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Guillotine

Guillotine

Overview
The guillotine (ˈɡɪlətiːn or /ˈɡiː.ətiːn/; ɡijɔtin) is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation
Decapitation
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade
Blade
A blade is that portion of a tool, weapon, or machine with a cutting edge and/or a pointed tip that is designed to cut and/or puncture, stab, slash, chop, slice, thrust, or scrape animate or inanimate surfaces or materials...

 is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body. The device is noted for long being the main method of execution in France and, more particularly, for its use during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, when it "became a part of popular culture, celebrated as the people's avenger by supporters of the Revolution and vilified as the pre-eminent symbol of the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

 by opponents." Nevertheless, the guillotine continued to be used long after the French Revolution in several countries, including France, where it was the sole method of execution until the abolition of capital punishment in 1981.


On 10 October 1789, Doctor Joseph-Ignace Guillotin
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin
Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a French physician who proposed on 10 October 1789 the use of a device to carry out death penalties in France. While he did not invent the guillotine, and in fact opposed the death penalty, his name became an eponym for it...

, a French physician, stood before the National Assembly
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

 and proposed the following six articles in favour of the reformation of capital punishment:
  • Article 1: All offenses of the same kind will be punished by the same type of punishment irrespective of the rank of status of the guilty party.
  • Article 2: Whenever the Law imposes the death penalty, irrespective of the nature of the offense, the punishment shall be the same: decapitation, effected by means of a simple mechanism.
  • Article 3: The punishment of the guilty party shall not bring discredit upon or discrimination against his family.
  • Article 4: No one shall reproach a citizen with any punishment imposed on one of his relatives.
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Timeline

1792   Highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier becomes the first person executed by guillotine.

1793   After being found guilty of treason by the French Convention, Louis XVI of France is executed by guillotine.

1793   Jean-Paul Marat recites the names of 29 people to the French National Convention. Almost all of these people are guillotined, followed by 17,000 more over the course of the next year during the Reign of Terror.

1793   Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, is guillotined at the height of the French Revolution.

1793   French playwright, journalist and feminist Olympe de Gouges is guillotined.

1793   Jean Sylvain Bailly, the first Mayor of Paris, is guillotined.

1794   Branded a traitor during the Reign of Terror by revolutionists, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who was also a tax collector with the ''Ferme Générale'', is tried, convicted, and guillotined all on the same day in Paris.

1794   Maximilien Robespierre is executed by guillotine in Paris during the French Revolution.

1977   Hamida Djandoubi, convicted of torture and murder, is the last person to be executed by guillotine in France.

 
Quotations

And if my thought-dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine.

Bob Dylan, "It's Alright, Ma"
Encyclopedia
The guillotine (ˈɡɪlətiːn or /ˈɡiː.ətiːn/; ɡijɔtin) is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation
Decapitation
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade
Blade
A blade is that portion of a tool, weapon, or machine with a cutting edge and/or a pointed tip that is designed to cut and/or puncture, stab, slash, chop, slice, thrust, or scrape animate or inanimate surfaces or materials...

 is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body. The device is noted for long being the main method of execution in France and, more particularly, for its use during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, when it "became a part of popular culture, celebrated as the people's avenger by supporters of the Revolution and vilified as the pre-eminent symbol of the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

 by opponents." Nevertheless, the guillotine continued to be used long after the French Revolution in several countries, including France, where it was the sole method of execution until the abolition of capital punishment in 1981.

French Revolution



On 10 October 1789, Doctor Joseph-Ignace Guillotin
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin
Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a French physician who proposed on 10 October 1789 the use of a device to carry out death penalties in France. While he did not invent the guillotine, and in fact opposed the death penalty, his name became an eponym for it...

, a French physician, stood before the National Assembly
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

 and proposed the following six articles in favour of the reformation of capital punishment:
  • Article 1: All offenses of the same kind will be punished by the same type of punishment irrespective of the rank of status of the guilty party.
  • Article 2: Whenever the Law imposes the death penalty, irrespective of the nature of the offense, the punishment shall be the same: decapitation, effected by means of a simple mechanism.
  • Article 3: The punishment of the guilty party shall not bring discredit upon or discrimination against his family.
  • Article 4: No one shall reproach a citizen with any punishment imposed on one of his relatives. Such offenders shall be publicly reprimanded by a judge.
  • Article 5: The condemned person's property shall not be confiscated.
  • Article 6: At the request of the family, the corpse of the condemned man shall be returned to them for burial and no reference to the nature of death shall be registered.


