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AMAZING TRUE STORIES OF FEMALE EXECUTIONS
The sound of the blade’s impact had scarcely ceased reverberating
around the square before wild cheers, intermingled with cries
of ‘Vive la République!’ broke from the multitude of spectators,
the roar increasing as one of the executioners complied with
tradition by lifting the severed head from the basket into which
it had fallen, holding it high for all to see. The gory trophy was
then placed in the nearby coffin together with the body and
carried to the cemetery of La Madeleine. There all the Queen’s
clothing was removed and taken away for disposal; her remains
were covered with quicklime, the coffin then being buried next
to that of her husband.
Following Marie Antoinette’s execution, revolutionary Jacques Hebert
exultantly wrote: ‘All of you who have been oppressed by our former tyrants,
you who mourn a father, a son, or a husband who has died for the Republic,
take comfort, for you are avenged. I saw the head of the female fall into the
sack. I could describe to you the satisfaction of the Sans-Culottes [his
fellow agitators] when the rich tigress drove across Paris in the carriage
with thirty-six doors [referring to the intervals between the staves that
formed the sides of the tumbril]. She was not drawn by her beautiful
white horses with their fine feathers and their grand harness, but a couple
of nags were harnessed to Master Sanson’s barouche [carriage] and
apparently they were so glad to contribute to the deliverance of the Republic
that they seemed anxious to gallop in order to reach the fatal spot more
quickly. The jade, however, remained bold and insolent to the end. But
her legs failed her as she got upon the see-saw [the bascule] to play hot
cockles [the choking sound made by a victim as the lunette pressed their
head down], in the fear, no doubt, of finding a more terrible punishment
before her, after death, than the one she was about to endure. Her accursed
head was at last separated from her crane-like neck, and the air was filled
with cheers of victory for the Revolution!’
It may, perhaps, give readers some satisfaction to know that less than
six months later, Hebert himself, his legs failing him, had to be lifted out
of the tumbril, half-fainting with horror at the fate awaiting him; bound
to the bascule, he too cried hot cockles before the blade descended!
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