Monday, May 23, 2011

History: "Jerked Into the Devil's Arms"

Despite his protests of innocence through four separate trials at Britain’s Admiralty Court in London, Captain William Kidd was sentenced to hang for the crimes of murder and piracy. His largest mistake was his involvement with Parliamentary politicians, who had initially backed him as a pirate hunter and privateer. When things went astray these same men wanted Kidd out of the way before they could be implicated in his crimes. He must be, one asserted before Parliament, “… jerked into the Devil’s Arms”.


On May 23rd in 1701, a procession set out from Newgate Prison led by a deputy marshal of the Admiralty Court. Kidd was in the middle of the parade, chained on an open cart draped with black crepe, a noose already hanging from his neck. Through the good grace of his warden, Kidd was dead drunk. He would vomit more than once along the muddy road to Wapping.

At the shore of the Thames the gallows awaited. Kidd was “turned off” once and, after a moment, the rope from which he was hanging broke. He fell into the mud, was jerked back up and hanged a second time. Twice was the charm for Kidd, but he kicked for some minutes before finally succumbing to strangulation.

His body was cut down and chained to a post below the high water line. There, per Admiralty regulation, three tides washed over it. Once this had been accomplished, Kidd’s carcass was tarred and put in a metal cage. This was hung on a gibbet near the water at Tilbury Point where it stayed for a number of years as “… a greater Terrour to all Persons from committing ye like Crimes…”

Header: William Kidd’s body on the gibbet

5 comments:

Le Loup said...

Good post, very interesting. I note that not much has changed in regards to not trusting politicians!
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Blue Lou Logan said...

Alas, Cap'n Kidd. If only yer so-called backers had done ye justice. Guilty of murder? Quite possibly. Guilty of piracy? Aye, the letters tell a truer tale...

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Le Loup and Lou! You are both absolutely right. It certainly helped both the Whigs and the Tories that Kidd's official and personal papers from his cruise "mysteriously disappeared". There truly is nothing new under the sun.

Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Now that's the sad and unfortunate reality of so many of the more "infamous" pirates (although I use that term loosely with Captain Kidd)... I'm also reminded of the old joke: "How can you tell when a politician is lying? Watch his lips. If they're moving..."

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy, and no kidding. (Ouch; no pun intended there.)