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 Morbid Curiosities 
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Post Morbid Curiosities
I do have a tendency to want the morbid details. It's that fascination with "Man's inhumanity to Man". So, I did a very little bit of reading, on the internet, on Sanson - the Executioner. Some things I already knew, such as this was a hereditary job, passed from father to son. I read that Charles- Henri Sanson (1739-1806) was the Revolutionary Executioner - it was he who executed the King. But it was his son who executed the Queen.
One source says he at first refused to execute the King and that his home was stormed as a result of this. In the mayhem, his wife was shot and killed.
He supposedly publicly executed around 3000 people during the Revolution, and had up to six assistants on the scaffold. One of his relatives was killed when he slipped in the blood as he was holding up a head to the crowd, and fell off the scaffold. (Karma?)

Anyone done any reading or know of any books to recommend on the Sanson family?


Sun Mar 28, 2010 1:11 am
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
Barbara Levy's Legacy of death
http://www.amazon.com/Legacy-death-Barbara-Levy/dp/013529990X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269827270&sr=8-1

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Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:49 am
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
I live very close by the Montmartre cemetery in Paris, one of Paris' very old cemeteries, very atmospheric and restful in the Spring when the trees are newly in leaf, there is blossom everywhere and the numerous cats wind their way in and out of the old and decourously ornate tombs, or sun themselves luxuriantly on the stone slabs....I printed off the long list of famous persons buried there (Stendhal, Zola, Nijinski, Heine, Greuze, Dumas, Offenbach, Degas....etc) in order to prepare a pleasant wander amongst the illustrious dead. Two names however particularly caught my attention: Charles and Henri Sanson! I shall seek out the tomb of the last man to whom the Queen spoke and no doubt the last man to have laid his hand upon her on this earth. His tomb can be no more than 500m from my flat as the crow flies.

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Mon Mar 29, 2010 7:46 am
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
Thanks Jim - I have ordered your book suggestion - Have you read this book? I am interested in what you thought of it.....

Baron, a chill ran up my spine as I read your post. The cemetaries of Paris are very beautiful - it must have been a little startling to come across the Sanson graves!


Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:13 pm
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
Well Lilly I haven't actually found them yet. I'm waiting for a warm Spring day first when the cats come out as if by magic!I'm sure it will be quite a moment to stand before the man who executed our Queen, and so many others! Death was his profession and his inevitable fate.

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Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:32 pm
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
The Sanson graves can be seen here:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6754

Lilly wrote:
Thanks Jim - I have ordered your book suggestion - Have you read this book? I am interested in what you thought of it.....

I own it. It's well done and takes a long tour across the family's lore. She also includes a breakdown of the types of people executed during the Revolution.

It's not established if the family was Italian (Sansone) or Picard (there's a lot of famous Sansons, including the geographer, from Abbeville). If the latter, their crest was one that showed broken bells - that is, "without sound" (sans son). (Such coats-of-arms were called "talking arms".)

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Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:18 pm
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
My copy of "Legacy of Death" arrived today. Jim, I am already intrigued and have only read the first few pages! I think this is going to be very chilling and informative - just what I was looking for - Thanks again!


Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:17 am
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Post Sanson Executioner of King Louis XVI
According to Simon Schama's book "Citizens a Chronicle of the French Revolution", Charles Henry Sanson who executed King Louis XVI met Louix XVIII who was the brother of Louis XVI many years after the event. Does anyone have any more information about the meeting. Charles Sanson executed the King but did not participate in any more executions afterwards. From other readings I have been able to ascertain that he visited a non juring priest the night of the execution, I suppose, to give confession. To date I have downloaded over 20 free online books about the subject of the King and Queen and their traumas and it will take many months to read them. One of them was an interview of Rosalie Lamorliere who was a cook in the conciergierie and helped Marie Antoinette in her final hours. Rosalie was reticent about giving the interview but it made very interesting reading. If anyone can point towards this interview between the Kings brother and his executioner I would be most grateful.


Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:19 pm
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Post Re: Sanson Executioner of King Louis XVI
Hi Maggie! Under the Tete-a-tete thread there is a topic I just started about Sanson called "Morbid Curiousities" - in it a book was recommended to me and I am have just started reading it - It's a very good book thus far and may hold some information for you too.


Wed Apr 07, 2010 8:52 pm
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Post Re: Sanson Executioner of King Louis XVI
Lilly wrote:
Hi Maggie! Under the Tete-a-tete thread there is a topic I just started about Sanson called "Morbid Curiousities" - in it a book was recommended to me and I am have just started reading it - It's a very good book thus far and may hold some information for you too.

Thank you very much Lilly I will now go onto Amazon and see if I can get this book. Last week I bought a 3 volume memoire by Bertrand de Moleville about the last years of Louis XVI, he was a minister during the end of the Kings life. It was published in 1797 and the thrill of touching these books is beyond imagination. The pages are very thick as paper was in those days. I only wear gloves to turn the pages and heavy reading is done through an online version I managed to download. They were not very expensive either as one would expect to pay for books 213 years old. My imagination runs riots wondering who read them over 200 years ago.


Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:18 pm
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
I read a book a few years ago called Family of Death about the Sanson family. It was very disturbing in that the victims of death had to undergo horrific torture before actually being killed. The wheel for example was a terrible death whereby the victims were spreadeagled onto a wheel and beaten before finally succumbing to death. From readings Charles Henri Sanson who executed King Louis XVi did not participate in any more killings from that date and in fact may have visited a priest that same night to talk about what he had been forced to do and probably confess to the crime he believed he committed.


Sat Apr 10, 2010 4:49 pm
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
Maggie wrote:
I read a book a few years ago called Family of Death about the Sanson family. It was very disturbing in that the victims of death had to undergo horrific torture before actually being killed. The wheel for example was a terrible death whereby the victims were spreadeagled onto a wheel and beaten before finally succumbing to death. From readings Charles Henri Sanson who executed King Louis XVi did not participate in any more killings from that date and in fact may have visited a priest that same night to talk about what he had been forced to do and probably confess to the crime he believed he committed.


This "Legacy of Death" was quite a good book. Yes, some of the victims did have to face horrible tortures before they were finally killed - their offence sometimes calling for things such as being broke on the wheel or being hanged, then drawn and quartered.
The first Sanson married the daughter of an Executioner and this is where the Sanson line comes from.
Barbara Levy says that prejudice had always existed toward executioners - Daughters of executioners were not allowed to marry men outside the profession (YIKES!) If the executioner had a marriagable daughter it was supposed to be posted on his door "protecting the young men of the town from an encounter, much less an involvment, with so tainted a blood line." Sometimes they had to live in isolated places, and in some communities had to paint their houses red. Merchants would sometimes refuse to sell to executioners, and all sorts of other problems befell the families.
The Executioner did have the right to all clothing and personal effects that a victim had on them when executed - (a perk of the job!) There were some other benefits as well. It seems as if some of this changed a little with the later Sansons.

Maggie wrote:
According to Simon Schama's book "Citizens a Chronicle of the French Revolution", Charles Henry Sanson who executed King Louis XVI met Louix XVIII who was the brother of Louis XVI many years after the event

Unfortunately, Levy says nothing of this meeting, although she does mention a meeting with Napoleon in 1806.

Also, Charles-Henri Sanson did execute Louis XVI and his son executed Marie Antoinette. That other info I read about his wife being shot - this book does not even mention it and accounts for this woman, so I think that was bad information I got online. (Surprise, surprise!)
While being the official Executioner, Charles-Henri still had to be phsically present for executions whether he conducted them or not. After the King, he did have his son Henri take over for him for the most part. He still did assist on occasion. The family annals record Charles-Henri as saying "If you knew what I suffered , the day of the King's death, you wouldn't be a party to this second murder" (Said to his son Henri regarding Marie Antoinette's death sentence).
The writer Honore Balzac's sister recorded a meeting Balzac had with Sanson, and says of Sansaon - "The death of Louis XVI had left him filled with the terror and remorse of a criminal. (Sanson was a royalist) On the morning following the execution, he had a mass said for the King, probably the only expiatory mass said in Paris on that day....."


Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:44 pm
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
Maggie wrote:
According to Simon Schama's book "Citizens a Chronicle of the French Revolution", Charles Henry Sanson who executed King Louis XVI met Louix XVIII who was the brother of Louis XVI many years after the event. Does anyone have any more information about the meeting.



Quite accidently I came across a reference to this meeting - "Many years afterward, Sanson the executioner, related to Louis XVIII that whilst the King was mounting the steps of the scaffold he heard the Abbe' Edgeworth saying a few words to the King of which he could only distinguish: 'Montez au ciel!' Webster - Louis XVI and MA during the Revolution - pg.524


Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:43 pm
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
Quote:
According to Simon Schama's book "Citizens a Chronicle of the French Revolution", Charles Henry Sanson who executed King Louis XVI met Louix XVIII who was the brother of Louis XVI many years after the event.

Awkward....

Quote:
Louis XVIII., uninfluenced by his pious brother and devout, revengeful niece, doubtless would have desired no further ceremony. None gave him credit for any deep feeling in the matter; indeed, it was well known that he had none. He had done his best to add to the troubles of poor, weak Louis XVI., and to asperse the character of his wife, and amongst his partisans none had sought to justify him.

Yet, with a view of imparting some sort of reality to this mock royal funeral, the king sent for the executioner Sanson, who was conducted into the sovereign's presence with every appearance of mystery, though care was taken that all in the palace should know who was his visitor. Sanson was closely questioned respecting the spot where the head and body of the king were thrown.

The court of the Tuileries, from the restoration to the flight of ..., Volume 1
By Lady Catherine Charlotte Jackson
http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA161& ... on&f=false

But then according to this writer (not very dependable on some other points), Louis also gave a pension to.... Robespierre's sister.
Ma visite à Henri Sanson, bourreau de Paris
By Henri E. Marquand
http://books.google.com/books?id=2kcCAA ... &q&f=false

Maggie wrote:
I read a book a few years ago called Family of Death about the Sanson family. It was very disturbing in that the victims of death had to undergo horrific torture before actually being killed. The wheel for example was a terrible death whereby the victims were spreadeagled onto a wheel and beaten before finally succumbing to death.


To clarify just a bit here:

The torture before the execution was a separate affair, typically involving having planks tied to the shins and wedges hammered into them ('the boots') or having water forced into your stomach.

Breaking on the wheel was meant to be painful, but not to be torture per se (in practice, the person was often discreetly strangled before the actual breaking or soon into it). In France, it was not on an actual wheel (as I believe it was in England), but on a St. Andrew's cross with hollows below the limbs so that they would break there when struck with an iron bar. After key points on the body were broken, the person was tied to the rim of a wheel and left to suffer for an hour or so. In most (not all cases), they would then be strangled if they were not dead yet. Drawing and quartering was extremely rare - I believe in the 18th century it was only done in the case of Damiens, who had tried to stab the King. He was also tortured in a number of other ways - while spectators, many of whom had paid for their spots, watched and lunched. (If Casanova is to be believed here, one otherwise prudish woman allowed a young man to lift up the back of her dress and.... - well, it IS Casanova - while watching all this.)

Just a few people were burnt at the stake, mainly for sodomy (though with murder, pimping, etc. added in).

Most executions were by hanging for commoners and beheading for nobles. The guillotine was actually supposed to be not only more merciful, but more democratic, since everyone now got to be beheaded. :)

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Thu Apr 22, 2010 8:50 pm
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Post Re: Morbid Curiosities
Jim Cheval wrote:

If Casanova is to be believed here, one otherwise prudish woman allowed a young man to lift up the back of her dress and.... - well, it IS Casanova - while watching all this.)

Yes I read that scene described by Casanova in his mémoires. I found the excitement that the protagonists obviously felt very sick, considering they were watching a harrowing execution. I think it was his manservant that did the deed, and from my understanding of his description it was, sorry to be so blunt, anal. They had specially hired the room at considerable cost in one of the buildings overlooking the Place de Grève.

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Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:52 pm
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