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Pressing execution. Source: YouTube Screenshot / Weird History.

Pressing: One of History's Most Painful Deaths (Video)


Throughout history Europeans have come up with some of the most excruciating and slowest methods of torture. Of them all pressing to death might just be the worst. Dating back to the 13th century in England, this form of punishment, known as "peine forte et dure," was far from enlightened. It was a harrowing ordeal where victims, often not even convicted of a crime, were stripped and subjected to crushing weights, slowly suffocating under their weight. Gravity did the grisly work, and this torment could extend for days, with bones crushed and skin ruptured.

But why would anyone endure such a horrific fate? It was a desperate bid to protect their family's inheritance. Under English law, refusing to enter a plea meant the accused could not be put on trial. In death, their heirs could still inherit their land and wealth, unlike convicted criminals whose properties were seized by the king. This barbaric practice persisted through much of Britain's Enlightenment, highlighting a dark aspect of the era's legal system. It was only in 1772 that Great Britain finally outlawed pressing, closing the grim loophole and signaling a step towards a more humane justice system.

Top image: Pressing execution. Source: YouTube Screenshot / Weird History.

By Robbie Mitchell



Jelboy's picture

Are you a witch? No? Prove it by dying, or not. If you die by trial, you're not a witch. If you don't, you are and are then burned at the stake. Either way, being accused of witchcraft in the 17th, 18th and 19th century resulted in you dying. Whether "in the grace of God" or not, you'd die. Period.

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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