The Evolution of Treason Laws in Medieval England and Beyond

TLDR This podcast episode explores the history of treason laws in medieval England, including the gruesome punishments for traitors and the expansion of treason to include acts against the whole country. It also touches on famous treason cases, such as Anne Boleyn's conviction, and the gunpowder plot that led to the establishment of November 5th as a national day of Thanksgiving in Britain.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 The episode discusses the plans to update Britain's 650-year-old treason laws to prosecute individuals who swear allegiance to a hostile foreign power, such as jihadis and hackers.
05:07 Treason has been a concept that has existed for a very long time, with examples from both England and Rome, but in England, treason was initially focused on the monarch and later expanded to include treason against the whole country.
09:56 In medieval England, treason was often punished by quartering, where the traitor's head and body were divided into four parts and sent to different locations as a visible spectacle, with efforts made to preserve the quarters during transportation.
14:33 In medieval England, the Treason Act of 1352 defined treason as attempting to kill or imagine the death of the king, violating the king's companion or heir's wife, levying war against the Crown, or adhering to the king's enemies.
18:59 In medieval England, treasonous words and actions included broadcasting for the Nazis or signing up to the Caliphate, as well as claiming that Richard II was still alive and should be put back on the throne.
23:30 Elna Cobham, a royal witch, and her associates were accused of summoning spirits and magical demons to predict the death of King Henry VI and when Elna would become queen, resulting in her being put on trial for treason and made to walk a public walk of shame.
28:02 Henry Tudor posthumously attains Richard III and backdates the start of his reign to the day before the Battle of Bosworth, accusing Richard of treason for standing against him in battle.
32:38 Anne Boleyn is convicted of treason and sentenced to be beheaded instead of burned, and the treason legislation introduced by Henry VIII is later repealed, with treason being seen as a betrayal of one's ideals rather than loyalty to the state.
37:07 The section discusses the use of the Bill of Attainder to execute Thomas Cromwell and the lack of a defense lawyer for those accused of treason during this time period.
41:24 The section discusses the punishment of Richard Russe for poisoning and the different forms of treason during this time period, including petty treason and treason against the king. It also mentions the different punishments for treason based on social class, with more humiliating deaths reserved for lower-class individuals. The section concludes by mentioning the gunpowder plot and how treason was viewed during the Elizabethan era.
45:51 The section discusses the gunpowder plot and its significance in targeting both the king and the Protestant faith, leading to the establishment of November 5th as a national day of Thanksgiving and celebration in Britain.
Categories: History

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