10 Infamous Historical Executions (Part 2)
VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These infamous execution stories are not for the faint of heart. For this list, we'll be examining ten more officially-sanctioned executions, the resulting public reaction, and the impact the execution has had on society over time. Our countdown includes Louis XVI of France, Benito Mussolini, Mary, Queen of Scots, and more!
ten infamous historical executions - Part 2
Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re looking at ten infamous historical executions - Part 2.
For this list, we’ll be examining ten more officially-sanctioned executions, the resulting public reaction, and the impact the execution has had on society over time.
Is there another notorious instance of capital punishment that you think should be on this list? Before making your voice heard in the comments, be sure to check out our original video on Infamous Historical Executions too!
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI’s reign was certainly an interesting one. He had initially attempted to reform France by adhering to Enlightenment ideologies, despite opposition from the nobility. The country fell into financial trouble during his reign, and Louis became a nationwide symbol of tyranny. He was eventually arrested at the time of the insurrection, found guilty of treason, and beheaded by guillotine in the Place de la Révolution. Accounts say that his speech was cut off by drums and that citizens dipped their handkerchiefs in his dripping blood. He was buried in an unmarked grave before being moved to the Basilica of St Denis.
Walter Raleigh was certainly a man of many talents and stories. Today the writer and courtier is known primarily for popularizing tobacco in England, helping the English colonize North America, and sailing to South America and popularizing the myth of El Dorado. In 1603, he was imprisoned for allegedly conspiring against King James. Upon his release, he traveled to South America again and his men raided a Spanish outpost, an act that violated both a peace treaty and the terms of his prison release. He was subsequently arrested and executed in the Old Palace Yard to soothe relations with the Spanish. His execution was immediately condemned and remains controversial to this day.
Zorawar & Fateh Singh
In May 1705, a group of Mughals and hillmen attacked the city of Anandpur Sahib in northern India, where the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh and his family lived. After being granted an escape from the city, the Singh family, including Guru Gobind Singh’s sons Zorawar and Fateh, was betrayed by the family cook. They were then brought to Wazir Khan, a governor of the Mughal Empire. The boys, aged 6 and 9, were given the opportunity to go free if they converted to Islam. The boys refused the conversion and were bricked up within a wall and left to die. Today, the boys are respected religious figures and martyrs of Sikhism.
Catherine Howard served as Henry VIII’s fifth wife and briefly reigned as the Queen of England from 1540 to 1541. However, Catherine allegedly made the mistake of conducting a love affair with a man named Thomas Culpeper. Several knew of their supposed indiscretions and began blackmailing her in exchange for their silence. Their adulterous affair came to light when a love letter from Catherine was found in Thomas’ chamber. Parliament introduced a bill called the Royal Assent by Commission Act 1541 that made it treasonous for a Queen to commit adultery, and Catherine was instantly found guilty. She, Culpeper, her previous supposed lover, Francis Dereham, and her lady-in-waiting, Lady Rochford, were all executed for their transgressions.
Mata Hari, real name Margaretha MacLeod, was a Dutch dancer who was accused of being a German spy during the First World War. Her Russian lover was injured during the war, and the only way she could see him was if she seduced the German Crown Prince for military secrets for France. However, the Germans had their own plans for her, and she was soon accused of being a German spy who caused the deaths of 50,000 people. There was no evidence that she was working for Germany, and she soon became a scapegoat for the French army’s failures. On October 15, 1917, she was executed by firing squad.
Mussolini is one of the most horrifying men of modern times. He was the leader of Italy’s National Fascist Party who took over the country in the mid 1920s and ran a dictatorship for the subsequent two decades. He was eventually discharged by King Victor Emmanuel III, but Hitler quickly made him the head of a puppet state in northern Italy. Once the Axis’ defeat was imminent, Mussolini tried to escape to Switzerland, but was caught and executed, along with many members of the Italian Social Republic. His body was brought to Milan where it faced violence and was strung upside down from a gas station.
The Romanov Family
The Romanov family and various acquaintances were imprisoned following the Russian February Revolution, a revolution that saw the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the end of Imperial Russia. One day, the group were taken to a small room and told to await transportation. However, an execution squad soon entered, quickly read the order of death, and fired upon the family. The chaotic firing led to some of the family members surviving the initial shots, so the squad had to use whatever means necessary to ensure they all eventually perished. Following some unmentionable acts, the bodies were then burned in a forest. The family wasn’t properly buried until 1998, 80 years after their execution in 1918.
Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More held many titles, including personal adviser to Henry VIII and Lord High Chancellor of England. However, his later life was plagued with controversy. He was against Protestant Reformation, and he failed to recognize the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He also never took the Oath of Supremacy, an oath in which one must recognize the King as head of the Church. A jury found him guilty of treason within fifteen minutes. He was beheaded on July 6, 1535, and his head was displayed over London Bridge for the next month.
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary ruled Scotland from 1542 to 1567. Her husband and half-cousin, Lord Darnley, was killed in 1567, and she married James Hepburn only one month after he was acquitted on charges related to Darnley’s murder. After losing the throne, Mary ran to her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth. However, upon seeing her as a possible threat, Elizabeth had Mary imprisoned for nearly twenty years. Mary was later found guilty of planning Elizabeth’s assassination and was executed in a horrible and embarrassing fashion. Numerous blows were required for the beheading, during which her wig was revealed. She was also refused her wish to be buried in France.
Socrates is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential minds to ever live. He is often regarded as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and he has made numerous contributions to the field, including the Socratic method. Near the end of his life, he constantly clashed with Athenian ideology and was eventually put on trial for impiety and “corruption of the youth.” After being found guilty, he was forced to drink poisonous hemlock, and according to Plato, he was required to walk until his legs felt numb. He died when the poison reached his heart, although his contributions to philosophy have survived for millennia.