Alex mentioned on Sunday that Henry V111 used boiling alive as a punishment...Alex had read about it in Horrible Histories, an excellent series of books and television programmes for children. I'm doubtful a child of his age would grasp the sheer horror of such a death and not being certain whether it was true or not I looked it up....now I can't use paragraphs again so you'll have to read everything in one big lump I'm afraid...and it is true. Henry V111 decided to use the punishment of boiling alive for people found guilty of poisoning, with the first culprit a Richard Rice who was the Bishop of Rochester's cook. He'd poisoned some porridge he'd made and two people who ate it died as a result...we don't know what poison he used or why he did so. Being such an unusual method of execution meant people turned out in force to watch...a contemporary report states...'He roared mighty loud' ...which he would when you think. Earlier than Henry's time...in 1420...Melville, the sheriff of the Mearns and laird of Glenbervie in Scotland, who was resented by other noblemen because of his strictness, was captured by a group of them and boiled alive...it is said that each nobleman drank a spoonful of the resulting brew. Sometimes oil was used instead of water...and in order to drag out the torture for even longer some people were put into a shallow pan of oil and slowly fried...the water or oil in the pot or kettle could be stone cold when the victim was placed in it and then heated slowly...or it could have been brought to boiling point and you'd be thrust in head first...it was a popular and well-used form of execution in Asia...and especially in Germany, where it was a common punishment for coin forgers and counterfeiters in the Middle Ages. I suppose we've all seen funny cartoons of missionaries sitting bolt upright in big iron pots with natives dancing around the fire...but cannibals who boiled their victims before eating them is purely the stuff of fiction and has no basis in fact. I can read most accounts of the gruelling methods to put people to death long ago, simply because it was so long ago...but I found the almost certain fact that two men were put to death in boiling water in modern day Uzbekistan under the regime of Islam Karimov, revolting and virtually unbelievable...it appears to be all too true though. I'm interested in the mentality of those people who filled the cauldron with water...lit the fire...bound the prisoners hands and feet and lowered then into the water...then I presume they must have stood by and watched while the person died...were they carefully chosen known sadists...did Henry V111 advertise for an executioner or were they picked up off the street and offered a reward...the modern day executioners, who administer the drugs to those who've been on Death Row for the last twenty odd years, must also have a serious glitch in their mental make-up...much as their Mediaeval counterparts had.
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