Sensing the growing discontent, Louis XVI
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

 banned the use of the breaking wheel
Breaking wheel
The breaking wheel, also known as the Catherine wheel or simply the wheel, was a torture device used for capital punishment in the Middle Ages and early modern times for public execution by bludgeoning to death...

. In 1791, as the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 progressed, the National Assembly
National Assembly
National Assembly is either a legislature, or the lower house of a bicameral legislature in some countries. The best known National Assembly, and the first legislature to be known by this title, was that established during the French Revolution in 1789, known as the Assemblée nationale...

 researched a new method to be used on all condemned people regardless of class. Their concerns contributed to the idea that capital punishment's
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 purpose was simply the ending of life instead of the infliction of pain.

A committee was formed under Antoine Louis
Antoine Louis
Antoine Louis was a French surgeon and physiologist who was born in Metz.He was originally trained in medicine by his father, a surgeon-major at a local military hospital. As a young man he moved to Paris, where he served as gagnant-maîtrise at the Salpêtrière...

, physician to the King and Secretary to the Academy of Surgery. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin
Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a French physician who proposed on 10 October 1789 the use of a device to carry out death penalties in France. While he did not invent the guillotine, and in fact opposed the death penalty, his name became an eponym for it...

, was also on the committee. The group was influenced by the Italian Mannaia (or Mannaja), the Scottish Maiden
Maiden (beheading)
The Maiden is an early form of guillotine, or gibbet, once used as a means of execution in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Maiden is displayed at the National Museum of Scotland...

 and the Halifax Gibbet
Halifax Gibbet
The Halifax Gibbet was an early guillotine, or decapitating machine, used in the town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. It was probably installed some time during the 16th century as an alternative to beheading by axe or sword...

. While these prior instruments usually crushed the neck or used blunt force to take off a head, devices also usually used a crescent blade and a lunette (a hinged two part yoke to immobilize the victim's neck).

Laquiante, an officer of the Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

 criminal court, made a design for a beheading machine and employed Tobias Schmidt, a German engineer and harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

 maker, to construct a prototype. Antoine Louis is also credited with the design of the prototype. An apocryphal story claims that King Louis XVI (an amateur locksmith) recommended a triangular blade with a beveled edge be used instead of a crescent blade, but it was Schmidt who suggested placing the blade at an oblique 45-degree angle and changing it from the curved blade. The first execution by guillotine was performed on highwayman Nicolas Jacques Pelletier
Nicolas Jacques Pelletier
Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was a French highwayman who was the first person to be executed by means of the guillotine.-The robbery and subsequent sentencing:Pelletier routinely associated with a group of known criminals...

 on 25 April 1792.

The basis for the machine's success was the belief that it was a humane form of execution, contrasting with the methods used in pre-revolutionary, Ancien Régime France. In France, before the guillotine, members of the nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 were beheaded with a sword or axe (which typically took at least two blows before killing the condemned), while commoners were usually hanged, a form of death that could take minutes or longer. Other more gruesome methods of executions were also used, such as the wheel
Breaking wheel
The breaking wheel, also known as the Catherine wheel or simply the wheel, was a torture device used for capital punishment in the Middle Ages and early modern times for public execution by bludgeoning to death...

 or burning at the stake. In the case of decapitation, it also sometimes took repeated blows to sever the head completely, and it was also very likely for the condemned to slowly bleed to death before the head could be fully severed. The condemned or the family of the condemned would sometimes pay the executioner to ensure that the blade was sharp in order to provide for a quick and relatively painless death.

The guillotine was thus perceived to deliver an immediate death without risk of suffocation. Furthermore, having only one method of civil execution was seen as an expression of equality among citizens. The guillotine was then the only civil legal execution method in France
Capital punishment in France
Capital punishment was practiced in France from the Middle Ages until 1977, when the last execution took place by guillotine, being the only legal method since the French Revolution. The last person to be executed in France was Hamida Djandoubi, who was put to death in September 1977. The death...

 until the abolition of the death penalty in 1981, apart from certain crimes against the security of the state, or for the death sentences passed by military courts, which entailed execution by firing squad
Execution by firing squad
Execution by firing squad, sometimes called fusillading , is a method of capital punishment, particularly common in the military and in times of war.Execution by shooting is a fairly old practice...

.

