I am in the process of writing an historic novel and would like to know as much detail about the 4th Duke of Norfolk's execution as possible. In particular who was the executioner, how much did the Duke pay him, was it a clean or botched execution and anything else you might know.

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    Welcome to History:SE. What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? What did you find? Please help us to help you. You might find it helpful to review the site tour and Help Centre and, in particular, How to Ask Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 22:18
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    For example, why is the Wikipedia article unsatisfactory?
    – Spencer
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 22:59
  • There's this YouTube video....
    – Spencer
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 3:31

1 Answer 1


The 4th Duke of Norfolk was beheaded on Tower Hill on 2 June 1572 for his part in the Ridolfi Plot, a plan to kill Elizabeth I. There's something on what he wore.

a black satin doublet, a long gown of raised velvet, also in black, and a white fustian shirt with a low, lace neck

He told those watching the execution

'that he was never a papist since he knew what religion meant'

The scaffold he was executed on was new according to

Elizabeth Jenkins, the author of Elizabeth the Great (1958) has argued: "Since she came to the throne, Elizabeth had ordered no execution by beheading. After fourteen years of disuse, the scaffold on Tower Hill was falling to pieces, and it was necessary to put up another. The Duke's letters to his children, his letters to the Queen, his perfect dignity and courage at his death, made his end moving in the extreme, and he could at least be said that no sovereign had ever put a subject to death after more leniency or with greater unwillingness."

The names of executioners are not usually known. Messy executions get noticed and make 'headlines' on the internet. Some examples of botched executions are Mary Queen of Scots, Thomas Cromwell and Edward Stafford (Buckingham).

Thanks to sempaiscuba's prompt in his comment under this post, I can add these details from an eyewitness account of the historian William Camden. He says that the Duke was taken to the scaffold at 8 o'clock in the morning and gives more details. The source for the text below is free online: Criminal Trials, Supplying Copious Illustrations of the Important Periods of English History During the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I.: To which is Added a Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, with Historical Prefaces and Notes, Volume 1. This is what William Camden wrote.

Dean Nowel, turning to the people, said, 'The Duke desires you would allof you pray to God top have mercy on him, and withal keep silence, that his mind may not be disturbed.' The executioner asked him forgiveness, and had it granted. One offering him a hankerchief to cover his eyes, he refused it, saying, 'I am not in the least afraid of death.' Then falling on his knees, he lay prostrate with his mind fixed upon God, and Dean Nowel prayed with him. Presently after, he stretched his neck upon the block, and his head was immediately cut off at one blow, and showed by the executioner to the sorrowful and weeping multitude.

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    You'll find considerably more detail in the first text cited about the execution by the Wikipedia Article about the Duke (scroll down to p138 for the actual account of the execution). The account is taken from Camden "... who was present on the occasion". Commented Nov 23, 2019 at 20:49
  • @sempaiscuba That's very useful. Thank you!
    – JLK
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 9:18

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