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James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton


The maiden (also known as the Scottish maiden) was a gibbet, in this case to mean an early type of guillotine, used as a means of execution in Scotlandmarker (the word gibbet denotes several different devices used in capital punishment). Traditionally, a maiden was a utensil for drying clothes that bore a similar appearance to the device.

Lead weights weighing around 75 pounds (34 kg) were attached to the axe blade.

It was introduced to Scotland during the minority of King James VI, from Halifaxmarker, West Yorkshire, in the north of Englandmarker, by the Regent James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton. The Earl was eventually executed by it himself, although contrary to legend he was not the first person to be executed by it.

From 1564 to 1708 when it was withdrawn from use, over 150 people were executed on the maiden. Notable victims included Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, executed following the Restoration of Charles II, and his son Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, executed for leading a rebellion against James VII.

Morton's Maiden is on display at the National Museum of Scotland.

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