Don’t Read This While Eating
Balthasar Gérard was a 16th Century Spanish patriot who assassinated Dutch nobleman William I of Orange following a decree from King Philip II that the murderer of William, who was spearheading a revolution to liberate the Netherlands from Spanish rule, would be handsomely rewarded. On July 10, 1584, Gérard journeyed to William’s residence and shot the Prince point blank in the chest. Though he initially evaded capture, Balthasar Gérard was apprehended just days after the crime, and livid Dutch magistrates issued an extraordinarily gruesome death sentence. Balthasar’s right hand (the shooting hand) was to be melted off with a hot iron before he was disemboweled alive. His heart would be pulled from his chest during the disemboweling and thrown in his face. An executioner would then decapitate Gérard.
The time spent in prison awaiting his execution was no less grim for Balthasar Gérard, allegedly. It’s said he was viciously whipped, his jailers later pouring honey over his body to entice a goat into nipping his wounds. Gérard was also doused with searing hot bacon fat, the story goes, and his feet were forced into animal skin slippers that were burned on so they fused with his flesh. To add insult to gory injury, King Phiilip sort of reneged on his reward: The Spanish monarch gave Balthasar Gérard’s surviving family not the 25,000 crowns originally promised but various tracts of land. In an even sicker bit of irony, Philip later offered said land behind the Gérards’ backs to the late William of Orange’s eldest son (Willy Jr. refused this re-gift).
Philip II got his in the end, though—the king was felled in 1598 by an agonizing fifty-two day battle with what we now know as cancer, punctuated by gout and edema. Things got so bad near the end Philip’s servants just cut a hole in his mattress so he could relieve himself without enduring the pain of getting up.
I learned all this recently because I’ve been getting into a Dutch hardcore band from the ’80s called B.G.K. Their name stands for Balthasar Gérard’s Kommando. Hilarious, right? B.G.K.’s 1983 debut Jonestown Aloha! is a shining example of their chosen genre. Tight, fast, charismatic, (and above all) fierce. Listen below, if that’s your thing.