A Beautiful Death | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: A Beautiful Death

May 31, 2008

A Beautiful Death

"In cases where the law shall pronounce the death penalty against a defendant, the form of execution shall be the same, whatever the nature of the crime of which he has been convicted. The criminal shall be decapitated with a simple mechanical device." DR. IGNACE GUILLOTIN

The Machine
Guillotin wanted a machine that could be repeatedly used and was quick and painless means for death. He was a physician-philanthropist, and his solution was a machine built with two fourteen foot planks which held a blade by a pulley system. The blade, which use to be rounded on the edge, was changed to a 45 degree angle, and was guided down the cross beams by greased grooves. The machine was originally built on a platform twenty four steps high, making it perfectly viewable for crowds below.
"Although similar devices had existed for hundreds of years, none was built with the attention and care of the French machine."
Scale Model of French 1790 Guillotine
In 1791 a law was passed so that everyone condemned to death would be executed by the Guillotine. But it was not known as the guillotine until the 19th century. At the time it was called la louizette and le louison sometimes la veuve, the widow.
"The worst of the ordeal for the condemned man will be his own fear of death, a fear more painful to him than the stroke which deprives him of life."
CHARLES-LOUIS SANSON official executioner of French Revolution

Here we have a Tricoteuse of 1790. These ladies, known as Knitting Women, during the Terror were seen at the executions by the guillotine, as often as some ladies shop or watch Maurry. There attendance has been described as ghoulish.


  1. How long was the Guilloutine(sp?) used?

  2. Right up until the 1930's I believe! it was so 'humane' !