Thermidor Fun Fact Day Twenty-Six: The Humanity of the Guillotine

When Dr. Guillotin invented the machine which has since cloaked his name in infamy, he was actually trying to reform capital punishment along humanitarian lines, because by using a heavy blade suspended high above the platform, the machine was believed to produce a faster, more humane death than earlier techniques. Before the guillotine, which technique was not used by the French judiciary to execute criminals?
a. breaking their bodies on a huge wheel
b. chopping off their heads with repeated blows of an ax
c. drawing and quartering (i.e. arms and legs attached to horses which are then whipped to rip the body asunder)
d. poisoning their bodies with intravenous injections of chemicals

2 thoughts on “Thermidor Fun Fact Day Twenty-Six: The Humanity of the Guillotine

  1. The answer is actually both D and B. Though nobles were beheaded rather than hanged in prerevolutionary France, it was by a sword with the victim kneeling upright, NOT an axe and a block as in Tudor England. And the executioner was expected to accomplish this with one blow; if it took “repeated blows” then he’d bungled it severely. 🙂

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