beheading

      a mode of executing capital punishment by which the head is severed from the body. The ancient Greeks and Romans regarded it as a most honourable form of death. Before execution the criminal was tied to a stake and whipped with rods. In early times an ax was used, but later a sword, which was considered a more honourable instrument of death, was used for Roman citizens. Ritual decapitation known as seppuku was practiced in Japan from the 15th through the 19th century. One symbolic consequence of the French Revolution was the extension of the privilege of beheading to criminals of ordinary birth, by means of the guillotine.

      According to tradition, beheading by sword was introduced to England by William the Conqueror (William I) in the 11th century. Death by the sword, in which the victim stood or knelt upright (because a block would have impeded the downward stroke of the weapon), was usually reserved for offenders of high rank, as it was considered to be the equivalent of being killed in battle. Simon, Lord Lovat (Lovat, Simon Fraser, 11th Lord), was the last person to be so executed in England, in 1747.

      Beheading, usually by ax, was the customary method of executing traitors in England. The victim was drawn (dragged by a horse to the place of execution), hanged (not to the death), disemboweled, beheaded, and then quartered, sometimes by tying each of the four limbs to a different horse and spurring them in different directions. In 1820 the Cato Street Conspirators, led by Arthur Thistlewood (Thistlewood, Arthur), became the last persons to be beheaded by ax in the United Kingdom. Having plotted to murder members of the government, they were found guilty of high treason and hanged; their corpses were then decapitated. Although beheading was one means of executing political prisoners in Nazi Germany, the practice is now rare in European countries, most having abolished capital punishment; however, it is still practiced occasionally in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

Geoffrey Abbott
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Beheading — Behead Be*head , v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Beheaded}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Beheading}.] [OE. bihefden, AS. behe[ a]fdian; pref. be + he[ a]fod head. See {Head}.] To sever the head from; to take off the head of. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • beheading — noun An instance of at least one person being beheaded. A large crowd gathered to see the beheading Syn: decapitation …   Wiktionary

  • Beheading —    A person was most often beheaded with a guillotine, ax or sword. Often, beheading by ax or sword could be very painful and take several blows. It was not uncommon for the victim to receive blows to the shoulder or scalp before a lethal blow… …   The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology

  • beheading — John the Baptist was beheaded by order of Herod Antipas (Mark 6:27), and, probably, the apostle James by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2), but it was not the form of capital punishment permitted in the Jewish Law, which was stoning (Lev. 20:27) …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • beheading — n. decapitation be·head || bɪ hed v. decapitate, chop off someone s head …   English contemporary dictionary

  • beheading — n. Decapitation, decollation …   New dictionary of synonyms

  • beheading — noun 1. execution by cutting off the victim s head • Syn: ↑decapitation • Hypernyms: ↑execution, ↑executing, ↑capital punishment, ↑death penalty 2. killing by cutting off the head • …   Useful english dictionary

  • Beheading the Chinese Prisoner — also known as Beheading a Chinese Prisoner , was a 1900 silent film produced by Siegmund Lubin. The 42 second long film, which was inspired by news reports of the Boxer Rebellion, was produced on the roof of the Lubin Studios building in Philade …   Wikipedia

  • Beheading of a King — Beheading of a King …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Beheading of St. John the Baptist — This article is about the biblical event and the liturgical commemoration of it. For the Caravaggio painting, see The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (Caravaggio). Icon of the Beheading of John the Baptist (Museum of Icons, Recklinghausen).… …   Wikipedia

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