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Full text of "Memoirs of the Sansons, from private notes and documents, 1688-1847 / edited by Henry Sanson"

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SANSON'S MEMOIRS. 



VOL. I. 



» 



LONDON : PRINTED BV 

SfOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE 

AND PARLIAMENT STREET 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS 

[1688-184;.] 

EDITED BY 

HENRY SANSON, 

LATH EXECUTIONER OF THE COURT OF Ji:STICR OF PARIS. 

/JV TWO VOLUMES— VOL. L 




IToitbon : 
CHATTO AND WINDUS, PICCADILLY. 

1876. 






FE3 61976 



TRANSLATORS PREFACE, 

In presenting this English version of the condensed 
memoirs of Henry Sanson and his family, a few pre- 
fatory remarks from the Translator are necessary. 

Several years have now passed since this work was 
issued in French in Paris. Its appearance excited far 
more curiosity than the records of an ordinary execu- 
tioner could have commanded. In fact the author was 
a personage in his own way. He was the lineal descend- 
ant of a race of headsmen through whose hands every 
State victim, as well as every common criminal, had passed 
during two centuries. They had exercised their functions 
for nearly two hundred years. They had hung, beheaded, 
quartered, and tortured from father to son without inter- 
ruption, and the social position of the first of the race, 
previous to the assumption of the executioner's office, 
had placed his descendants on a somewhat higher level 
than the men belonging to the bloody profession. It was 
thought by all, that the last of the Sansons could not but 
have interesting things to relate. It is for the readers 



vi TRANSLATORS PREFACE. 

of the present version to decide whether this idea was 
justified. 

Howbeit, these memoirs are chiefly conspicuous for 
their historical interest. This alone would entitle them 
to a peculiar place. They certainly cannot be classed in 
the literature of horrors, and the Translator may be per- 
mitted to say that, had his opinion been different, he 
would not have put his pen at the service of such work. 
A certain amount of morbidness is obviously inseparable 
from a book of such a kind ; but this, which the Trans- 
lator has endeavoured to palliate, is redeemed by the 
constant link which unites the dark tales Sanson has to 
unfold with historical dramas. 

The Translator has no sympathy for Sanson or his 
book, and he claims none for him. He may even say, 
without prejudicing these memoirs, that he credits 
neither the Executioner's emphatic and sentimental ex- 
pressions of hatred for the principle he represents, nor the 
manifold virtues Sanson ascribes to his ancestors. He 
finds, as everybody must do, difificulty in believing that 
an individual need cut heads when he is compelled to 
do so neither by necessity nor by law, and Sanson's 
lamentations have left him unshaken in his belief. 

But authenticity may justly be claimed for these 
memoirs. After proper research and inquiry, the 
Translator has no reason to doubt it. Sanson was not 
a profound scholar, but he knew enough to hold a pen 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE. vii 

and note his impressions in the crude style in which the ' 
French version is indited. That the Executioner may 
have received assistance is possible, though the uncouth- 
ness of his work argues against the theory ; that the 
authorship is genuine, at least in spirit, has been proved 
by Sanson himself, who on several occasions publicly 
contradicted reports that the memoirs published under 
his name were fictitious. Whatever opinions may be 
entertained of them, they are inspired, and in all proba- 
bility written, by no other than the man who bore the 
historical name of Sanson. 

It only remains for the Translator to state that 
wherever the ' Recollections' seemed to him to wander 
from the special object they have in view, he has not 
scrupled to abridge them. 



INTRODUCTION, 

On March i8, 1847, I returned to my residence from 
one of the long walks of which I have always been 
fond. I had but just crossed the threshold when the 
porter gave me a letter. 

I immediately recognised the large envelope and 
seal of which the sight had even sent a thrill through 
my frame. I took the ominous message with a trem- 
bling hand, and expecting that it contained one of those 
sinister orders I was bound to obey, I entered my house 
and went to my study, where I broke the fatal seal. 

It was My Dismissal ! 

A strange and indefinable sentiment took possession of 
me. I raised my eyes to the portraits of my ancestors ; 
I scanned all those dark, thoughtful faces, whereon was 
depicted the very despair which had hitherto haunted 
me. I looked at my grandfather, dressed in a shooting 
costume, leaning on his gun and stroking his dog — per- 
haps the only friend he had. I looked at my father, 



X INTRODUCTION. 

his hat in his hand, and clad in the sable garb he had 
ever worn. It seemed to me that I was informing all 
these dumb witnesses that there was an end of the curse 
which had weighed on their race. Then, ringing the 
bell, I asked for a basin and water; and alone with 
God who sees in our hearts I solemnly laved those 
hands which the blood of my brethren was henceforth 
never to soil. 

I then repaired to my mother's apartment. I can 
still see her in her velvet armchair, from which the poor 
old woman seldom rose. I placed on her lap the message 
from the Minister of Justice. She read it, and turning 
towards me her kindly eyes : 

* Blessed be this day, my son ! ' she said. *■ It frees 
you from the inheritance of your fathers.' 

