Hanging, drawing and quartering was the official punishment for high treason. The convicted criminal was dragged by horse to the place of execution and hung until almost dead. They were then disembowelled (drawn), beheaded and chopped into four pieces (quartered). This was the fate of many Catholic priests executed in the Elizabethan period at Tyburn (see bookmark for page 55).
The punishment was not fully abolished in England until 1870. High treason was any act seen as a direct threat to the monarch or his or her right to rule.