October 16, 1793
Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, is guillotined at the height of the French Revolution.
Marie Antoinette's execution
At 12:15 pm, two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday, she was executed at the Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde). Her last words were "Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it", to Henri Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on after climbing the scaffold. Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine cemetery, rue d'Anjou, (which was closed the following year).
April 25, 1792Highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier becomes the first person executed by guillotine.
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope, and the condemned then places his or her head beneath it. The blade then falls rapidly, severing the head from the body. The device is noted for long being the main method of execution in France and, more particularly, for its use during the French Revolution, when it "became a part of popular culture, celebrated as the people's avenger by supporters of the Revolution and vilified as the pre-eminent symbol of the Reign of Terror by opponents." In spite of being primarily associated with the French Revolution, the guillotine continued to be used long after the French Revolution in several countries, including France, where it was the sole method of execution until the abolition of capital punishment in 1841.