Awaken to the Guillotine!

Bonjour my friends,

Many people including Parisians, are not aware that here at ‘Place de la Concorde’ was the site of the Guillotine during the French Revolution.

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In the shadow of today’s Hotel de Crillon – one of the most expensive and most luxurious hotels in Paris, was once the site that locals referred to as ‘Place de la Revolution’.

Set in a blood stained field and now dark cobblestones, it was around 1794 during the ‘Reign of Terror’ that Paris mobs, thirsty for execution and bloodshed, stood in anticipation; For when the bell was rung, (a signal to release the guillotine’s handle) and the drums would stop beating, crowds stood motionless to witness the drop of a large single angled blade which lopped off the heads of Royalty and commoner alike. It’s been recorded that over 2500 people died by the dreaded guillotine just in Paris alone, including Louis XVI, his wife Maria Antoinette, Madame du Barry-mistress of Louis XV and many more, not to mention 92 year old Mary Anne Duay and the youngest victim who was merely 14.

The sound of the blade piercing soft flesh and hitting the bloody splintered wood underneath bought momentary silence (no doubt in the case of their King), then cries of “Vive la Republique!” And the crowds  would burst forward to the dripping head held high on a pole, to dip their wiry fingers and handkerchiefs into the gushing blood of a warm, decapitated head, particularly one which was blue blooded. Sometimes the mouth and eyes gave into opening and closing while the next cage of quivering victims rattled down Rue St Honore (today, the site of luxury chocolate shops) -prized victims like white circus tigers nearing extinction, from the Conciergerie Prison.

My french awakening to guillotines went haywire when I learnt that the last death by guillotine was in 1977!  The same year that Apple released its first computer with keyboard, the same year that Elvis Presley died, the same year that Barbie Road Trip with Motor Home goes into toyshops.

Paris….always raw.

AuRevoir,

Therese Waddell

copyright@2014 Therese Waddell

 

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