History Today eBook: The Second World War

Off with his Hood

Through the myth of the executioner’s mask, Alison Kinney explores our tortured relationship with life, death, mortality and museums.

The Tower of London’s ‘executioner’s mask’.

There is an ‘executioner’s mask’ in the Tower of London, with a spooky, lopsided grin. The mask was dismissed in the 1970s as a Victorian fake, based on a scold’s bridle. The description of it in the current Royal Armouries blog reads:

This rather gruesome painted iron mask is from the 17th/18th centuries. It is made of three plates, roughly constructed with openings for the eyes, nostrils and mouth. In the nineteenth century, it was displayed at the Tower alongside a block and axe as an executioner’s mask. However, it is unlikely that an executioner would have worn an iron mask like this.

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