Anecdotes around the guillotine (I)

@topffer (34149)
France
May 31, 2016 9:33am CST
I commented in a discussion started by @Daljinder telling, among other interesting facts that "France was still using the guillotine when "Star Wars" came out" that I saw a few guillotines in the 1980's still stocked in central prisons of French départements when I was studying criminal law. Initially the guillotines were under the care of the public executioner of each French département. How they became placed under the custody of the director of the central jail ? In the 1840's the public executioner in Paris was Clément-Henri Sanson, who succeeded to his father Charles Sanson, died in August 1840. Charles Sanson had himself succeeded to his father Charles-Henri Sanson, who had been the public executioner of king Louis XVI in 1793. A public executioner had a bonus for each head cut, and, after the Revolution, a wealthy period for an executioner, the Sanson were not poor. Clément-Henri Sanson was living in a small private mansion in a district full of theaters and other houses of pleasure, and was of questionable morality. Let's say that he was not liking only good restaurants, but also gambling games and lose women. He squandered quickly the heritage of his father and was finally arrested for debts, at a time where you could go to jail for debts. His creditors accepted to let him free if he was pawning his guillotine, what he did. When, in 1847, he received the order to do a capital execution, he had to confess that he had not anymore his working tool. The ministry of Justice paid the debts of Sanson to recover the guillotine and revoked him after the execution. You should think that a good worker needs to have his tools near him. The state decided otherwise, and the guillotines of the executioners were placed in the central jail of each département. I guess that they are still there, even if we have no more death penalty in France since 1981.
This one is a follow up post to my previous one where we talked about re-thinking and re-analyzing the timelines of the existence of early civilizations. (Indus...
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8 responses
@vandana7 (64905)
• India
1 Jun 16
Extremely interesting stuff. Nice that I checked on you this morning. :)
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@topffer (34149)
• France
1 Jun 16
Then do not miss next episode. I will speak of the inventor, Guillotin. I worked in the city where he was born, and I have some funny anecdotes about him.
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@vandana7 (64905)
• India
1 Jun 16
@topffer .. Definitely I will be around. Anything for fun..
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@Susan2015 (20579)
• United States
1 Jun 16
I really don't even like to see pictures of those.
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@topffer (34149)
• France
1 Jun 16
The ones I saw in the 1980s were not very impressing, because they were disassembled. The guillotine was the ancestor of these furniture that you buy in kits and assemble yourself.
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@jaboUK (53935)
• United Kingdom
31 May 16
Thanks for all this interesting information. I do recall that the guillotine was used in the 70s.
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@topffer (34149)
• France
31 May 16
It has been rarely used in the 70s, so rarely that the last public executioner was authorized to have a second job, as he was not earning enough with capital executions. He was working in a print shop.
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@jstory07 (67084)
• Roseburg, Oregon
1 Jun 16
That is very interesting about the guillotines.
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@topffer (34149)
• France
1 Jun 16
Thank you. Next one will be about the inventor of the guillotine, which was not a bad person at all.
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@marguicha (94653)
• Chile
31 May 16
A very interesting post! Did they use the guillotine in France to execute until 1981?
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@topffer (34149)
• France
31 May 16
Yes, but executions were no more public since 1939 (the last public execution was filmed in June 1939). And the last execution in France with the guillotine was in 1977.
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@just4him (117004)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
6 Jun 16
Very interesting. I didn't know it was under a family when the executions started.
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@topffer (34149)
• France
6 Jun 16
The Sanson were executioners for Paris since the 17th Century. They were public servants, but there was not a lot of people wanting to become an executioner. They were a kind of pariah, although they were earning well their living, and many members of this family have been executioners in other French cities, 7 or 8 at the beginning of the 19th C. The one who executed king Louis XVI had been appointed by him.
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@just4him (117004)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
6 Jun 16
@topffer Did he also behead Queen Marie Antoinette?
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@topffer (34149)
• France
6 Jun 16
@just4him Yes, and she accidentally walked on one of his foot. Her last words have been "Sorry, Sir, I did not do it on purpose."
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@Daljinder (21544)
• India
4 Jun 16
That is an interesting information. One thing I didn't understand though. Why was it a big deal for Sanson to lose his guillotine? Was there some specific meaning behind that?
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@topffer (34149)
• France
4 Jun 16
There are several reasons : 1) The state was the owner of the guillotines, but they were under the care of public executioners, and Sanson should not have pawned something which was not pertaining to him. 2) With no guillotine, he could not do his job. Executions were public at this time, imagine if the public had known that the guillotine was missing in Paris. The state paid quickly his debts to recover his working tool.
@thelme55 (14571)
• Germany
31 May 16
This is a very interesting history education for me. Thanks for sharing this. I did not know that the guillotine was still used in 1977.
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