And as I remained speechless with such emotion as 
I could not control, she added : 

' It must have come to this sooner or later. You 
are the last of your race. Heaven has only given you 
daughters ; I was always thankful for it.' 

On the following day eighteen competitors were 
postulating for my bloody functions ; there was no 
difficulty in finding a substitute. 

As for myself I had but one course to follow. I 
hastened to sell my ancient residence, full of sad re- 
collections, wherein three out of seven generations had 
lived under opprobrium and ignominy. My horses, my 



INTRODUCTION. xi 

carriage — which bore as a coat of arms a cracked bell — 
I also got rid of. In short, I gave up all that could 
remind me of the past ; and then, shaking the dust from 
my feet, I bade an eternal farewell to the hereditary- 
abode in which, as my ancestors, I had never tasted 
peace in day and repose in night. 

But for the advanced age and the infirmities of my 
mother, I should have gone to the New World. It was 
my chief wish to place the Ocean between me and the 
country where I had fulfilled such dismal functions. 
America, with its new manners, its virgin forests, its 
immense rivers, of which I had read in the works 
of Chateaubriand and Fenimore Cooper, was the land I 
longed to see. It seemed to me that by renouncing 
a name that had acquired such unwelcome celebrity, 
I could turn a new leaf of the book of life on setting 
foot on American soil. But I was bound by duty to 
abide in Paris. My aged mother would have insisted 
on accompanying me, and her strength must have 
been unequal to the fatigues of a sea voyage. I there- 
fore remained with her to watch her and close her eyes 
which had shed so many bitter tears. 

I was called upon only too soon to perform this 
sacred duty. Less than three years after my removal 
from the office of public executioner I had the grief to 
witness the death of the worthy and venerable woman 
who had given me, besides life, the benefit of her wise 



xii INTRODUCTION. 

advice and the example of her virtues. This was a sad 
blow for me, and it lay on my mind a long time. Time 
wiled away ; I became too advanced in years to cultivate 
the illusion of a new life. I was fain to give up my 
scheme of emigration. 

However, I hastened to quit Paris, and I made choice 
of a retreat so safe and so secluded that nothing ever 
came to remind me of the melancholy occupation of my 
former life, I have lived there for twelve years under a 
name which is not mine, reaping with something like 
secret shame the friendship and good-will which I con- 
stantly fear to see dispelled by the discovery of my 
former avocations. But in this obscure shelter whither 
I had fled from my recollections, the past recurs to my 
memory with extraordinary lucidity ; and, old as I am 
now, weary of a bleak and vain life, I have yielded to 
the strongest of temptations, that of writing the book of 
which these pages form the preface. 

Idleness and solitude are no safe resorts for a morbid 
imagination. Constantly troubled with thoughts bear- 
ing on the predestination of my birth, on the first occu- 
pation of my life, my mind wandered back to the time 
of the adventure, to be told hereafter, by which a 
bequest, which, thank Heaven, I have transmitted to 
none of mine, came into my family. I remembered the 
line of ancestors among whom even a child of seven 
years was bound to the scaflbld. My great-grandfather, 



INTRODUCTION. xiii 

Charles Jean-Baptiste, born in Paris on April 19, 17 19, 
succeeded to his father on October 2, 1726; and as so 
young a child could not possibly discharge the functions 
of executioner, the Parliament supplied him with an 
assistant and instructor named Prudhomme, but ordered 
that the child should sanction executions by his pre- 
sence. A strange thing, indeed, was this regency in the 
history of the scaffold. 

I thought of my grandfather, who had been com- 
pelled to wield the axe and the knife on the head of 
King, Queen, nobles, and revolutionnaires during the 
French Revolution. I had seen, in my youth, the hale 
figure of the old man. He had written a daily record 
of his terrible occupations, thus continuing the register 
in which my ancestors had inscribed the doings of our 
race. 

In reading those singular annals, which, in my turn, 
I continued, and which begin by the Chamber of Torture 
and the pondre de succession^ then dwell on the saturn- 
alias of the Regency and of Louis XV.'s reign, and come 
to a conclusion in our century after passing through the 
French Revolution, I have found curious recollections 
at almost every page, anecdotes of the time, accounts of 
traditions carefully preserved in my family, a chaos ot 
illustrious and abject names — the Count de Horn 
between Poulailler and Cartouche ; Lally-Tollendal, 
and the Chevalier de la Barre next to Damiens ; and 



xiv INTRODUCTION, 

then, with a king as leader, the cortege of the victims of 
the Revolution. I was reminded of my conversations 
with my father concerning the Infernal Machine devised 
under the first Empire, the conspiracy of Georges 
Cadoudal, the Companions of Jehu, tlie Chauffeurs, &c.; 
and I also bore in mind the dramas in which it was 
my lot to take a part, the condemnation of the four 
Sergeants of La Rochelle, that of Louvel and of all the 
disciples of Jacques Clement, and Ravaillac, who vainly 
attempted to murder Louis Philippe. There was also 
the execution of Lesurques, the victim of a judicial 
mistake, and a more recent gang of the worst class of 
criminals-, Papavoine, Castaing, Lacenaire, Soufflard, 
Poulmann. It struck me that in all this there was 
matter for a work whereof the interest and utility might 
in some degree conceal the individuality of the author. 

