The most common crimes of the Nobility included:
- High Treason
INSTRUMENTS OF TORTURE DURING THE ELIZABETHAN
ERA - THE COURTIERS
Various means of tortures were use to extract confessions for
crime. Women did not escape torture and punishment during this violent
era - Anne Askew was put to the rack for her religious beliefs,
and subsequently died, during the reign of Elizabeth's father King
Henry VIII. The highest nobles were automatically exempt from torture
but other courtiers were not. Instruments and means of torture,
for unproven crime, included the following:
- The Rack
- The Scavenger's Daughter
- The Collar
- The Iron Maiden
- Branding Irons
- Assorted instruments designed to inflict intense pain
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Middle Ages Torture and Executions
CRIME & PUNISHMENT - JUSTICE?
Just being accused of one of the serious crimes could well result
in torture. A Defendant's chances in receiving any acquittal in
court extremely slim. Trials were designed in the favour of the
prosecutors and defendants accused any of the above crimes were
not even allowed legal counsel!
PUNISHMENT DURING THE ELIZABETHAN ERA - THE
Life in Elizabethan England was chronicled by a man called William
Harrison - this included details of Elizabethan crime and punishment.
The most dreadful punishment of being Hung, Drawn and Quartered
was described by William Harrison as follows:
"The greatest and most grievous punishment
used in England for such as offend against the State is drawing
from the prison to the place of execution upon an hurdle or sled,
where they are hanged till they be half dead, and then taken down,
and quartered alive; after that, their members and bowels are cut
from their bodies, and thrown into a fire, provided near hand and
within their own sight, even for the same purpose."
Other punishment included death by burning and
beheading. Being burnt at the stake was a punishment which was used
during the reign of 'Bloody Mary' - Queen Elizabeth's elder sister.
Yet another terrible death. Executioners sometimes showed mercy
to their victims by placing gunpowder at the base of the stake which
helped the victims to a swifter, and less painful, death.
PUNISHMENT AND EXECUTIONS BY BEHEADING
The punishment of Death by the axe was a terrifying prospect.
The executioners often took several blows before the head was finally
severed. The punishment of death by Execution were held in public
and witnessed by many people . Following the execution the severed
head was held up by the hair by the executioner, not as many people
think to show the crowd the head, but in fact to show the head the
crowd and to it's own body! Consciousness remains for at least eight
seconds after beheading, until lack of oxygen causes unconsciousness,
and eventually death. The punishment even continued after 'death'.
Traitors Heads were placed on stakes and displayed to the everyone
in public places such as London Bridge. The most feared place in
England was the
Tower of London.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT DURING THE ELIZABETHAN
ERA - THE COMMONERS
Crime and Punishment for commoners during the Elizabethan era
included the following:
- The Pillory and the Stocks
- Ducking stools
- The Wheel
- Boiling in oil water or lead (usually reserved for poisoners
- Starvation in a public place
- Cutting off various items of the anatomy - hands, ears etc
- The Gossip's Bridle or the Brank
- The Drunkards Cloak
The most common crimes were theft, cut purses,
begging, poaching, adultery, debtors, forgers, fraud and dice coggers.
Theft for stealing anything over 5 pence resulted in hanging. Taking
birds eggs was also deemed to be a crime and could result in the
death sentence. Punishment for poaching crimes differed according
to when the crime was committed - Poaching at night resulted in
the punishment of death, whereas poaching during the day time did
MINOR CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN SMALL TOWNS
Crime and punishment in Elizabethan towns like Stratford upon
Avon were dealt with by the Justice of the Peace. Many crimes during
the Elizabethan era were due to a crime committed and the law broken
due to the desperate acts of the poor. Every town parish was responsible
for the poor and unemployed within that parish. The Justice of the
Peace for each town parish was allowed to collect a tax from those
who owned land in the town. This was called the Poor Rate which
was used to help the poor during the Elizabethan period.
BEGGING WAS A SERIOUS ELIZABETHAN CRIME -
The Tudor and Elizabethan governments made begging a crime and
therefore illegal and 'poor beggars' and as their punishment they
would be beaten until they reached the stones that marked the town
parish boundary. The beatings given as punishment were bloody and
merciless and those who were caught continually begging could be
sent to prison and even hanged as their punishment.
TRAVEL IN ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND - A CRIME WITHOUT
People did not travel around a lot during the Tudor and Elizabethan
era. Travelling during the Elizabethan era could be dangerous, money
was necessary and a license, obtained from the Bailiff in the Guild
Hall, was required by anyone who needed to travel around England
- it was a crime to travel without a licence. This law ensured that
the spread of disease, especially the plague, was contained as much
as possible and that the poor and the homeless did not travel from
one village to another village - an Elizabethan ploy to lower the
crime and punishment levels in England. William Shakespeare would
have required a license to travel to adhere to the law of the land
and his decision to move to London would have been a serious one
and no doubt worried his family who he left in Stratford upon Avon.Travel
during this period in Elizabethan England era was indeed a dangerous
and difficult undertaking. Actors who, by necessity, had to travel
to earn their living and together with peddlers, pilgrims and
soldiers were thought untrustworthy and potential law breakers.
At the very least they would have been viewed as potential carriers
of the Bubonic Plague. Strangers were treated with suspicion and
risked being accused of a crime and suffering the appropriate punishment.
Travel in Elizabethan could easily end as being viewed as a crime
and punishment was inflicted accordingly.
ACTING IN ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND - A CRIME WITHOUT
Actors were treated with as much suspicion as beggars. Anyone
who needed to travel to earn their living, such as actors, were
treated with suspicion and could be expected to be accused of crimes.
An actors standing in Elizabethan England was only slightly higher
than a beggar or a thief. When plays started to become more popular
rich nobles, or high ranking courtiers of the land, acted as their
sponsors. It was soon decreed that licenses should be granted to
legitimise certain Acting Troupes. This raised the actors status
somewhat and lead to fewer accusations of criminal activities. A
license also had to be granted by Town Councillors when a group
of actors came to town. Many actors received punishments for real
and sometimes imaginary crimes which included the punishment of
branding with red hot irons.
For more information we recommend this page
www elizabethan era org uk
- Crime - Torture - Punishment
Elizabethan Crime and Punishment