Friday, November 20, 2009


Robert Francois Damiens

The execution of the failed French regicide Robert-Francois Damiens was the most prolonged recorded in history. On 2 March 1757 Damiens was stripped and chained down on a wooden scaffold, where his right hand was to be burned off. A fire was lit, but it kept going out, so one of the executioners improvised by gouging out lumps of flesh from various parts of Damiens' body with red-hot pincer while boiling oil and melted wax, resin and lead were poured into the wounds. Between his screams Damiens was heard to cry out, "My God, take pity on me" and "Jesus, help me!" The executioners then took long leather straps and wound them up the length of his arms and his legs. Each strap was attached to a rope, which in turn was affixed to four horses, which were then whipped, each pulling in a different direction. Damiens was a very muscular man and the horses selected to tear him limb from limb were not quite up to the task. For more than an hour the horses were urged on while Damiens screamed in agony. As dusk fell, an attending surgeon suggested that they might want to speed things up by cutting Damiens' sinews, and the executioners began hacking at this joints with knives. The horses were again whipped and after several pulls, ripped one arm and a leg from Damiens' body. As the second arm was pulled out, Damiens' lower jaw was seen to move, as though to speak. He died at 10.30 pm, five-and-a-half hours after the execution had started.

From The Giant Bathroom Reader

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