I have therefore written the present book, append- 
ing to it a sketch of punishments in France, and an 
account of the office of Executioner. This book I now 
publish. If it had for purpose to furnish food for the 
unhealthy curiosity of people who would seek emotions 
in a kind of written photograph of the scenes that take 
place on the scaffold, it should be received with loath- 
someness ; but I would rather burn my writings than 
follow a course so contrary to my object. P'ar from 
this, I have been actuated in the course of my work by 
an abhorrence for the punishment denounced by so 



INTRODUCTION. xv 

many eloquent voices, the punishment of which I have 
had the misfortune to be the Hving impersonation. 
And now if it is asked how, with such sentiments, I 
could discharge so long my functions of headsman, I 
will merely refer the reader to the singular circumstances 
attendant on my birth. When I was yet a boy it was 
my bane to help my father ; I was, as it were, brought 
up in the profession of my ancestors, and taught that I 
must abide by it as a matter of course, The sword of 
the law was transmitted from generation to generation 
in my family, as the sceptre in royal races. Could I 
select another calling without insulting my family; and 

the old age of jn^jfatherj ^I retained my office so long 

as was consistent with my wish to spare the feelings of 
my dearest kinsmen ; and as soon as I could do so I 
gladly gave them up. All that I care for now is that 
in a short lapse of time those who read these pages ma}^ 
say, in putting down the book, that it is the will of 
capital punishment written by the last Executioner, 

HENRY SANSON. 



VOL. I. 



CONTENTS 



THE FIRST VOLUME. 

CHAPTER PAGK , 

v^^' Origin of my Family . . . . . . i 

xll. Charles Sanson de Lonval 4 

. Jji. Arrival in Paris 22 

I'V. Trial and Execution of Mdme, Tiquet . . . 27 

1^^. Pamphlets under Louis XIV. . ... 40 

yrr Cellamare's Conspiracy 51 

^Vfl. Count de Horn . -63 

uV^III. Cartouche 76 

'IX. The Accomplices of Cartouche . . . • fo 

X, Damiens the Regicide 98 

XT. Execution of Damiens ic6 

XII. Lally-Tollendal 115 

XIII. The Chevalier de la Barre 131 

XIV. The Executioner and the Parliament , , . 141 
. XV. Family Anecdotes 160 



xviii CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XVI. The Abb^ Gomart 171 

XVII. Advent of Charles Henri Sanson . . .183 

\JOTII. The Necklace Affair 189 

1^ XIX. The Auto-da-F^ of Versailles .... 202 

I XX. Marie Anne Jugier, my Grandmother . . , 214 

' XXI. Action against the Press 221 

I XXII. The Marquis de Favras . . '. .• . . 237 

\)CXIIL A Petition to the National Assembly . . 242 

N^XIV. The Guillotine 255 

XXV. The Tribunal of August 17, 1792 . . . . 264 

XXVL The Death of Louis XVI 272 



./ 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

CHAPTER I. 

ORIGIN OF MY FAMILY. 

My family came from one of the most ancient stocks in 
France. I heard from my grandfather that, having visited 
Milan, he discovered in the Ambrosian Library a 
number of documents in which a Sanson was mentioned 
as being Seneschal of the Duke of Normandy, better 
known as Robert the Devil, and as having joined a 
Crusade to the Holy Land. My grandfather was ex- 
tremely fond of historical and archaeological studies ; 
he assured us that* all the ancient chroniclers whose 
writings he had read, Villehardouin, Guy, Martial 
dAuvergne, Rigaud and Joinville, designated the 
Sansons as bannerets of the Dukes of Normandy; that 
they had seen not only the Crusades, but the Conquest 
of England and the expeditions of Robert Guiscard 
and his sons, when these heroic Neustrian adventurers 
fought for the Pope against the Saracens, and founded 
the principalities and kingdoms of Southern Italy. This 
is a legend ; and as no family, I may almost say no 
VOL. I. B 



2 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

nation, can possibly explain the mystery of its origin 
otherwise than by hypothesis and conjecture, I hasten 
to enter the more trustworthy demesnes of reality. 

In the fifteenth century my family was established 
at Abbeville, and held a most honourable place in the 
history of the town. If I admit the accuracy of my 
grandfather's speculations, it seems certain that the 
Sansons were somewhat below their former splendour. 
At the time they belonged to the high and rich bour- 
geoisie, which was a link between the nobility and 
the Tiers Etat, and possessed, like the former, the 
privilege of serving the king, as officers, while the 
latter was deprived of municipal dignities and honours. 
Several Sansons filled the office of Echevin of Abbe- 
ville. One of the members of the family served Henry 
IV. throughout all his wars, and he w^as seriously 
wounded at Fontaine-Frangalse, where the King of 
Beam himself was well-nigh captured and slain by the 
Spanish cavalry. When the Peace of Vervins put an 
end to civil and foreign strife, this brave companion 
of the great Henry returned to his native town, and 
until his death, which occurred on May 31, 1593, was 
honoured with the esteem and veneration of his fellow- 
citizens. His grandson was one of the most remarkable 
men of the first part of the seventeenth century. His 
name was Nicolas Sanson. He may be said to have 
been one of the fathers of modern geography. Born in 
1600, this illustrious man already enjoyed European 
iame, when Cardinal de Richelieu, who was no man to 
leave in a provincial town one who could help him in. 



