This Day in History: The Guillotine Falls Silent (9/10/21)

This Day in History: The Guillotine Falls Silent (9/10/21)

A.J. Hargett, Feature-Writer

On this day in 1977 marks the last day in which the infamous guillotine was used in the execution of a convicted criminal in the country of France. On February 25th 1977 a  man named Hamida Djandoubi, a Tunisian immigrant to France was sentenced to death after being found guilty for charges of rape, torture, and murder. He was held in Baumettes Prison, Marseille until his execution.

The guillotine was first introduced in France in 1792 although it was not the first invention of it’s kind similar devices like the guillotine were used in various countries in Europe but exclusively for people of noble birth. Designed in 1789 by a French Surgeon Antoine Louis the guillotine quickly became the main tool of which executions were done, after French politician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin helped push a law to the National Assembly in Paris that required all executions to be carried out by guillotine. This was done so the process would be as “painless” as possible and to deny the right of a quick death exclusively to nobles. 

The Guillotine is most famous for its role in the Reign of Terror during the French revolution where as many as 17,000 people were beheaded, including French King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette. One of the main people behind these beheadings, Maximillian Robspierre eventually met his end to the contraption to which he condemned so many lives to end by. The guillotine became an important symbol that represented the French Revolution and it’s desire for equality of justice.

The guillotine continued its service to the French after the revolution albeit not at the same rate. Executions were still available to be publicly attended until 1939 where the last public execution by guillotine took place. After this the guillotine was starting to find its way out of being used as a tool of administering justice as executions using the device became less common. September 10th 1977 marks the last day the guillotine was used to execute a prisoner shortly after this day in 1981 the new French president  François Mitterrand abolished the practice of capital punishment. Therefore today marks the 44th anniversary since the guillotine fell silent.