Traitors sometimes pop up in our crossword clues, highlighting the fact that history is full of tales of treason. In some cases, the names of traitors have become words to describe a person who acts treacherously.
The most famous traitor is probably the biblical disciple Judas Iscariot, who indicated Jesus’ identity to the Temple guards who came to arrest him. His motive was said to be 30 pieces of silver, but according to the Gospel of Matthew, when he realised Jesus was going to be crucified because of his actions, he returned the money and hanged himself. In the dictionary, a Judas is ‘a person who betrays a friend or comrade’.
When Germany invaded Norway in 1940, army officer Vidkun Quisling collaborated with the Nazis and became prime minister of the pro-Nazi puppet government until 1945, when he was executed for treason. In the dictionary, ‘quisling’ is defined as ‘a traitor who collaborates with an enemy force occupying their country.’
American-born William Brooke Joyce, nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw, was also convicted of high treason in 1945, for broadcasting Nazi propaganda in Britain during the war. He was hanged – the last person in Britain to be executed for treason.
In his Canterbury Tales, Chaucer described the traitor as ‘the smiler with the knife under the cloak’. But are all ‘traitors’ really bad or does it just depend on which side you’re on? If you saw the film Braveheart, you might remember the protagonist William Wallace was fighting for Scotland’s independence against the English king. As he said at his trial, “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.” However, he was tortured and executed for treason.
Anne Boleyn was beheaded for treason, but her crime was failing to produce a male heir for Henry VIII.
Watch out for treasonous clues in your crosswords, and don’t let your memory betray you.