Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

In 18th century France, most sons took up their fathers' trades.

This was also true of executioners. The Sanson family played a central role in the lives (and deaths) of most of the main figures of the French Revolution. They had been the state executioners since 1688, when Louis XIV appointed Charles Sanson to be the royal executioner. Charles-Henri Sanson, here holding the head of Louis XVI, was the main executioner during the French Revolution and was extremely private. Little is known of his personal life, though his manner was professional and apparently efficient.

Oddly, though the state prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville was sent to the guillotine during the Thermidorian reaction (i.e. the conservative reaction to the Terror), the Sansons were perfectly safe and, in fact, stayed the offical executioners of France well into the 19th century.

The last Sanson to serve as state executioner was dismissed in 1847, after he pawned the state guillotine to pay a debt.


  1. "...after he pawned the state guillotine to pay a debt"

    XD That's just brilliant!

  2. Sorry, double post, but I wanted to let you know that you've been nominated for a Excessively Diverting Blog Award. Details can found in my URL.
    Keep up the great work!