Peine Forte et Dure
A species of torture applied to contumacious felons. In the reign of Henri IV. the accused was pressed to death by weights; in later reigns the practice prevailed of tying the thumbs tightly together with whipcord, to induce the accused to plead. The following persons were pressed to death by weights:- Juliana Quick, in 1442; Anthony Arrowsmith, in 1598; Walter Calverly, in 1605; Major Strangways, in 1657; and even in 1741 a person was pressed to death at the Cambridge assizes. Abolished 1772.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894