For important state prisoners of noble birth, executions were carried out by beheading. This was considered the swiftest, least brutal method.
Following execution the severed head was sometimes held up by the executioner as he cried out ‘behold the head of a traitor!’. It was occasionally claimed that the victim’s lips were still moving.
(14 August 1473 – 28 May 1541)
PRISONER: November 1539 – 28 May 1541
The Countess of Salisbury was the last member of the royal house of Plantagenet. She was imprisoned for treason over her alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow King Henry VIII. She denied being a traitor.
According to some accounts, Lady Salisbury, who was 67 years old, frail and ill, was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head on it, having to be forced down. As she struggled, she made it very difficult for the inexperienced executioner.
His first axe stroke made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck and several more blows were required to complete the execution.
The most famous 19th century female warrior was the Rani of Jhansi, who recruited female gunners and troopers. She was often seen in the palace gardens controlling her horses with the reins held between her teeth and a sword in each hand.