Sunday, 15 March 2009

Hardcore justice

I was recently interested by an article about the Dutch Republic and the rise of the House of Orange, which mentioned the assassination of William the Silent, which is billed as the first such killing of a head of state by use of a handgun. It seems trigger-man Balthasar Gérard did a grave disservice to the cause of freedom by murdering the Duke - a contract killing ordered by the King of Spain - but I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for the guy by the end of his mortal punishment.

Wikipedia tells us:

"As William the Silent climbed the stairs to the second floor, he was spoken to by the Welsh captain, Roger Williams, who knelt before him. William put his hand on the bowed head of the old captain, at which moment Balthasar Gérard jumped out of a dark corner. Gérard drew his weapon and fired three shots at the stadtholder. William the Silent collapsed. His sister knelt besides him, but it was too late. 'Mon Dieu, ayez pitié de moi et de mon pauvre peuple.' ('My God, have mercy on me and on my poor people.') are reportedly his last words.

In the meanwhile, Gérard had fled through the side door and ran across the narrow lane, pursued by Roger Williams. He had almost reached the ramparts, from which he intended to jump into the moat. On the other side a saddled horse stood ready. A pig's bladder around his waist was intended to help keep him afloat. However, he stumbled over a heap of rubbish. A servant and a halberdier of the prince who had raced after him caught him.

When called a traitor by his captors, he is said to have replied, "I am no traitor; I am a loyal servant of my lord." "Which lord?" they asked. "Of my lord and master, the king of Spain".

At the same time more pages and halberdiers of the prince appeared and dragged him back to the house under a rain of fists and beatings with the butt of a sword. From the talk he heard he thought that the prince was still alive. "Cursed be the hand that missed!" he yelled.

At the house he immediately underwent a preliminary examination before the city magistrates. Upon being interrogated by the magistrates, he showed neither despair nor contrition, but rather a quiet exultation. He said that "Like David, he had slain Goliath of Gath."

The magistrates sentenced that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disemboweled alive, that his heart should be torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be taken off.[1]

In the first night of his imprisonment Balthasar Gérard was hung on a pole and lashed with a whip. After that his wounds were smeared with honey and a goat was brought to lick the honey off Gérard's bruised skin with his sharp tongue. The goat however refused to touch the body of the sentenced. After this and other tortures he was left the night with his hands and feet bound together, as a ball, so he couldn't sleep. During the following three days, he was repeatedly mocked and hung on the pole with his hands tied behind his back. Then a weight of 300 pounds (136 kg) was attached to each of his big toes for half an hour.

After this half hour Gérard was fitted with shoes made of well-oiled, raw dog's leather; the shoes were two fingers shorter than his feet. In this state he was put before a fire. When the shoes warmed up, they contracted, crushing the feet inside them to stumps. When the shoes were removed, his half-broiled skin was torn off. After his feet were damaged, his armpits were branded. After that he was dressed in a shirt soaked in alcohol. Then burning bacon fat was poured over him and sharp nails were stuck between the flesh and the nails of his hands and feet. Gérard is said to have remained calm during his torture.

He was finally executed in accordance with his sentence.[2]"

(Pic) (Westminster Wisdom's recent post on William the Silent)

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