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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Justice Was Not Always Swift

The good folks at NEHGS sent along some additions to the list of Princess Di's Decapitated Kin:

The following were also executed, presumably by decapitation:

Charles I
William, Lord Russell
Mary Queen of Scots
1st Baron Capell
1st Earl of Holland
1st Duke of Hamilton
2nd Marquess of Huntly
7th Earl of Derby: Lord Derby's last words were “I die for God, the King, and the Laws, and this makes me not be ashamed of my life, nor afraid of my death.”
Lord Russell was dispatched by Jack Ketch—the notoriously inept executioner who later botched the beheading of James, Duke of Monmouth.
On climbing the scaffold, Monmouth picked up the axe and ran his fingers along the blade, asking Ketch if he thought it was sharp enough for the job. He handed Ketch six guineas, promising him six more if he did a clean job: "Pray do not serve me as you did my Lord Russell. I have heard you struck him four or five times; If you strike me twice, I cannot promise you not to stir."

Ketch had an attack of nerves and his first blow only grazed the back of the duke's head. Monmouth, who had refused the blindfold, turned his head around and gazed directly at Ketch, further unnerving him. When two more blows failed to sever the head, Ketch threw the axe down and offered 40 guineas to anyone in the crowd who could do better. At this the Sheriff of Middlesex, who was in charge of the execution, threatened to have him killed if he did not finish his job. When two more blows failed, Ketch had to use his knife, butchering the Duke like a pig. [Link]
Order a copy of The Ancestry of Diana, Princess of Wales for Twelve Generations to learn more about her hapless, headless relatives. I haven't read it yet, but it has already inspired me to add more decapitation stories to my own family history.

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