‘Thy wish was father, Harry, to that thought.’ It’s pure invention by Shakespeare. There’s no historical evidence that Henry V was even there at the time.
Old Palace Yard lies at the southern end of Westminster Hall, with the Palace of Westminster on the right. At 8 a.m. on 29 October 1618, a famous adventurer was executed here at the command of King James I.
The adventurer was dressed in grey silk stockings, black taffeta breeches and a brown doublet. He wore a nightcap under his hat, but gave it to a bald onlooker who needed it more than he did.
‘All preparations that are terrible were presented to his eye. Guards and officers were about him, the scaffold and the executioner, the axe and the more cruel expectations of his enemies.’
After a lengthy speech, the adventurer shook hands with his friends and knelt on the executioner’s cloak, facing left towards Westminster Abbey. The crowd called for him to face right, towards his Redeemer in the east. He obliged under protest: ‘What matter it which way the head lie, so the heart be right?’
The axeman hesitated. ‘What dost thou fear?’ demanded the adventurer. ‘Strike, man, strike!’ The first blow killed him. The second severed his head from his body.
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 38. Who was this famous Englishman beheaded at Old Palace Yard, Westminster?
‘As sharp as Evelyn Waugh and sometimes better’ – Times Literary Supplement
‘Good, clean fun’ – Daily Telegraph
‘Pure comic pleasure’ – Spectator