1579: Thomas Sherwood, Catholic martyr

1 comment February 7th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1579, young Catholic layman Thomas Sherwood was hanged at Tyburn, cut down while still alive, disemboweled, and quartered.

This casualty of the Elizabethan era’s dangerous struggle for the soul of Britain had popped across to the continent to begin his studies under the church’s auspices.

He had not yet completed them when, on a return trip, a Protestant recognized him and got him locked up in the Tower, where Sherwood was tortured for information about the whereabouts of the underground Catholic Mass — but “he was brave beyond his years, no racking, no cross-examination could make him name any one.”

Sherwood had the distinction during his confinement of being one of the last earthly creatures to receive the (attempted) aid of octogenarian fellow-Catholic William Roper, Sir Thomas More‘s son-in-law and first biographer. (Roper’s attempts to send money to the imprisoned Sherwood were intercepted, however.)

Sherwood’s brother recalled of the martyr,

He was of small learning, scarcely understanding the Latin tongue, but had much read books of controversies and devotion, and had used much to converse among Catholic priests, and by reason thereof, having a good wit and judgment, and withal being very devout and religious, he was able to give good counsel, as he did to many of the more ignorant sort, being much esteemed for his virtuous life and humble and modest behaviour: besides God did give a special grace in his [conversation] , whereby together with his good example of life, he much moved and edified others. He was a man of little stature of body, yet of a healthful and good constitution, and very temperate in his diet.

After his first racking in the Tower (which was said to be rigorous), being visited by a Catholic gentlewoman, he showed himself of that joyful and comfortable spirit as she was astonished thereat. As also his keeper with compassion giving him warning that he was to be racked again, he was so little moved therewith, as merrily and with a cheerful countenance he said these words: ‘ I am very little, and you are very tall; you may hide me in your great hose and so they shall not find me; ‘ which the keeper did afterwards report to divers, much marvelling at his great fortitude and courage. He was about the age of twenty-seven years when he was martyred.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Drawn and Quartered,England,Execution,God,Gruesome Methods,History,Martyrs,Power,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Torture

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1579: Hatano Hideharu, en route to the Tokugawa Shogunate

5 comments June 25th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1579, the treacherous execution of a rebellious Japanese lord set events in motion that would shape the nation’s destiny.

For two centuries, Japan had been shaken with civil strife in the Sengoku, or “Warring States”, period.

Hatano Hideharu, chief of the minor Hatano clan, got himself on the outs with powerful daimyo Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga’s samurai general Akechi Mitsuhide forced Hideharu’s capitulation, convincing him to lay down his arms by offering his own mother as a hostage.*

And here’s where the bodies start piling up.

Nobunaga overruled Mitsuhide’s promise of safe conduct and had Hatano Hideharu put to death.

Outraged, the Hatano clan retaliated by crucifying Akechi Mitsuhide’s mother.

Since Mitsuhide suffered the consequences for the bad behavior of his boss, this tit-for-tat left a bit of tension between the two. (The Hatano were done as a factor in Japanese politics, so having served to poison this relationship, our story takes its leave of them here.)

Perhaps as a result — there’s no single agreed-upon reason, but the personal vendetta has drawn the most commentary — Mitsuhide himself rebelled and forced Oba Nobunaga to commit seppuku.

It probably wasn’t exactly like this fanvid of Samurai Warriors 2 scenes.

Mitsuhide’s betrayal opened the door for another Nobunaga retainer, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to in turn crush Mitsuhide,** and seize power for himself.

From that station, Hideyoshi completed the national unificiation that Nobunaga had commenced and set the stage for the Edo period under the shogunate founded by his successor, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

And maybe — with a stretch — they owe it all to Hatano Hideharu.

* The online sourcing on the death of Makiko, Akechi Mitsuhide’s mother, is a bit inconsistent; some suggest that the Hatano didn’t have her a hostage, but found a way to kidnap her for revenge.

** Mitsuhide’s daughter Hosokawa Gracia, became a legendary Christian convert after his death.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Japan,No Formal Charge,Notable Participants,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions,Wrongful Executions

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