ORIGIN OF MY FAMILY. 3 

his vast projects of transatlantic colonisation, assigned 
him a suitable pension, and honoured him with par- 
ticular affection. Louis XIII. also appreciated the 
merit of the geographer, and Nicolas Sanson received 
many tokens of royal favour. The seductions of the 
Court, and Nicolas Sanson's connection with the most 
exalted personages of the time, often retained him in 
Paris ; but the want of solitude and quiet frequently led 
him back to Abbeville. In 1638, when Louis XIII. 
entered this last town, he declined the offer of a resting 
place worthy of royalty, and preferred partaking of his 
geographer's hospitality. A King of France, a Bourbon, 
slept for two nights beneUth the roof of a family which 
later was to bear a hand on another Bourbon in the 
name of a revolutionary law. A singular hazard indeed ! 
Charles Sanson de Longval, who became the first of 
the branch whereof I am the last representative, was the 
lineal descendant of Nicolas Sanson. I have now done 
with those of my ancestors who were men and citizens. 
It is time to speak of those who were headsmen. 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER 11. 

CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. 

Charles Sanson was born at Abbeville in 1635. His 
father and mother died when he was still in the cradle. 
He had a brother, Jean-Baptiste Sanson, who was born 
in 1624, and was therefore eleven years older than he. 
Their uncle, Pierre Brossier, sire of Limeuse, took the 
orphans under his protection. His kindness and tender- 
ness greatly alleviated the melancholy of their situation. 
He had a daughter named Colombe ; and he gave an 
equal share of affection to all three. Colombe Brossier 
and Charles Sanson were nearly of the same age. The 
intimacy of childhood made the ties of blood still faster 
and gave rise to mutual attachment. Their friendship 
became love. Neither Pierre Brossier nor Jean-Baptiste 
Sanson had any notion of the feelings of Charles and 
Colombe. And on a Sunday morning the former, 
having announced that he had just obtained for Jean- 
Baptiste the office of Councillor at the Court of Abbe- 
ville, informed his daughter that the new councillor sued 
her hand, and that he (Pierre Brossier) highly approved 
of the match — in fact, that this marriage had been one 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. 5 

of his long cherished projects, and^ that the sooner it 
was accompHshed the better. 

In those times, more than in ours, a father's will was 
law, and no other course but to submit was left 
to Colombe Brossier. Much against her wishes she was 
wedded to Jean-Baptiste a short time after. As to 
Charles Sanson, his grief was so deep that he resolved 
to leave Europe. He left his relation, went to Roche- 
fort, and embarked for Quebec, where he was received 
by one of his father's sisters, who resided there. His 
affection, however, seems to have resisted the test of 
travels and novel sights, for he constantly refused to see 
again his native country, and only returned to France 
after the death of his brother Jean-Baptiste, and of his 
wife Colombe, which occurred a few years after his de- 
parture. Charles Sanson was by this time familiar with 
almost every part of the world ; he had seen the West 
Indies, the whole of America and the Levant ; but his 
disappointed affection had brought on a dark mood and 
a bitterness which became chronic, and he regarded the 
world in anything but a sympathetic disposition. 

Shortly after his return to France, Charles Sanson 
betook himself to arms, the military profession being 
generally adopted by gentlemen of his station. He 
bought a commission in the regiment of the Marquis 
de Laboissiere, took part in the battle of Gravelines and 
other encounters, and, under his full name of Charles de 
Longval, acquired in his regiment a reputation for great 
proficiency and courage. It was in 1662 that happened 
the strange adventure which led to his falling from his 



6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

high position to the degrading functions he transmitted 
to his descendants. I will now let him speak for him- 
self, and give his manuscript account with its primitive 
orthography and roughness. 

Manuscript of Charles Sanson} 

God, in His infinite goodness, measured on our 
shoulders the cross He wished us to bear ; there is 
no misfortune, however heavy, to which one cannot be 
reconciled ; and what at first appears to us as impos- 
sible for a man to accomplish as it is for him to swallow 
all the waters of the ocean, comes to pass by the mere 
strength of habit. After entering into rebellion against^ 
my fate, I have been led to suffer patiently the evil I 
did not deserve as well as the consequences of my im- 
prudence, praying that my death should be less tainted 
than my life. But although children only subsist by 
the will of their parents, although they owe to them life 
and education, I apprehend that mine, before the sin- 
gular difference they must find between their existence 
and that which they had a right to hope for at my 
hands, will murmur against their father ; and before 
asking for God's mercy, I wish to confess my sins, and 
to state the reasons that led me to adopt the miserable 
profession of executioner, so that they may forgive me if 
I deserve forgiveness ; and on Thursday, the eleventh day 
of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand six 
hundred and ninety-three, have I begun this confession. 

