A prisoner who was sentenced to be drawn and quartered was subject to one of the most disgusting and cruel methods of execution available. It involved a person being hanged, disemboweled, beheaded, and then cut into pieces. The person was usually alive when this method was employed, though not for long, and the pain at this type of death is absolutely unimaginable. The punishment also put the person in jeopardy of ascension to heaven even after confession, since it was believed that bodies had to be kept whole so they could rise at the second coming.
This style of execution was likely first employed in England by Henry III, who reigned from 1216-1272. It was a punishment reserved for people who committed high treason. The average murderer was not drawn and quartered, and women never suffered this punishment. The method was most often used in the UK.
There’s a little confusion about the term, and a misunderstanding regarding the way that it was practiced. Some believe it meant attaching a body to four horses running in different directions to split the body in four. This is not the case. Drawn may mean hung, or it may mean drawn to the place where the execution took place.
The person was hanged by the neck, but this was usually not fatal — prisoners were frankly fortunate if this did cause their death. He was then disemboweled and had his genitalia removed, which were burned. Beheading came next, and then the remaining body was cut into four parts. Technically, this isn’t quartering a body, since the body was cut into five pieces. The head was normally kept near the tower of London, and the body parts would be sent to different parts of England, as a gruesome message of the price high treason would cost.
It would take England a full 600 years to finally ban this extremely brutal punishment, and it was finally outlawed in 1832. It’s difficult to think that such a punishment existed when England was civilized in so many other ways. Nevertheless, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered was the sentence of many, including Guy Fawkes. The sentence occurred under British rule once in what is now the US, sentencing Joshua Teft for supporting the Narragansett Tribe during a war with Britain. The Founding Fathers could technically have ordered the same sentence for others convicted of treason during the Revolutionary War, but they did not, though many convicted of treason were executed in other fashions.