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  • Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope September 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope

    Beach read the following description of an execution this summer and it has remained in his mind so vividly that he thought that he would share it here. Lord Ferrers (obit deservedly 1760) was a bad lot who used to put fireworks in his wife’s bed (he loathed her) and eventually shot a steward who […]

    Capital Punishment Cobblers August 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Capital Punishment Cobblers

    A cute little story from France a country which seems to attract a lot of urban myths around judicial execution: the majesty of the guillotine? Many years ago, a celebrated French physician, author of an excellent work on the effects of Imagination, wished to combine theory with practice, in order to confirm the truth of […]

    Decapitation Gone Wrong in China, c. 1900 June 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Decapitation Gone Wrong in China, c. 1900

    ***Gruesome post warning*** Bad day? Children sick? Feel a bit depressed? Dog ate your laptop? Then do yourself a favour and move on. The following includes some very unpleasant details from a Chinese execution c. 1900, when medieval lingchi (death by cutting) was still in operation. The following execution was not planned as lingchi but […]

    Immortal Meals #8: The Ash Wednesday Supper May 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Immortal Meals #8: The Ash Wednesday Supper

    Giordano Bruno (pictured badly) was a sixteenth-century philosopher with a thing about infinity. Giordano also had an infinite capacity to create irritation. Indeed, his travels around Europe have a fascinating pattern of greeting, slighting and sprinting. Typically, GB is obliged to leave his last home in a hurry because of offence caused to the church […]

    Suicide and Historical Loopholes April 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Suicide and Historical Loopholes

    Suicide has proved abhorrent to most spiritual traditions. Certainly, the great monotheistic religions and most of the far Eastern religions have condemned ‘self-murder’: cue lots of pulpit bashing and descriptions of hell or unpleasant reincarnations. This begs the question though of what you can do if you live in 500 BC or 500 AD or […]

    Escaping the Guillotine March 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Escaping the Guillotine

    Capital punishment: it’s been a while. Beachcombing was thinking about close escapes from death penalty. There are two types of these, of course: either royal screw ups on the part of executioners or daring escapes at the point of death.  The first category would include John Lee and a few others who somehow survived a […]

    Rhyming with Death December 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Rhyming with Death

      Death concentrates the mind wonderfully and, at least in the east, a longstanding custom has been to pen a final poem: a last communiqué to the world. This custom stretches far back into the Middle Ages  and perhaps the greatest thing to recommend it is the brevity of the works in question So we […]

    Last Witch Killing? September 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Last Witch Killing?

    There is some argument about when the last witchcraft killing took place in Western Europe, but this, for what it is worth, is Beachcombing’s candidate dating from 1861: he fully expects to be proved wrong, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The name of the victim was Dummy. It is true that he was not killed […]

    Torturing Guy June 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Torturing Guy

    At present, the Beachcombing family are under assault from a group of teenage toughs who have taken to ringing their bell in the evening and running off into the dark. Of course, the sensible thing would be to ignore the little idiots and hope that their antics don’t wake up the children. But Beachcombing never […]

    Maximilian’s Shirt June 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Maximilian's Shirt

    ‘Emperor’ Maximilian was a scion of the Hapsburg dynasty who was parachuted into Mexico (1864) as Imperial Ruler in the Old World’s last concerted attempt to meddle in the Americas. Maximilian was not quite the patsy though that many in Europe and  monarchists of Mexico had hoped. He was one of those men who had […]

    Last Words of the Executed May 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Last Words of the Executed

    Beachcombing will not deny it: he’s been in a real Last Words mood recently. So when a friendly book dealer sent him Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed he was hardly going to complain: even if, by a bizarre error of the printer’s art, the index had ended up being bound in the […]

    Vikings Vikinged in Dorset UK March 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
    Vikings Vikinged in Dorset UK

    Beachcombing has sometimes confessed in this place that he is not a great fan of the Vikings. Indeed, say ‘Viking’ to your average medievalist and they will get lyrical about sturdy boats and trips to Greenland. Beachcombing, on the other hand, sees burnt monastic libraries, lines of children being brought to slavery in the fiords […]

    Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials March 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
    Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials

                You are a member of the minor nobility in some part of northern Europe found guilty of murder in the fifteenth century. After the capital sentence is passed you are thrown in the back of a cart and driven out to the local place of reckoning.  However, as you are […]

    Viking Decapitations and the Knife Experiment February 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Viking Decapitations and the Knife Experiment

    *Post dedicated to Mathias B who inspired it with his readings in Jómsvikinga saga* Beachcombing is down in the flu doldrums and so apologies for any emails to which he’s not yet replied. Several of you though (Ostrich, Swedish Anna, SY) pointed out that yesterday’s request about the letter from a Frederick to Ethiopia was a letter […]

    Surviving Decapitation January 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Surviving Decapitation

    Beachcombing was traumatised in early childhood by seeing his father execute several hens on a Pennine farm. Even now he smells the metallic tang of their blood and sees the mess of heads and bodies and the feathers sticking everywhere. (Honestly, Mrs B won’t even let the younger Beachcombings watch SOS Nanny, what was Beachcombing […]

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