Reign of Terror


The period from June 1793 to July 1794 in France is known as the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

 or simply "the Terror". The upheaval following the overthrow of the monarchy, invasion by foreign monarchist powers and the Revolt in the Vendée combined to throw the nation into chaos and the government into frenzied paranoia. Most of the democratic reforms of the revolution were suspended and large-scale executions by guillotine began. The first political prisoner to be executed was Collenot d'Angremont of the National Guard, followed soon after by the King's trusted collaborator in his ill-fated attempt to moderate the Revolution, Arnaud de Laporte
Arnaud II de La Porte
Arnaud II de La Porte French statesman, Minister of the Marine, Intendant of the King's Civil List .-Early life and career:...

, both in 1792. Former King Louis XVI
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

 and Queen Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette ; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I....

 were executed in 1793. Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He largely dominated the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his...

 became one of the most powerful men in the government, and the figure most associated with the Terror. The Revolutionary Tribunal
Revolutionary Tribunal
The Revolutionary Tribunal was a court which was instituted in Paris by the Convention during the French Revolution for the trial of political offenders, and eventually became one of the most powerful engines of the Reign of Terror....

 sentenced thousands to the guillotine. Nobility
French nobility
The French nobility was the privileged order of France in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern periods.In the political system of the Estates General, the nobility made up the Second Estate...

 and commoners, intellectuals, politicians and prostitutes, all were liable to be executed on little or no grounds; suspicion of "crimes against liberty" was enough to earn one an appointment with "Madame Guillotine" or "The National Razor". Estimates of the death toll range between 16,000 and 40,000.

At this time, Paris executions were carried out in the Place de la Revolution (former Place Louis XV
Louis XV of France
Louis XV was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. He succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of five, his first cousin Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723...

 and current Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.- History :...

); the guillotine stood in the corner near the Hôtel Crillon where the statue of Brest can be found today.
For a time, executions by guillotine were a popular entertainment that attracted great crowds of spectators. Vendors would sell programs listing the names of those scheduled to die. Many people would come day after day and vie for the best locations from which to observe the proceedings; knitting female citizens (tricoteuses
Tricoteuse
Tricoteuse literally translates from the French as a knitter or knitting device. The term is most often used in its historical sense as a name for the women who frequented the public executions in Paris during the French Revolution.-Origins:...

) formed a cadre of hardcore regulars, inciting the crowd as a kind of anachronistic cheerleaders. Parents would bring their children. By the end of the Terror, the crowds had thinned drastically. Excessive repetition had staled even this most grisly of entertainments, and audiences grew bored.

Eventually, the National Convention had enough of the Terror, partially fearing for their own lives, and turned against Maximilien Robespierre. In July 1794, he was arrested and executed in the same fashion as those whom he had condemned. This arguably ended the Terror, as the French expressed their discontent with Robespierre's policy by guillotining him.

Retirement


The last public guillotining was of Eugen Weidmann
Eugen Weidmann
Eugen Weidmann was the last person to be publicly executed in France. Executions by guillotine in France continued in private until September 10, 1977, when Hamida Djandoubi was the last person to be executed....

, who was convicted of six murders. He was beheaded on 17 June 1939, outside the prison Saint-Pierre rue Georges Clemenceau 5 at Versailles, which is now the Palais de Justice. A number of problems with that execution (inappropriate behavior by spectators, incorrect assembly of the apparatus, and the fact it was secretly filmed) caused the authorities to conduct future executions in the prison courtyard.

The guillotine remained the official method of execution in France until the death penalty was abolished in 1981. The last guillotining in France was that of torture-murderer Hamida Djandoubi
Hamida Djandoubi
Hamida Djandoubi was the last person to be guillotined in France, at Baumettes Prison in Marseille. He was a Tunisian immigrant who had been convicted of the torture and murder of 21-year-old Elisabeth Bousquet, his former girlfriend, in Marseille...

 on September 10, 1977.

In the late 1840s the Tussaud brothers Joseph and Francis, gathering relics for Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds is a wax museum in London with branches in a number of major cities. It was founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud and was formerly known as "Madame Tussaud's", but the apostrophe is no longer used...

 wax museum visited the aged Henry-Clément Sanson, grandson of the executioner Charles Henri Sanson
Charles Henri Sanson
Charles Henri Sanson, full title Chevalier Charles-Henri Sanson de Longval was the Royal Executioner of France in the court of King Louis XVI and High Executioner of the First French Republic...

, where they secured parts, the knife and lunette, of one the original guillotines used during the Age of Terror. The executioner had "pawned his guillotine, and got into woeful trouble for alleged trafficking in municipial property".

Elsewhere


There were guillotine-like devices in countries other than France before 1792. A number of countries, especially in Europe, continued to employ this method of execution into modern times.

