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French Revolution
Capital Punishment

Did the guillotine hurt?


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April 06, 2016 7:34PM

The guillotine was designed as a merciful method of execution. Compared other methods ( the garrote which slowly broke your neck, being beheaded with axes or swords which sometimes took several whacks, or hung which was skill dependent to break the neck quickly or leave you strangling) it probably was.

The drama of being given a ride to the site of execution in a open cart, having to be walked up the stairs, positioned in the machine and listening to the blade release and fall could have been traumatic, but not physically painful. The actual strike would be too quick to notice.

There were stories of heads mouthing words after removal. The loss of blood pressure from severed rates probably guaranteed immediate unconsciousness so even if the head were functioning for a brief period the owner would not be aware of it.