William Wallace died on Monday 23 August 1305 at the Elms

William Wallace died on Monday 23 August 1305 at the Elms, an area of Smithfield in the City of London. The manner of Wallace’s end is generally known, not least because of a film released in 1995.1 The more committed students of Wallace have descriptions written by fourteenth-century monastic chroniclers to inform them; these accounts give sufficient detail of the method of execution to unsettle any humane person. There is some slight difference between, on the one hand, the reported directions for Wallace’s punishment delivered by the justices at his trial and, on the other hand, the account of the execution itself given by the Westminster chronicler. The sequence of events can nevertheless be put together in the following way.2 As a traitor, Wallace was drawn to the gallows on a hurdle by horses through the streets of London; as a robber and homicide he was hanged by the neck until not quite dead; still alive, although probably unconscious, he was cut down in order that, as a desecrator of churches, he could be deprived of his genitals and internal organs, which were then burned on a fire; finally, as an outlaw, his head was cut off. The spectacle complete, the head was displayed on London Bridge and the rest of the body divided into four parts. The dismembered corpse was sent northwards to Scotland, with one quarter being deposited on the way for display at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the other three parts going in turn to Berwickupon-Tweed, St Johnstone (that is, Perth), and Stirling (although the chronicler of Lanercost thought the last was Aberdeen).


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