Extraordinary Beings

Paul Friedland

in Seeing Justice Done

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592692
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741852 | DOI:
Extraordinary Beings

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Far from being mere conduits of the king's wrath, executioners were extraordinary beings in their own right. More a race of outcasts than a profession (they suffered profound prejudice and ostracism, and consequently married largely within the executioner community), they nevertheless possessed extraordinary privileges such as havage, which entitled them to seize a percentage of goods from every vendor in the marketplace with a tin spoon (so as not to subject the remaining produce to contamination). They also collected tribute from their fellow pariahs, lepers and prostitutes. Reviled in every aspect of their daily life, many executioners, particularly those from France's largest cities, led lives of significant material comfort and privilege. Their fate was inextricably linked to that of the spectacular punishments they executed, however, and their fortunes rose and fell along with them.

Keywords: executioners; outcasts; prejudice; ostracism; pariahs; privileges; contamination; havage

Chapter.  9939 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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