England,  GJ,  Western Europe


Trial by Ordeal-Drowning
Trial by Ordeal-Drowning

We still hold a lot of the same laws that existed in Anglo-Saxon times, however, the punishments have thankfully moved on. Here are a few facts about the punishments you would have expected had you committed a crime back then.

If you committed a crime it would almost certainly be dealt with within your village by your fellow villages in a court called a moot. It would have been overseen by the ‘Thane’ of that village. A Thane was the main man of the village, he lived in a big house and made sure everyone obeyed the law and paid their taxes to him. He would also be involved in helping the King to make new laws and gather the villagers should there be a battle to be fought.

Back to the crime…..should you be accused of stealing, for example, you would be taken to court where you would go before a judge and witnesses. If you failed to turn up at court you would immediately be found guilty, however, if you did turn up and could find enough people to testify to your innocence you would automatically be found innocent. Unless, of course, you had been caught red-handed!

If you were found guilty there was always the option of trial by ordeal. Examples of ‘Ordeals’ were
• Walking at least nine feet on hot coals
• Putting your hand in boiling water to retrieve a stone
• Picking up a red hot iron
• Tied up and thrown into a river

If you survived these ordeals then you were innocent in god’s eyes.
If you actually injured someone then the punishment would defer to their family, depending on their importance, fines could range from 1200 shillings to 200 shillings. If you could not afford to pay then a part of your body would be cut off in comparison to the fine amount. Noses, feet, hands, fingers and big toes could be cut off depending on the severity of your crime.
Finally if you actually murdered someone or you were a traitor, witch or outlaw then of course there was good old execution.

Anglo-Saxom moot court
Anglo-Saxon moot court

Methods for execution ranged from the basic hanging and beheading to stoning, drowning, burning and my personal worst, being boiled alive. Hanging was mostly used to make an example of someone and as a deterrent. Drowning of course was for suspected witches. Stoning was for crowd participation but they also like to see a good old fashioned beheading.

Can you imagine the amount of fingers noses and big toes hanging around if we had still had Anglo-Saxon justice at the time of the London riots!