Middle Ages: Crimes And Punishments

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What sorts of crimes were common in the middle ages?

During the medieval times, crimes were often committed due to the horrible hierarchy system; nearly 90% of all crimes were either theft, murder or assault. Crimes were easily committed as you can be pulled up for anything such as not working hard enough or even drinking too much. Betraying your county or religion, attempting to take over the king by building armies all lead to punishments. Stealing another’s good, or witchcraft (practicing magic, especially black magic) were also all common crimes. Back in the medieval days, thanks to the great hierarchy system, the peasants/serfs were left to starve or have little to eat. This lead to them stealing and wanting other’s goods. They would take any valuable thing that they could sell for money. On rare occasions when they were not caught, they were lucky; otherwise, they would be ripping out teeth, beating or even breaking bones to those who committed the crime.

What sort of punishments were there?

Murders were punished with death and hands were cut off. These are just a few of the terrible punishments the medieval times served. Woman who committed a murder were strangled to death and then burnt right before they died. As prisons were too expensive, fines, mutilation and being placed in stocks were an alternative. Some other examples of other punishments are the Brazen Bull, Heretics Fork, Thumbscrew and the Guillotine. The Brazen Bull was also known as the Sicilian Bull and was designed in ancient Greece. A piece of solid of brass was attached with a door on the side so that it could be opened and closed. A fire would sit underneath it until the metal would slowly become yellow, as it got hotter. The agonizing pain would slowly roast the criminal to death whilst screaming for mercy. The screams of the criminal would symbol the bellowing of a bull. A torture devise that consisted of a metal piece with two forks attached to a belt or strap, known as Heretics Fork, was used in a way that if the criminal had rested it’s head down, it would perforce through their throat and chest. The Thumbscrew or ‘piliiwinks’ are designed to slowly crush not only your hands but also toes and even heads. It was primarily used to extract confessions from the criminals. One of the most ‘popular’ ways to execute the unwanted, the Guillotine was made of a razor sharp blade connected to a rope. The criminals head would be placed in the center and as the blade drops, the head is instantly detached from the victim’s body. It was to be considered as an instant and painless event.

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What was the court system?

As there was a high crime rate due to the hierarchy system, there had to be a system to deal with those who committed a crime. There was the Kings court, The Kings Garran’s, the Church court and the Manors court. The most common court to be used was the Kings court. Often serious cases were considered under the royal courts, as the Kings would use the most common law to serve justice. Murder, burglary, treason, cutting trees and poaching animals from royal forests, and anything else to be considered as serious, were preferred cases in this court. The kings Garran has also held courts for people that lived on their estate. As well as that, each manor had their own court. People, who lived on their land, would go to their court if there were any minor issues. The church or ecclesiastical courts were preferable to any other court because the church court could not order capital punishments. They used this to their advantage as they could avoid the possibility of being hanged or beheaded.


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