* This singular document was written in archaic French. 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. j 

My greatest misfortune was always to give to my 
passions supreme control over my will, and thus to 
render myself unworthy of the indulgence of the Lord, 
who, nevertheless, attempted more than once to guard 
me against the abyss whither I was running headlong. 

A great affliction befell me in my youth ; but far 
from struggling against it, and counteracting it by reason, 
penance and prayer, I found so much satisfaction in 
retaining the recollection of a passionate love that I 
would rather have given up my life than the remem- 
brance of my folly ; and thus I opened my mind to all 
the violent resolutions it pleased my heart to dictate 
to it. 

In the year 1662 I was a lieutenant in the regiment 
of Monsieur le Marquis de Laboissiere, which, after 
taking part in the campaign undertaken in 1658 under 
Monsieur le Vicomte de Turenne, in the course of 
which Bergues, Furnes and Graveline were taken, was 
quartered in the town of Dieppe. 

In the month of July of the year 1662 the help of 
God had been very apparent in my favour ; but while 
the Lord was freeing me from a dangerous peril for my 
soul, the eternal enemy of our salvation was leading me 
into another misadventure. 

One day my life was much imperilled by a fall from 
my horse. I was carried to the abode of a poor man 
who lived in a house called the Clos-Mauduit, situate 
outside the walls of the town of Dieppe, beyond the 
cemetery, on the road of Neufchastel. This man behaved 
to me as the good Samaritan ; he washed and dressed 



8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

my wounds, and only sent me away when I was cured. 
But I caught in his house an illness more serious than 
that which had brought me thither ; I left it enamoured 
with a girl named Marguerite, who was my host's only 
daughter. 

At first I tried not to think of her. Although the 
real profession of Marguerite's father was not known to 
me, it was obvious that he was of low condition ; and 
being unable to marry the girl, I could not think of 
harming the daughter of a man who had been so kind 
to me. But the intentions of men are mere phantoms, 
and in spite of myself, I beheld night and day the image 
of the creature I upbraided myself for thinking of. 

Soon after this, one of my cousins, named Paul 
Bertauld, came to Dieppe on business matters, being 
one of those who held the French possessions of India 
before the king, our sire, bought them for the benefit of 
the country. Although I disliked men on account of 
the misfortunes I had suffered on their account, and I 
preferred solitude to their society, I was very friendly 
to Paul Bertauld, whom I had known as a boy in 
the town of Quebec, when I went there on the king's 
vessels. Now, although Paul knew not the real reason 
of my melancholy and sullen humour, he tried to amuse 
me, and to find recreation for my behoof, both in his 
company and in that of a certain M. Valvins de Blignac, 
who, like me, held a lieutenancy in the regiment of the 
Marquis de Laboissiere, and w^as a fine swordsman and 
a merry companion. 

One autumn day, Vv^hile we were dining together on 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. g 

the sea-side, in the tavern of Isaac Crocheteu, my cousin 
Paul jocosely declared that before a month elapsed he 
would have for mistress the prettiest girl in the town of 
Dieppe and its suburbs. M. de Blignac, who was by 
nature a great flatterer, and who willingly indulged 
those whom he could cheat and who paid for his revels, 
confirmed Paul Bertauld's assurance, as if he knew the 
girl. Upon this I felt a sudden pang, and my heart 
began to throb, for I had remarked that my cousin wore 
the flower which bore the name of my beloved, and 
I suspected that he did so in her honour. It was folly 
in me, since, in result of my first love, I had vowed only 
to love God ; neither had I seen Marguerite since my 
departure from her father's house ; and moreover, 
Dieppe and its suburbs contained more than one girl 
called Marguerite, to whom my cousin's compliment 
might apply. But yielding, as it were, to a stronger 
will than mine, I left the table, and, pretending that I 
had business at the town castle, I left my companions, 
took the Braacquemont path, and arrived at the Clos- 
Mauduit, on the road of Neufchastel, where I had not 
been since the accident that had befallen me. 

When I saw Marguerite's house through the trees 
of the garden, I had a mind to return ; but, although 
I duly censured myself, I could not help advancing. 
I had seen her aged father twice ; after curing me, he 
had forbidden me to return to his house, with all sorts 
of violent threats, which I attributed to his apprehen- 
sion that I should make love to his pretty daughter. 
I therefore avoided the door, for fear he should 



lo MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

make her pay for my indiscretion ; I went round the 
hedge, and, catching sight of her in the garden, I jumped 
over the enclosure and ran up to her. Falsehoods are 
easily devised and told by lovers. So I told the girl 
that, being unable to thank her father on account of his 
roughness, I wished to thank her in his place for his 
former kindness ; and then, without any preparation, 
and as if I could not hasten too much to speak out, so 
fearful was I of being forestalled by some one else, I 
confessed my love to her. 

