If they think that they will maintain to the end the equanimity of their prayer-lives, they are wrong, because the law demands the full traitor's penalty, the short spin in the wind and the conscious public disembowelling, a brazier alight for human entrails. It is the most horrible of all deaths, pain and rage and humiliation swallowed to the dregs, the fear so great that the strongest rebel is unmanned before the executioner with his knife can do the job; before each one dies he watches his fellows and, cut down from the rope, he crawls like an animal round and round on the bloody boards.

— Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Is it a part of the punishment? With a hint from the last sentence ("cut down from the rope"), I am guessing it is to do with some kind of hanging.


1 Answer 1


In general, they're talking about the hanging and disembowelment of a traitor. A short spin in the wind can either mean that while the traitor is hanging, the movement of the fall is making their body spin in the wind:

Spin: To rotate rapidly; whirl.

Or the "short spin" might be taken out-of-context from:

Spin: rapid descent of an aircraft in a steep spiral.

To mean the traitor will have a short, rapid descent in the wind while he falls to his death.

  • 1
    The traitor is hanged but not to the point of death. He's let down when he's almost dead, so he can suffer the rest of the punishment. Hence "short spin".
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 12:52

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