Revenging regicide – an early modern manhunt

Quartering a body – 17th century style

Burning entrails.

A shocking sight any time.

Even more so when they’re your own intestines – ripped from your stomach, held aloft and seared by flame inches from your eyes.

The pain is unimaginable. Thomas Scott suffered this gruesome fate on the 17th October 1660 at Charing Cross in London. His crime had been in signing the death warrant of a King, authorising the beheading of Charles I on 30 January 1649.

Scott is less well known to history than Oliver Cromwell but Charles I’s family never forgot any of the 59 men who made the decision to execute the king and create an English republic. Minister for foreign affairs and spymaster-in-chief charged with warding off royalist plots and schemes until he clashed with Cromwell in 1653, Scott was a one of the most sought after men in England after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.

A wise man, he fled to the Spanish Netherlands but was persuaded to return from exile, apparently on foot of a promise of his life being spared in whatever punishment followed. Instead, Scott at his trial on the 12 October 1660 was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered five days later.

Dragged through the streets on a wooden panel so his body would be as shamefully low as possible, hanged by the neck to the point of unconsciousness, revived and then forced to watch as the masked executioner sliced through the muscle of his abdomen, grasped a handful of bowel and pulled forth, Scott – mercifully – could not have lived much beyond this stage.

After his death, his head was cut off and his body chopped into four quarters, with the pieces being displayed in particularly good vantage points – a bloodied and butchered warning to others of the dangers of opposing the king.

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