Many methods of execution were initially developed throughout history to make the death penalty more humane and painless. These included the guillotine, the gas chamber, lethal injection, and the electric chair. However, in one instance, history went in the opposite trajectory and sought to make execution as painful and brutal as possible: the time a man was boiled alive.
The first man boiled to death was one of the most brutal executions in human history. Richard Roose, in 1531, was boiled alive after allegations of poisoning food. This form of execution was later banned under Edward VI, deemed so horrific it should never happen again.
According to K.J. Kesselring at The English Historical Review, Parliament passed an “Acte for Poysoning” in 1531, a statute that made murder by means of poison a form of high treason punishable with death by boiling. Previously, poisoning was not deemed an act of treason. But Henry VIII was simply notorious for executing people. He executed two of his wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. He is estimated to have executed 57,000 people.
But Richard Roose holds a particularly strange place in English history. Kesselring notes that Roose was a cook employed by John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester. Roose was rumored to have mixed poison into the porridge of people in Fisher’s household, and the porridge poisoned many people, particularly the poor. Every person who ate the porridge became very ill, and two people died, including a man and a poor widow.