Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reflections on the Guillotine

Think "guillotine" and an image of Marie Antoinette comes to mind, all poofy haired and silk gowned, maybe wielding a dessert fork (though she never really said, "Let them eat cake"). Marie lost her head to the timbers of justice 219 years ago today.

You can see the guillotine that decapitated her in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London. (Remember, Tussaud got her start making wax death masks for victims of the French Revolution, including Marie Antoinette.)  Other places for guillotine tourism include:

*  Paris, at Rue de la Roquette and Rue de la Croix Faubin (near the 11th arr) - Indents in the street mark where the guillotine stood outside the Prison de la Roquette, where 69 beheadings took place. Atlas Obscura has more here.

*  St-Pierre, off the coast of Newfoundland in eastern Canada - The guillotine sliced just once in North America, and it was on this French island-territory. The blade remains in the L'Arche Museum. Its bloody backstory is here.

Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin would surely be appalled to know the device that bears his name ended up with such a nefarious reputation; he meant for it to be a humane way to die. The last guillotine dropped in 1977.

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