In England, the Halifax Gibbet
Halifax Gibbet
The Halifax Gibbet was an early guillotine, or decapitating machine, used in the town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. It was probably installed some time during the 16th century as an alternative to beheading by axe or sword...

 was an early guillotine, or decapitating machine, named after the town of its provenance. Its first recorded use was in 1286 and the last in 1650.

In Antwerp, Belgium, the last beheaded was Francis Kol. Convicted for robbery with murder, he received his punishment on 8 May 1856. During the period from 19 March 1798 until 12 March 1856, Antwerp counted 19 beheadings.

In Germany, where the guillotine is known in German as Fallbeil ("falling axe"), it was used in various German states from the 17th century onwards, becoming the usual method of execution in Napoleonic times in many parts of Germany. The guillotine and the firing squad
Execution by firing squad
Execution by firing squad, sometimes called fusillading , is a method of capital punishment, particularly common in the military and in times of war.Execution by shooting is a fairly old practice...

 were the legal methods of execution during the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 (1871–1918) and the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 (1919–1933).

The original German guillotines resembled the French Berger 1872 model but eventually evolved into more specialised machines largely built of metal with a much heavier blade enabling shorter uprights to be used. Accompanied by a more efficient blade recovery system and the eventual removal of the tilting board (or bascule) this allowed a quicker turn-around time between executions, the victim being decapitated either face up or down depending on how the executioner predicted they would react to the sight of the machine. Those deemed likely to struggle were backed up from behind a curtain to shield their view of the device.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 had a guillotine constructed and tested. He was impressed enough to order 20 more constructed and pressed into immediate service. Nazi records indicate that between 1933 and 1945, 16,500 people were executed in Germany and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 by this method. In Nazi Germany, beheading by guillotine was the usual method of executing convicted criminals—as opposed to political enemies, who were usually either hanged or shot. By the middle of the war, however, policy changed: the six members of the White Rose
White Rose
The White Rose was a non-violent/intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor...

 anti-Nazi resistance organisation were beheaded in 1943, as were a hundred or more conscientious objectors
Conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....

 from that date, including Franz Jägerstätter
Franz Jägerstätter
Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, O.F.S., was an Austrian conscientious objector during World War II. Jägerstätter was sentenced to death and executed...

, beheaded in Berlin on 9 August 1943. The last execution in what would later become West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 took place on 11 May 1949, when 24-year-old Berthold Wehmeyer was beheaded in Moabit
Moabit
Moabit is an inner city locality of Berlin. Since Berlin's 2001 administrative reform it belongs to the newly regrouped governmental borough of Mitte. Previously, from 1920 to 2001, it belonged to the borough of Tiergarten. Moabit's borders are defined by three watercourses, the Spree, the...

 prison, West Berlin
West Berlin
West Berlin was a political exclave that existed between 1949 and 1990. It comprised the western regions of Berlin, which were bordered by East Berlin and parts of East Germany. West Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors, which had been established in 1945...

, for murder and robbery. When West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 was formed in 1949, its constitution
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is the constitution of Germany. It was formally approved on 8 May 1949, and, with the signature of the Allies of World War II on 12 May, came into effect on 23 May, as the constitution of those states of West Germany that were initially included...

 prohibited the death penalty; East Germany abolished it in 1987, and Austria in 1968.

The Scottish Maiden (based on the Halifax Gibbet) was introduced to Edinburgh, by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton
James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton
James Douglas, jure uxoris 4th Earl of Morton was the last of the four regents of Scotland during the minority of King James VI. He was in some ways the most successful of the four, since he did manage to win the civil war which had been dragging on with the supporters of the exiled Mary, Queen of...

 in the 16th century. It continued in use until 1708. The scaffold itself is now housed in the National Museum of Scotland
National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, was formed in 2006 with the merger of the Museum of Scotland, with collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history, and the Royal Museum next door, with collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world...

.

In Sweden, where beheading was the mandatory method of execution, the guillotine was used only once, for the very last execution in the country, in 1910 at Långholmen Prison
Långholmen prison
Långholmen Prison, officially Långholmen Central Prison , was historically one of the biggest prison facilities in Sweden with more than 500 cells, located on the island of Långholmen in Stockholm. It was built 1874-1880 as the central prison of Sweden, and was in use until 1975...

, Stockholm.

In South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

, after the Diệm regime enacted the 10/59 Decree in 1959, mobile special military courts dispatched to the countryside to intimidate the rural peoples used guillotines belonging to the former French colonial power to carry out death sentences on the spot. One such guillotine is still on show at the War Remnants Museum
War Remnants Museum (Ho Chi Minh City)
The War Remnants Museum is a war museum at 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It primarily contains exhibits relating to the American phase of the Vietnam War....

 in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City , formerly named Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam...

