Top 10 Infamous Historical Executions

These people might actually be remembered best for their deaths rather than the lives they lived. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 infamous real life executions. For this list, we’re looking specifically at official executions as ordered by the state or government throughout history and across the world. #10: Ernst Kaltenbrunner
1903 – 1946 Several Nazi officers were captured and executed following the end of World War 2, but none was more prominent than Ernst Kaltenbrunner. As a high-ranking official with the SS, it was believed that he had direct knowledge of the workings of the concentration camps that resulted in the deaths of millions of Jewish captives. At the Nuremberg Trials, Kaltenbrunner was charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity and was then sentenced to death. He was executed by hanging on October 16, 1946. #9: Julius & Ethel Rosenberg
1918 – 1953; 1915 – 1953 While spies and double agents make for exciting fiction, they posed a serious threat to the United States and its Western allies during the Cold War. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were two alleged Soviet spies captured by the United States and charged with passing along information about the atomic bomb. Their trial began in 1951 and captured the attention of the nation. The married couple was found guilty of espionage and was executed by the electric chair. While Morton Sobell, another American found guilty of spying during the trial, claimed that Julius acted as a courier for the Soviets, he didn’t claim the same for Ethel. #8: Sir William Wallace
c. 1270 – 1305 One of the most famous figures from the Medieval Period and a leading member of the Scottish rebellion against England, William Wallace has become one of the most recognizable names in history. Despite leading his people to several key victories during the Wars of Scottish Independence, he was betrayed and turned over to the English in 1305. Wallace was tried for treason and was sentenced to be executed. He was dragged naked through the streets, strangled by hanging but not until death – after which he was emasculated, disembowelled, decapitated and drawn and quartered. #7: Guy Fawkes
1570 – 1606 Remember, remember, the 5th of November. Considered quote “the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions,” he was a member of a group of English Catholics who attempted to blow up Parliament with gunpowder in 1605. The main goal of the Gunpowder Plot was to kill King James and replace him with his 9-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth. The plot was uncovered, however, and Fawkes was captured. While his steadfast manner earned him the admiration of King James, he was tortured, sentenced to death by hanging and quartering. #6: Anne Boleyn
c. 1501 – 1536 One of the most famous womanizers in history, Henry VIII of England was married a total of six times. Of all his wives, however, perhaps none is more famous than Anne Boleyn. Considered a heroine of the English Reformation, she was married to Henry for three years. She was unable to produce a son to serve as Henry’s heir, however, and she was eventually charged with adultery, incest, and treason. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, she was eventually beheaded on May 19, 1536. #5: Marie Antoinette
1755 – 1793 The French Revolution wasn’t kind to the aristocratic class in France. While King Louis XIV (pronounced XVI) was arrested and executed, the most famous casualty of the Revolution has to be his wife Marie Antoinette. She was faulted for the economic crisis in France at the time thanks to her extravagant expenditures. She was eventually placed under house arrest with the rest of the royal family. Her fate was essentially sealed after the execution of Louis XIV (pronounced XVI), and she was charged with treason and executed by guillotine in 1793. #4: Ted Bundy
1946 – 1989 One of the most infamous serial killers in American history, Ted Bundy admitted to being responsible for killing 30 women throughout the 1970s, although the actual number is likely much higher. He used his good looks and charming personality to lure young female victims before assaulting them. Bundy was ultimately captured in Florida and received three death sentences, and he died in the electric chair on January 24, 1989. An estimated 2,000 people celebrated with songs, dancing and fireworks in a field across the street from the prison immediately after the execution. #3: Saddam Hussein
1937 – 2006 Known as “The Butcher of Baghdad”, Saddam Hussein served as the fifth President of Iraq for over 20 years. He was widely condemned in the western world due to his brutality, which included killing political opponents and using chemical weapons against his own people. In 2003, a coalition led by the United States invaded Iraq to remove Saddam from power, and he was eventually captured and hanged. Video of the execution was leaked online and became the subject of global controversy. #2: Joan of Arc
c. 1412 – 1431 “The Maid of Orleans” is a heroine of France who helped lead her people to victory in several battles against the English during the Hundred Years’ War. She was eventually betrayed, however, and handed over to the English by the Burgundians. She was tried on a number of charges, including cross-dressing, and despite a lack of evidence, was sentenced to death and burned at the stake at just 19 years old. She was declared a martyr 25 years after her death and is one of the 9 secondary patron saints of France. Before we unveil our number one pick, here are some honorable mentions: Mary, Queen of Scots
1542 – 1587 House of Romanov
1613 -1917 Timothy McVeigh
1968 – 2001 Aileen Wuornos
1956 – 2002 Gary Gilmore
1940 – 1977 Troy Davis
1968 – 2011 #1: Jesus
c. 7-2 BC – 30-33 AD While some may debate the religious aspect, Jesus is widely considered to be a historical figure that did exist. A preacher in the first century AD, Jesus’ teachings angered many of the religious leaders in Judea. He was eventually betrayed by Judas, one of his disciples, and handed over to the Romans, after which he was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate and crucified in Jerusalem. Whether you believe that Jesus was the Son of God or not, his execution remains as one of the most influential moments in history. Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the most infamous execution in history? For more exciting Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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