Bloody Assizes 1685
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Bloody Assizes was the name given to the mass trials of Monmouth's rebels in 1685, presided over by Jeffreys and four other judges. Nearly all the 1,300 prisoners were undoubtedly guilty of treason, for which the sentence was death by hanging, disembowelling, and quartering. The revulsion against the treatment of the rebels, and the legend which subsequently developed, were provoked by the conduct of the trials. The judges indicated that pleas of not guilty would invariably mean death sentences by ordering execution on the day of conviction. These examples produced pleas of guilty which enabled courts to sentence 500 in two days at Taunton, 540 at Wells in one. Most of those convicted were kept in suspense for weeks before being executed or ordered for transportation. The executions of some 250 were dispersed in towns over the area of the rebellion, and to increase the impact further pickled heads and quartered bodies were publicly displayed throughout the western region. James II's queen and courtiers took profits from the sale of those transported to the West Indies. The emotion generated by the repression is still very much alive locally.
J. R. Jones