.

Living heads


From its first use, there has been debate as to whether the guillotine always provided a swift death as Guillotin had hoped. With previous methods of execution intended to be painful, there was little concern about the suffering inflicted. As the guillotine was invented specifically to be humane, however, the issue was seriously considered. Furthermore, there is the possibility that the very swiftness of the guillotine only prolonged the victim's suffering. The blade cuts quickly enough so that there is relatively little impact on the brain case, and perhaps less likelihood of immediate unconsciousness than with a more violent decapitation, or long-drop hanging
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

.

Audiences to guillotinings told numerous stories of blinking eyelids, speaking, moving eyes, movement of the mouth, even an expression of "unequivocal indignation" on the face of the decapitated Charlotte Corday
Charlotte Corday
Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont , known to history as Charlotte Corday, was a figure of the French Revolution. In 1793, she was executed under the guillotine for the assassination of Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, who was in part responsible, through his role as a politician and...

 when her cheek was slapped.

The following report was written by a Dr. Beaurieux, who experimented with the head of a condemned prisoner by the name of Henri Languille, on 28 June 1905:
Anatomists and other scientists in several countries have tried to perform more definitive experiments on severed human heads as recently as 1956. Inevitably, the evidence is only anecdotal. What appears to be a head responding to the sound of its name, or to the pain of a pinprick, may be only random muscle twitching or automatic reflex action, with no awareness involved. At worst, it seems that the massive drop in cerebral blood pressure would cause a victim to lose consciousness in a few seconds.

See also


  • Henri Désiré Landru
    Henri Désiré Landru
    Henri Désiré Landru was a French serial killer and real-life "Bluebeard".-Early life:Landru was born in Paris. After leaving school, he spent four years in the French Army from 1887 – 1891. After he was discharged from service, he proceeded to have a sexual relationship with his cousin...

  • Rozalia Lubomirska
    Rozalia Lubomirska
    Rozalia Lubomirska was a Polish noblewoman, most noted for her death.Born Rozalia Chodkiewicz, she was the daughter of Jan Mikołaj Chodkiewicz and Maria Ludwika Rzewuska, who was a daughter of hetman and writer Wacław Rzewuski.She was married in 1787 to Prince Aleksander Lubomirski...

  • Eugen Weidmann
    Eugen Weidmann
    Eugen Weidmann was the last person to be publicly executed in France. Executions by guillotine in France continued in private until September 10, 1977, when Hamida Djandoubi was the last person to be executed....

  • Marcel Petiot
    Marcel Petiot
    Marcel André Henri Félix Petiot was a French doctor and serial killer. He was convicted of multiple murders after the discovery of the remains of 26 people in his home in Paris during World War II...

  • Bals des victimes
    Bals des victimes
    The Bals des victimes, or victims' balls, were balls that were said to have been put on by dancing societies after the Reign of Terror. To be admitted to these societies and balls, one had to be a near relative of someone who had been guillotined during the Terror...

  • Flying guillotine (weapon)
    Flying guillotine (weapon)
    The flying guillotine is a legendary Chinese weapon used in the Qing Dynasty in the Yongzheng era.-Etymology, history and description:This weapon supposedly hails from the time of the Yongzheng Emperor during the Qing Dynasty. There are stories and crude drawings detailing their appearance but no...

  • Plötzensee Prison
    Plötzensee Prison
    Plötzensee Prison was a Prussian institution built in Berlin between 1869 and 1879 near the lake Plötzensee, but in the neighbouring borough of Charlottenburg, on Hüttigpfad off Saatwinkler Damm. During Adolf Hitler's time in power from 1933 to 1945, more than 2,500 people were executed at...

  • Use of capital punishment by nation
  • Use of the Guillotine in Paris
    Use of the Guillotine in Paris
    The first use of the guillotine in Paris was on April 25, 1792. The condemned was Nicolas Jacques Pellerier. He was executed in front of what is now the city hall of Paris,...


Further reading

  • Caryle, Thomas. The French Revolution In Three Volumes, Volume 3: The Guillotine. Charles C. Little and James Brown (Little Brown). New York, NY, 1839. No ISBN. (First Edition. Many reprintings of this important history have been done during the last two centuries.)
  • Farrell, Simon, Sutherland, Jon. Madame Guillotine: The French Revolution. Armada Books, 1986. ISBN 0-233978-68-2.

External links