Guillotine – a part of the revolutionary history of France

Each of us associates France and Paris with various historical events or sights which we had to face. We have already told many stories of the French capital, its architecture and remarkable and interesting places which should be visited, making a tour to Paris. We would like to devote this material to what is connected with history of Paris at a given time of its existence, and it is the well-known guillotine which has become a symbol of Great French revolution.

This device has primarily been developed with not so awful intentions with which it was used and became a symbol of the terrible bloody terror which has covered France during revolutionary times.

The first guillotine which glory was brought by France has not been created in this country in the eighteenth century. If to agree with some historians in the eleventh century there was a certain Halifax Gibbet, having some similarity to the French guillotine, and it was applied to execution of criminals. Certainly, the design was more primitive, but, nevertheless, the fact of existence of such equipment is proved documentary.

In some centuries a “guillotine” has appeared in Ireland where local authorities in the beginning of the fourteenth century have started to use the equipment which on ancient images bears a strong resemblance to the guillotines used in France for execution. Thus to be executed by means of such a device, it was necessary to be the representative of notable estate or simply to be a rich person. Life deprivation through beheading at that time was considered more human and painless in Ireland.

As to France before the Great revolution there were many ways to deprive the criminal of life. The wheel, burning at the stake, gibbets — all it was rather widespread phenomenon in medieval Europe. Notable criminals went to a better world by means of a sword or an axe by which heads were chopped off. Executions were preceded by cruel tortures.

But, the Enlightenment epoch has begun, and many thinkers of that time have been revolted by such cruelty in relation to criminals. Here appeared the well-known nowadays Doctor Joseph-Ignace Guillotin also adhering to such views.

1789 was marked by the beginning of the revolution, and at the same time by change of life of the French society in all its spheres. Serious changes have quickly been made to legislative base of France mister Guillotin who has given a breadboard model of a stone guillotine took active participation in it. Two years later the guillotine became the unique tool for carrying out of death sentences. The inventor insisted on that execution has been hidden from extraneous eyes; however representatives of the new power have decided that executions should be carried out publicly.

Developers of the first guillotine were doctor-surgeon Antoine Luis and an engineer from Germany Tobias Schmidt. The first tests were made on animals and human corpses, and only after that the first executions by means of this installation have begun.  The first execution-by-guillotine was performed on highwayman Nicolas Jacques Pelletier on April 25, 1792. Eventually the guillotine design periodically underwent some completions and perfection, but this equipment became the first in own way.

After execution on one of the Parisian squares guillotine became the execution tool in the territory of all France and has received names “Louison” and “Louisetta”, and in some decades – a word habitual nowadays – “Guillotin”.

Unfortunately, this invention could become the tool in hands of executioners not only for criminals, but also representatives of an old political system which have gone to a better world through the guillotine. Today it is already history, and we should concern guillotine as the well-known historical character who anyway completely submitted to will of people.