The girl blushed, but was not angry ; but I soon 
perceived that her eyes were full of tears, and as I asked 
her what made her cry, she replied that I could not love 
her, that my affection must bring down heavy calamities 
upon my head ; and she ordered and beseeched me to go 
away, as her father might come out and see us. 

Nevertheless, I remained with her for some time, 
repeating what I had said before ; and I went back to 
town much disturbed. But I returned to the Clos- 
Mauduit on the following day, and I henceforth paid 
her regular visits. Sometimes I could not see her ; 
either she was walking with her father in the garden, 
or the servant was there, so that I was obliged to keep 
back and look at her from a distance. Sometimes, 
however, she was alone, and however short our con- 
versation I always went away more in love with Mar- 
guerite. And in truth this, my second folly, trans- 
scended the first one in vehemence. It was in vain that 
I blamed myself ; in vain that I sought strength to resist 
in the recollection of my former lady-love. 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. n 

Marguerite in no way encouraged my affection. 
The warmer it became the more she implored me to 
leave her. One day I tried to steal a kiss from her ; 
she was so angry that I obtained her forgiveness with 
difficulty. Of course I had forgotten my cousin Paul 
and his boast. 

One evening, however, as I was drinking with M. de 
Blignac, who was well-nigh tipsy, and I was laughing at 
him, and telling him that he could only cut a sorry 
figure in Paul's love adventure, if it happened, he 
winked knowingly and replied that, thanks to him, my 
cousin had obtained the good graces of the prettiest girl 
that could be seen. As, to my idea, none could be 
prettier than Marguerite, I became uneasy, and assailed 
him with questions. He at first refused to answer ; 
but as among the bad qualities of the Chevaher de 
Blignac that of being the greatest prattler in the world 
could be reckoned, his tongue soon began to wag. He 
told me that the girl was unapproachable either for 
love or for money, and that, by his advice, M. Paul 
Bertauld had bought a sleeping draught at the apothe- 
cary's, and that it was to be divided on that very 
evening by the valet, whom they had bribed, between 
the maid and the beautiful girl. He added that the 
father and the valet would be away all night, and that 
the maiden would thus remain in my cousin's absolute 
power. 

If the tower of the church of Saint Jacques had 
fallen on my head, I could not have been more appalled 
than I was by the words of M. de Blignac. I rose so 



12 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

violently that I overturned the table and the glasses. 
My hat and sword were on a stool. I only took the 
sword, and unsheathing it, I ran madly through the 
town. By what instinct I was guided I know not, but I 
made my way through the dark night as unerringly as 
if it had been broad daylight, and after running for half 
an hour I saw a light through the trees of the Clos. 
At the thought that it might be dawning on the poor 
girl's disgrace, I felt so much rage and hatred that I 
could have battled against twenty. As I came close 
to the house, I saw the shadow of a man gliding 
along the wall. The man took to flight when he saw 
me, but I was soon up with him, and I ascertained that 
M. de Blignac had said the truth, and that the fugitive 
w^as no other than my cousin, 

I took him aside, and, filled with anger and grief, I 
bitterly upbraided him for his dishonest conduct, show- 
ing him that it was a crime to lead to perdition a girl as 
respectable as she was poor, and that by stealing her virtue 
he was taking all that she possessed. My cousin hung his 
head and was silent. If; we had remained alone, I 
doubt not but that I could have made him repent, for 
his vices were rather due to youth and evil associations 
than to nature. Unfortunately the appearance of M. de 
Blignac marred my lecture. The latter when I left him 
had some suspicion of what was going to take place, 
and he arrived in great hurry. I changed my tone, and 
speaking to him I indignantly told him what I thought 
of his conduct, adding that ever since M. Bertauld's 
arrival he had tried to lead him into evil, inciting him 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. 13. 

to gamble, drink and misbehave himself in all kinds of 
ways. 

M. de Blignac answered by laughing at my cousin 
for suffering my remonstrances ; and he swore in his own 
bantering way that if I acted thus it was because I had 
my own views concerning the girl. He added that I 
should apologise for what I had first said, or that he 
would force my words down my throat ; and, drawing 
his sword, he assailed me, calling on my cousin to do 
the same, and that the girl should be theirs still. Either 
love must have muddled his brain, or the taunts and 
mockery of M. de Blignac must have stung him to the 
quick, for M. Paul Bertauld was shameless enough to 
draw his sword against his relative and friend, and to 
charge me while his companion was doing the same. I 
did my best against such odds, retreating towards the 
trees. While I was manoeuvring thus, however, M. de 
Blignac made a desperate lunge, which I parried, and 
before he could recover his balance I wounded him so 
seriously in the wrist, that his sword dropped to the 
ground, and, having set my foot upon it, I was enabled 
to take it and throw it far away. On the other hand 
M. Paul Bertauld had been wounded, and I had also 
been struck in the shoulder. Fortunately my two an- 
tagonists declined to continue the duel, and retired say- 
ing that it would be daylight on the next day, and 
they could then begin again without fear of getting 
blinded. Although I saw them retreat, I nevertheless 
resolved to guard the house all night for fear M. de 
Blignac, treacherous and perverse as he was, should 



14 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

advise M. Paul Bertauld to return and pursue his original 
design during my absence. 

