Josef Jakobs – the Last Execution At The Tower Of London.

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 Josef Jakobs, the last person executed at the Tower of London.
Josef Jakobs, the last person executed at the Tower of London.

The Tower of London, nowadys a popular tourist destination. Once also a prison, defensive fortress, a crime scene (if you believe, as I do, that the ‘Princes in the Tower’ were murdered here) and also the site of a number of execution. Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey (who was the shortest-reigning Queen in British history, in office for only nine days), and of host of others. And it’s one of those others that we’re looking at today.

If you’re thinking, as so many do, that the Tower’s reputation for executions ended in medieval times then you’d be wrong. 11 German spies were shot there in the First World War and one in the Second. He was Josef Jakobs from Luxembourg, executed by firing squad on August 15, 1941, who holds the grim distinction of being the last prisoner executed…

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The Murder Of Lord William Russell | History And Other Thoughts

Originally posted on History And Other Thoughts

Lord William Russell, a member of Parliament, was murdered in his sleep. His body was found by his maid on 6th April 1840. The initial signs pointed to a robbery, as Viscount Melbourne explained in this short letter to Queen Victoria:

Lord Melbourne presents his humble duty to your Majesty. He has just received this from Lord John Russell—a most shocking event, which your Majesty has probably by this time heard of. The persons who did it came for the purpose of robbing the house; they entered by the back of the house and went out at the front door. The servants in the house, only a man and a maid, never heard anything, and the maid, when she came down to her master’s door in the morning, found the horrid deed perpetrated….

via The Murder Of Lord William Russell | History And Other Thoughts.

Aqua Tofana: slow-poisoning and husband-killing in 17th century Italy

A Blast From The Past

Detail from "The love potion", by the nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite Evelyn De Morgan. The tangled tale of Aqua Tofana is intimately connected to the "magical criminal underworlds" of the 17th century, which supplied love philtres, potions, medicines and poisons to a mostly female clientele. Detail from “The love potion” by Evelyn De Morgan (1903). The tangled tale of Aqua Tofana is intimately connected to the “criminal magical underworlds” that flourished in the 17th century. Swarming with dubious alchemists, self-proclaimed sorcerers and renegade priests, these remarkable communities supplied love philtres, charms and poisons of varying efficacy to a mostly female clientele.

Early in the autumn of 1791, while he was still hard at work on the great requiem mass that would form such a large part of his legend, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart fell mortally ill. Convinced that there was no chance of recovery, he

began to speak of death, and asserted that he was setting the Requiem for himself… “I feel definitely,” he continued, “that I will not last much longer; I am sure that I have been poisoned. I cannot rid myself of this idea… Someone has given me acqua tofana and calculated the precise time of my death.

Scholars have wrangled now for two full…

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The Brits Who Fought For Hitler.

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Insignia of the ‘British Free Corps’, former prisoners-of-war who enlisted in the infamous Waffen SS.

The SS motto – ‘My honour is loyalty.’

As a freelance scribbler and long-time student of military history I love finding the more overlooked or forgotten aspects of the subject. For instance, the popular narrative of the Second World War holds that the British people pulled together, fighting as one for a common cause.

Erm, not exactly.

While British troops and the vast majority of the British public did rally round, a tiny handful didn’t. Some turned traitor for money. The notorious ‘£18 traitor’ Duncan Scott-Ford (not one of Plymouth’s favourite sons), was hanged at Wandsworth Prison in November, 1942 for selling convoy information to German Intelligence at a bargain discount. For others the shift was ideological. They were in it for the cause, such as Wiliam Joyce (AKA ‘Lord HAW Haw’ and star of…

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