What you wouldn’t want for Christmas.
I was doing some research on an explorer, adventurer, favorite courtier of Elizabeth 1 , poet, amongst other things, Sir Walter Raleigh, a man known to many British children who have studied the basics of British History, when I unearthed an interesting fact concerning what happened to the executed Sir Walter’s head, following its encounter with an axe.
Sir Walter who discovered and brought back tobacco and the potato, was implicated as a foe of King James I and imprisoned with a death sentence hanging over him. He was later freed and was sent on another expedition, which ended in failure.
At his execution in 1618 in the Tower of London, Sir Walter Raleigh asked to see the axe that was to behead him and said, “This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all Diseases.” This leads us to think he still had a bit of a sense of humor, despite the fact that he was about to shortly parted from this world. It took the executioner two blows to remove his head, and then after it had been displayed to the crowd that had assembled for the event, it was placed in a red bag, covered with velvet, and presented to his wife. Imagine getting a knock on the door and then someone hands over the head of your dead husband. Apparently it was the custom that the head of the person executed would be presented to the widower.
Most people would freak out, however Lady Raleigh, once Elizabeth Throckmorton, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, retained her love her doomed husband, never remarried, and somewhat bizarrely kept her husband’s head with her until the day she died, she lived to her eighties no less. She had his head embalmed and kept it by her side for the 29 years she outlived him. According to some stories, she kept the head in a glass case in her home, and curiosity seekers and family friends alike would travel to visit and pay their respects to the head.
Once she passed away, like mother like son, the head passed on to their son, Carew. That son continued the tradition of keeping the embalmed head, and when he passed away, the head was buried with him in Surrey.
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Francis H Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, 22 quirky short stories…
I enjoyed these tales as they gave me a fantastic break from my daily routine and I enjoyed remembering them and day dreaming about them afterwards. They’re a little Ray Bradbury, a little Stephen King, but with Powell’s own unique twists. Very interesting read.