How did Nearly Headless Nick Die?

by Jean

Editor’s Note: Some have pointed out that JKR has posted on her site a song on how Nick had died. This author may have not been aware of this. Nonetheless, I felt this article may be focusing on the bigger picture: a piece of our history that may be corresponding to the HP world. Although the piece JKR put on her website may negate portions of this editorial, I still felt it was worthy of publishing.

I was having dinner last night when a friend asked me a new Harry Potter question that I never considered before. I did a little research, got an interesting answer, and thought you might like to post it.

Q: How did Nearly Headless Nick die? What’s his story and why did it take forty-five whacks with a blunt blade?

A: To begin with, in book two, Nick celebrates his five-hundredth Deathday. So, assuming COS takes place somewhere between 1990 and 2000, Nick would have died around 1490 to 1500, if not a tad bit earlier.

I’m ignoring the fact that Nick states in “The Sorting Hat” chapter in the first book, that he “hasn’t eaten for nearly four hundred years”. (Can a ghost eat after they died?)

Nick’s probably English, or at least from the island, since JK never gives a reason to think otherwise. If he was, then his death falls right smack in the middle of the reign of King Henry VII. The clothes that he wears, a ruff and tights, are typical of nobility during Henry’s reign.

A little history: The War of the Roses was raging all through the 1400’s, ending shortly after Henry VII’s coronation. Basically the old line of the kings was dead and all the noble family (mostly significantly, the Tudors and the Yorks) were fighting each other to become the next ruler of England.

The war ended in 1487, a little early for our timeline, but if Nick sided with the Henry’s enemies, he could have been captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London for a while. This happened to many important nobles such as the York heir, Richard, who had the most claim to the throne. Many such nobles’ deaths in the tower were, as historians say, very mysterious.

Another question we had was why the blunt ax? Well, an executioner’s ax in those days could only stay sharp enough to cut through two or three necks cleanly. Bone is tough dulls the blade quickly. If Nick was last in a line of people to be killed that day, then it could easily take many whacks to complete the deed, though forty-five is pushing it.

My theory: Nick was a noble who supported the Yorks. His side lost and he was captured. One day, Henry VII decides to clean house, since he was never one to show mercy. Nick and whole bunch of other nobles are beheaded, with Nick last in line and made to suffer a blunt blade.