he was still alive, his genitals were cut off with a dull blade.

  • His intestines were cut out and burned in his presence.

  • Only after he had endured torture, beyond human comprehension, was he beheaded.

  • After he died, his body was quartered. The body parts were sent to Newcastle, Stirling, Berwick and Perth, as specified in the sentence. 

Stirling received one of William's arms. Legend has it that once the flesh deteriorated, monks at Cambuskenneth Abbey buried that arm somewhere on the Abbey's grounds. To aid their native son, in one last stroke of defiance, the monks - so it is said - positioned the buried arm  so it was outstretched toward Abbey Craig, near the scene of William's great victory against the English at Stirling Bridge.

The sentence imposed on William Wallace was brutal, but he was not the only person to be significantly shamed at the time of death.  It was not until 1870 that England abolished the barbaric practice of dragging a condemned criminal, to the place of execution, and then beheading - and quartering - him after death by hanging.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jun 18, 2019

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"EXECUTION" AwesomeStories.com. May 01, 2001. Jan 20, 2020.
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