At midnight, hearing no stir in the house, I began to 
apprehend that the sleeping draught had killed the girl 
and the servant ; and this fear was the cause of my loss. 
The rascally valet, according to his agreement with 
Bertauld, had left the door ajar. I entered the house, 
and went to the poor child's room. Thereupon I confess 
with great shame and contrition that I forgot all the 
good advice, counsels and lessons I had just given to 
my cousin. When I saw the girl whom I loved, she 
appeared to me so beautiful that my good intentions 
vanished like smoke. I was neither wiser nor more dis- 
creet than he would have been, and I committed the 
crime for which I had upbraided him so bitterly. 

May God forgive me in another world, since I suffer 
in this one for my sin ! 

On the next day, M. Paul Bertauld's servant brought 
me a message from his master, requesting my at- 
tendance on the Place du Puits-Sale. Inferring that 
he wished to call me out, I took my sword and followed 
the servant. There was a numerous attendance on the 
Place, and I was surprised that M. Bertauld had chosen 
such a spot to fight a duel. When I met him, however, 
he showed neither spite nor rancour for what had oc- 
curred. Far from this, he offered me his hand, which I 
refused to take, remembering how he had joined M. de 
Blignac in an unfair encounter. Upon this, he showed 
me a scaffold which was erected in the centre of the public 
place. He invited me to look in that direction, which 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. 15 

having done, I recognised my host of the Clos in a man 
who was chaining a few lads to the pillory. At the 
same time M. Paul Bertauld said he had heard that 
the coveted belle was the daughter of Master Pierre 
Jouanne, executioner of the towns of Rouen and 
Dieppe, and he thanked me for taking her, having no 
wish, he said, to have anything to do with the offspring 
of an executioner. 

At this I could not refrain from drawing and 
attacking him. But there was such a multitude around 
us that we were immediately separated ; and I retired 
much grieved to my quarters. 

Although Master Jouanne had always appeared to 
me a man of strange temper, I had never imagined that 
he exercised a profession for which I felt loathing and 
contempt. And yet, in spite of my aversion for the 
father, I could not help thinking that it was unjust to 
punish the daughter for what was the consequence of 
those hazards which make us the children either of a 
king or of a shepherd ; that the beauty and virtue of 
Marguerite made her far more worthy to be born near a 
throne than on the steps of a scaffold ; that it was 
wicked to spurn so pretty and charming a girl because 
of her father's horrible occupations ; and then I remem- 
bered my own crime of the preceding night, and, full of 
shame and remorse, I wept like a child. 

As it was time to go to drill, I went out still un- 
decided. Along the road I felt certain that my ac- 
quaintances turned away from me, and when I arrived 
at the castle I perceived that my brother officers greeted 



i6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

me more coldly than was their wont. As, however, I had 
never been very friendly to anyone, their manner troubled 
me but slightly, and I went away, after drill, in a fit of 
musing. After walking for some time, I found that 
strength of habit had led my steps to the Clos-Mauduit. 
Marguerite was standing on the doorstep ; and even if I 
had wished to turn back I could not have done so 
without breach of manners. I went up to her, and 
found her so pale and wan that my contrition was 
greatly increased. As her father was still engaged in 
the town, I walked by her side in the garden, scarcely 
daring to speak to her, but so joyful at being near 
her that I retired thinking how absurd it was to 
forsake a creature so fascinating, and that if Master 
Jouanne her father broke men on the wheel, there was 
not a drop of blood on the hands she allowed me to 
kiss. 

And I returned to her on the morrow, and then on 
every day, although she v/as with me as reticent as ever, 
and I took good care not to boast of what I had done. 
My love increased so rapidly that I cherished her as 
much as if she had been a queen's daughter. Upon this 
it came to my knowledge that M. Valvins de Blignac, 
having recovered from his wound, was spreading calum- 
nies about me ; and the result was that one morning my 
brother officers pretended not to see me, and did not 
even take off their hats as I came forth. Much incensed, 
I went home to my lodgings, where my servant in- 
formed me that Blignac's falsehoods were the sole cause 
of my misadventure. I immediately went in quest of 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. ly 

a second, with the purpose of calling out Blignac. But 
everyone declined, without even giving me a reason for 
refusing ; and even the pettiest officers took no pains 
to conceal the displeasure with which my request was 
received. In this predicament I thought the best way 
was to find out my antagonist, and I was about to request 
the assistance of a citizen-gentleman when my servant 
handed me a message from M. le Marquis de Laboissiere, 
asking for my immediate attendance. 

