1581 James Douglas, Fourth Earl of Morton, Regent of Scotland, was beheaded at Edinburgh.
Justice for Douglas?
After ruling Scotland for ten years under the auspices of Queen Elizabeth I, Morton fell foul of factionalism at court and found himself on the scaffold.
What is striking about his execution is that he was beheaded by a device known as the 'Maiden', or 'Scottish Maiden' (aka 'the Widow'), a forerunner of the guillotine (not to be confused with the Iron Maiden, a hollow device like a sarcophagus, with spikes in its interior, in which the victim was confined). It is believed that Douglas himself had introduced the contraption into Scotland for the purpose of beheading the laird of Pennycuick.
Records show that the Maiden dates to 1564 (one Thomas Scott, a murderer, had been executed in Scotland in 1566), so an old reference that "He who invented the maiden first hanselled it" is erroneous ...
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