As with most things mediaeval, crime and punishment were a grim affair.
Murderers were given the same trials as apple thieves and both usually met the same grizzly end.
Mediaeval life was a terrifying one. But nothing brings that reality to light, more than the gruesome and frightening apparition that is the Executioner.
Dressed in all black, wielding an axe or scythe, this fearsome arbiter of the law was once all that stood between the good folk of the realm and the gallows.
Gilbert Savage the Executioner is one of the character’s you’ll meet at this year’s Loxwood Joust, being held on August 6&7 and 13&14. He is the latest of the event’s Mediaeval figures to be interviewed as part of our series celebrating the forthcoming event.
Resplendent in black, he is always equipped with his ‘heading axe’, block, ropes, knives, and the other ‘tools’ of his gruesome trade. During these turbulent times in our nation’s history the nature of crime and punishment included hanging, mutilation, and decapitation!
The ‘Executioner’, that very necessary public ‘functionary’ would, at the direction of Court and Crown, brand, flog, hang, disembowel, behead and mutilate offenders, from the low born to the very highest in the land; for their ‘crimes’ – crimes against property, crimes against individuals, and crimes against the very Crown itself, all in the pursuit of justice!
For full details of the festival, visit www.loxwoodjoust.co.uk
Gilbert Savage, a Mediaeval Executioner
How did you get into being an executioner?
The executioner is not a popular person. I would have been drawn from the lower level of society, with the skills of a butcher!
What is the strangest service you have had to provide?
The strangest service?.......all the things I do are ‘strange’......I flogg, brand, burn, behead, disembowel .....as is required by the law.......I offer the full range of services!!!
Do you have to be brave to be an executioner?
No, you don’t need to be brave, just have a strong stomach and the ability to totally disregard the sufferings of others......and their pleas.
Where do you buy the tools of your trade?
All my tools are made by local blacksmiths.
How long does it to take to train as an executioner?
There is no formal training......I would have seen lots of executions. And may gave served a form of apprenticeship with a form experienced executioner but really, you learn on the job.
What did you practice on?
Practice!......on people!!!.......I could have honed by axe stroke on vegetables.......cutting through a cabbage feels and sounds like a neck!!!
What does the phrase ‘to be kissed by the Devil’ mean?
To be branded on the face as a thief, for stealing
What does it mean if you are ‘earmarked’?
You would have your ear nailed to the pillory
For more stories on the Loxwood Joust: