I promise not to abuse this occasion to once again showcase my BritishSpeak-gained odd vocabulary which every year (and only once each year, it seems) allows me to say words like recusant and undercroft. Woops.
Guy (Gui if you prefer) was only intended to be strangle-hanged, drawn and quartered, and head-piked, but, as you all know, cheated the spectators by swan-diving off the scaffold head first onto the cobblestones. History doesn't tell us if they had a backup act waiting in the wings or not. I certainly hope so. They DID go ahead and pike his now-misshapen (one assumes) head, but it just wasn't the same. When scheduled entertainment doesn't go off as planned, it casts a pall over the audience from which it is really hard for the promoters of the event to recover.
I will certainly do another post on Guy Gui come November 5 (I think that's the date) but I promise not to use those words again. It does warm me bonfire-roasted cockles to feel the warmth of your admiration, though.
No, breaking on the wheel was more exciting than simply lifting a bloke up on his toes by his neck and watching the odd facial contortions. My mind goes back in time and I imagine myself getting a peasant day off and working my way up to the front row, admonishing my neighbors to shut their damn gobs so I can hear the gurgling and wheezings emitting from the toe-lifted unfortunate on the stage. As it were.
But - Oh! - to attend a Wheel Breaking!
The offender (could be a heretic, I suppose) was placed on his or her back and bound to a sturdy wagon wheel in a Da Vinci Vitruvian Man-like pose (one imagines) and, while the probably unwashed madding crowd presses in and the popcorn and little wheel souvenir venders hawk their wares, the wheel of fortune is spun and the lucky contestant in the black hood begins to break the slowly passing bones with a large hammer or iron bar.
Later refinements had the unfortunate man or woman bound, perhaps nailed - who knows? - to one of those X-shaped (St. Andrews) crosses which was then laid upon the sturdy horizontal wheel. This had the effect (in case you haven't guessed the purpose) of raising the body up a few inches so as to get a cleaner break of the limbs. Hideous screams were encouraged.
At about this point in my reverie, my mind is always interrupted by someone on the BBC being interviewed and disparaging the barbarity of Texas' inhumane overdose executions. Then my mind fades back from the BBC to the screams of the revolving wheel method used not terribly long ago in England. Or maybe France. Being a simple American, no thoughts of hypocrisy enter my mind. Only the twisted features of the wheel-man flicker from Da Vinci's man to, say, Roman Polanski's.
They say after a while, the legs and arms would get mushy enough (I always have a mental image of the sign down the street from my house advertising "boneless chicken" for some reason) to "weave" or "braid" them through the wheel spokes, thus giving enough support so that the whole thing, wheel-cross-pulverized living thing, can be hoisted up onto a pole where it will be left for passers by to admire and birds to peck away at. The moaning continues for days.
Unless one gets a "favor" or "grace" from the church, for a small donation one assumes, in which case the hammer-wielder would strike the strikee in the chest or even head in a final blow which mercifully kills him/her. This was considered a charity and was not for just anyone who is wheeled. Incidentally, always on the lookout to make this blog as educational as possible when opportunities arise, I would share with you that this final blow was called the coup de grace (grace, get it?) and is where that phrase came from. This is true. This would have been in France, of course. In England, there were no anti-pecking endings that I could discover in my scholarly pursuit of truth.
Let me see. What else?
No, that's about all. Unless my friend Sobriquet (Soubriquet when in the UK) can add some variations from his vast store of .... ummmmm.... variations.