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What It's Like To Be Drawn And Quartered

Updated December 9, 2019 221.8k views10 items

Drawing and quartering began in 14th-century England as the official punishment for treason. As treason was seen as the greatest threat to rulers, the penalty was excessively and intentionally brutal in order to instill compliance in onlookers. In fact, the public spectacle of the process - and the public display of the body parts afterward - was the primary reason for this horrific practice.

While the words “drawn” and “quartered” seem simple enough, a lot more went into this severe punishment than these two words even begin to reveal on their own. Being drawn and quartered included many more horrible things, from burning and hanging to castration and dismemberment. Read on for a glimpse into exactly what being drawn and quartered does to your body.

  • Traitors Were Also Castrated In Order To Emasculate Them

    What could be worse than disembowelment? How about being disemboweled AND castrated? In addition to watching their entrails being pulled out, traitors also had to witness their genitals being sliced off. This act symbolically took away the traitor's masculinity, permanently ending the traitor’s bloodline and name. 

    If the traitor had not yet bled out, then this horrific mutilation usually resulted in his passing.

  • The Traitor's Genitals Would Be Burned In Front Of His Eyes

    Photo: Jan Luyken / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Once the traitor’s abdominal cavity was emptied and his manhood detached, his genitals and entrails were burned right in front of him. Sometimes, if the charges were particularly heinous, the executioner would go the extra mile to dig out the contents of the traitor’s chest cavity and burn them, as well.

    By this point in the harrowing process, the traitor would have most likely already perished from shock, as there would be no substantial blood pressure and no vital organs to sustain the remnants of the body. If they happened to be unlucky enough to survive to this point, they would barely be hanging on to any essence of life.

  • The Traitor's Corpse Would Be Tied To Four Running Horses And Torn To Pieces

    Following all of the agony, the traitor’s corpse would be quartered. In this act, the body was divided into four parts, or quarters. Sometimes this was entirely done by hand, but it has been more notably achieved by scoring the body before tying the limbs (or remaining limbs) to four horses.

    The horses would then be booted to trot away in four different directions, tearing the body apart.


  • The Traitor's Body Parts Would Be Inscribed With Warnings And Posted In Public Places

    The preserved quarters were sometimes hung on a gibbet, but typically, treason required that the parts be put on display in various public places.

    Each limb would often receive an inscription stating the reason(s) for its exposure before being placed atop town gates.