(Originally posted 1/3/17 on Read With The Gringa)
Why were people being tortured in England during the 12th century? In Chillingham, a small village in Northumberland, England, there is a castle of horrors. Have you heard of Earl Grey tea? Yeah, you are drinking tea named after a famous family with ancestral roots as torturers of the locals, the Scots and their own kin. Now, the gringa is sure that the Grey and Bennet families would prefer folks remember them for the tea and famous Chillingham Wild Cattle. But that’s just boring so the gringa will discuss the dark past of their ancestral home’s macabre history.
Scotland was the staunch enemy of England during the 1200’s. The Scots attacked the castle many times throughout this medieval century. Do you remember the movie “Braveheart” about legendary William Wallace? This leader of the Scots attacked the castle, burned it to the ground, and even the women and children of the Grey family were killed in this brutal act.
However, bloodletting was not solely reserved for hated Scotsmen enemies. During the 1300s the War of the Roses was raging. This was a bitter family feud for the possession of England’s throne. The Grey family had to decide whether to support the Lancastrian family who threw in with Henry IV or back the Yorks who were behind Edward IV. The Lancastrians, with the support of those in Chillingham Castle, eventually won the crown but not after executing eight of their own kin.
Their sentence for treason was to be hanged, then drawn and quartered. This was by order of Sir Ralph Grey. One of the victims was his own son. If you think being drawn and quartered doesn’t sound so bad after a lynching, um, the gringa would like to remind you of one gruesome detail. The victims were cut down from the rope while still alive. They were ALIVE when they were disemboweled then chopped into four pieces. Usually their heads were also chopped off and hung in public as a warning to others. And Sir Grey ordered this torturous death for his own son.
The gringa has to wonder what kind of upbringing he must have had on the family estate that allowed a father to commit such an act. He was, after all, raised in a castle featuring dungeons filled with torture devices. Dungeons that, for a price, can be toured today in hopes of seeing one of the many ghosts reported to inhabit the dark corners of these subterranean death chambers.
A few favorite ghosts are known as Blue Boy, Lady Mary Berkeley, and, the Torturer. How appropriate. The gringa believes torturers should find no rest upon their death. And what kind of grisly acts would drive a person mad to the point of remaining at the site of their suffering in order to exact revenge by inflicting suffering upon others? Get a load of some of the ingenius ways humans invented for torturing their fellow humans during the 12th century in rooms specially designed with sloping floors to efficiently drain the pints of blood spilled upon them:
Chair of nails.
Rack to stretch you to stringy, dislocated bits.
Mangle, like an old-fashioned laundry wringer, to cripple the hands. Probably saw a lot of action with neighborhood thieves.
Boots with nails. The gringa supposes they were good to kick in the seat of the pants anyone who didn’t work fast enough or was just downright pesky and troublesome.
The barrel of nails that victims would get tossed in then rolled down a hill, coming out leaking like a sieve at the bottom.
When folks start pointing the finger at Muslims as the sole source of murder and mayhem today, the gringa wonders how people can be so forgetful. There is not a single religion on Earth that has cornered the market on righteousness or cruelty. Every religion is comprised of the same elements: inspirational teachings of love, tolerance and compassion that also include a few perverse verses that could be exploited by unsavory people to justify violence. In every religion the masses are relatively decent people who choose to practice religion for the right reasons. However, there is always a handful of rotten power-mongers exploiting religion for nefarious purposes that makes everyone else look bad and the religion itself gets the blame. So, if you get caught up in populist fervor and feel tempted to shake a finger at the Muslim community, go have a cuppa Earl Grey and think on that.
Photo Credits: Great Castles