By Stephen Currie
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Additional resources for Medieval Punishment and Torture
This device was a human-shaped container with two doors and spikes on the inside. The victim was placed inside the container, whereupon the doors were slowly closed. The results were predictable—and horrifying. ”51 As with the wheel, death would have been slow, lingering, and terrible. If one medieval punishment stands out for its utter inhumanity, however, it might be neither the wheel nor the Iron Maiden, but rather a penalty known as drawing and quartering. In its most shocking form, the prisoner was first “drawn”—that is, cut open at the abdomen so torturers could pull out the victim’s intestines.
The accommodations he was offered, like Gruffydd’s in the Tower of London, were at least reasonably comfortable. “It was the tradition in the twelfth century to consider high-born prisoners as honored guests,”29 writes historian David Boyle. Richard’s captors had an incentive, moreover, to keep him in good condition; no one would pay a ransom for a king who was starving to death. In Richard’s case, the plan worked. The English eventually deliv38 ered 65,000 pounds (29,484 kg) of silver to the Austrians in exchange for their king.
The victim, one eyewitness reported, became “a sort of huge screaming puppet writhing in rivulets of blood, a puppet with 64 four tentacles . . ”50 What was left of the victim was then braided through the wheel’s spokes. If the victim was still alive, he or she was left outdoors for animals to scavenge. The so-called Iron Maiden was scarcely any better. This device was a human-shaped container with two doors and spikes on the inside. The victim was placed inside the container, whereupon the doors were slowly closed.