Worst Jobs in History: Executioners

Stereotype of Executioner Image NOT mine

Stereotype of Executioner Image NOT mine

As the task of finding a job continues I have once again found myself thinking of some of the worst jobs on offer in history. Fairly high up on that list of worst jobs came, Executioner.

When I think of Executioner I think of the stereotyped hooded man in leather holding a medieval axe on a platform with a block with the Tower of London in the background. Of course this was the fate of the nobility and many thousands of others met their end on the end of a rope in Tyburn or on town gallows up and down the land.

The legal document that means that the executioner is not murdering the prisoner is a warrant issued by the state. Some executioners specialize in their trade, being called hangmen or heads men. This was also a family trade in some cases. For example the French family Sanson had no less than 6 executioners for the state in the 19th century.

It has been a long tradition in Turkey for executioners to be from Gypsy stock. They were so disliked within society that they even had separate cemeteries. This tradition started in the time of the Ottoman Empire and continued until the abolition of the death penalty in modern Turkey.

Memorial to Tyburn Tree in Marble Arch London Image NOT mine

Memorial to Tyburn Tree in Marble Arch London
Image NOT mine

Some of the methods used in the past must have been very disturbing for the executioner to watch, Burning at the stake, boiling alive must have been particularly horrific to witness. The smell of human flesh cooking and the sounds of the victims must have lingered with the men charged with that job.

More involved executioners who carried out hanging drawing and quartering and beheading must have had stomachs made of lead to and nerves of steel to carry out such activities.

Not all executioners were so good at their jobs. One such example was Jack Ketch who executed Lord Russel and James Duke of Monmouth. Both executions were botch jobs requiring many blows to remove the victims head from their neck.

The site of many Noble ends  Tower Hill London. Image not my own

The site of many Noble ends
Tower Hill London. Image not my own

Mary Queen of scots also suffered a similar fate she was executed by a man called The Bull. It took several blows to her neck and the axe used to saw the neck from the head at Fotheringay castle.

The French have always had a good reputation for executioners Anne Boleyn had a special Swords ma to execute her and then the guillotine made swift clean end to those unlucky enough to find themselves under sentence of death.

All in all I feel that this is not a job that I would have liked or had the stomach for and for once happy that their was no equality in that job field. Thankfully in the UK there is no longer vacancies of that nature to fill.

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2 Responses to Worst Jobs in History: Executioners

  1. friendtuck says:

    It was also horrible to read how Mary, Queen of Scots, had the remaining gristle cut off with a knife, before the head was finally removed. Such sadness. Great article though!

  2. ajsefton.com says:

    Not a job for me either. However, it does make an interesting read!

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