I obeyed the summons and found the Marquis in 
violent anger against me. He said, with many impre- 
cations, that, not content with transgressing the edicts 
of the King, our sire, concerning duels, I disgraced the 
regiment by my disgusting affection for the daughter of 
the executioner ; and, without allowing me to answer, he 
coupled some very odious epithets with the poor girl's 
name, speaking of her in such terms as I dare not 
repeat, out of respect for her memory. Hearing which, 
I could not control my very irritable temper, and I re- 
torted so harshly to a man whose age and authority I 
was bound to respect, that M. le Marquis de Laboissiere 
told me to leave the room, ordering me to remain under 
arrest at the Castle until he had acquainted the king 
with my conduct. This enraged me still more. I drew 
my sword and, bending it over my knee, I broke it, 
saying he could dispense with v/riting to the King ta 
deprive me of my commission, as I would tear it with 
my own hands, as I had first broken my sword. 

I then left him, but I took care not to abide long at 
my quarters for fear M. le Marquis de Laboissiere should 
, ,. VOL. I. C 



1 8 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 

have me arrested. I took what money^ I possessed, 
saddled my horse and rode out of town in great haste. 
I had resolved to go northward, and to embark in some 
ship for India. However, I would not go without 
bidding farewell to my mistress. I still retained the 
hope of deciding her to share my lot in a country where 
her father's vile profession could not haunt us. ... I 
therefore took the direction of the Clos-Mauduit. I was 
surprised to find the house in a state of darkness, for it 
was not late. But on minutely examining the premises, 
I espied rays of light issuing from the apertures of the 
door of a kind of shed adjoining the house, and at the 
same time I heard a deep groan coming from the interior 
of the shed. 

Although not easily moved to fear, I rememxber that 
I, shuddered like a leaf I tied my horse to a tree, looked 
through one of the apertures, and what I saw made my 
hair stand on end. Marguerite, my beloved Marguerite, 
was stretched on the leathern bed used for the infliction 
of torture ; her cruel father, looking more like a tiger 
than like a man, had placed her foot in the boot of 
torture ; and with his own hand he was striking a 
spike red with his daughter's blood ; at each blow he 
repeated with rage, * Confess ! confess ! ' and the poor 
girl, throwing herself backwards with many tears and 
shrieks, implored God and the saints of paradise to bear 
witness to her innocence. 

I only saw this cruelty for a moment, for I had 
picked up a small beam close by, and. Heaven giving 
me more strength than I thought I had, I smashed the 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. 19 

door into splinters at a single blow, as if it had been 
destroyed by a mine. When he recognised me, Master 
Jouanne threw away his mallet, and seizing the large 
sword which he used to decapitate noblemen he brand- 
ished it near his daughter's head, and vowed that if I 
stirred in her defence he would immediately strike her 
head from her shoulders. I fell on my knees, crying and 
moaning as poor Marguerite was doing when I entered. 
Master Jouanne then asked me my business, and wished 
to know whether I brought him the name of the seducer, 
which he sought to obtain by torment from his daughter. 
I replied by confessing my fault, showing him that I alone 
was guilty, and not his saint-like and virtuous daughter. 
Hearing which, this Master Jouanne, so ferocious and 
so cruel, sank before the bed of torment, bursting into 
tears ; he unloosed the boot from his daughter's leg, and 
taking her foot between his hands, he kissed her wounds, 
imploring her pardon with so much grief that his despair 
would have drawn tears from a rock. At the same time 
he deplored the misfortunes to which the poor were 
exposed in this world, saying that Heaven should make 
poor girls ugly and frightful to look at, since neither 
virtue nor chastity could protect them from the noble 
and the powerful. 

At this stage, I advanced and expressed my inten- 
tion of leaving my country ; and I further declared that 
I was ready to take Marguerite for my wife and com- 
panion. Master Jouanne showed himself more moved 
by my proposal than he had been hitherto ; but he re- 
mained firm, and, turning to his daughter, he said it was 

C2 



20 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

her business to answer. The poor girl, thus questioned, 
took those hands which had but just done her so much 
violent and bloody harm, kissed them, and said that as she 
was her father's only companion and supporter in his 
solitary life, she would not leave him, even if I offered her 
the throne of India, whither I proposed to take her. 

Master Jouanne embraced his daughter very unc- 
tuously, and then showed me the door, saying that he 
was an executioner, not an assassin ; that he would 
not kill me on that day, but that I should take care not 
to reappear in the town or neighbourhood if I cared for 
my life. 

I hung my head and turned away to leave ; but as 
my foot touched the threshold I heard behind me a 
deep sob, and, looking round, I saw that Marguerite had 
fainted in her father's arms. I rushed towards her ; but 
Master Jouanne again pushed me back very roughly. 
Seeing by the state of his daughter that her soul was as 
troubled as mine was by this separation, and discovering 
that she loved me as much as I could love her, nothing 
could induce me to retire. I therefore proposed to the 
father to marry Marguerite, and that we should all go to - 
some distant land, where we could live in peace. 

But my proposal was no more approved of than my 
preceding offer. Jouanne answered that a tardy and 
unavailing change of profession could not prevent his 
son-in-law from despising him, and from imparting his 
contempt to his wife ; and that, since his daughter had 
left her fate in her father's hands, he would only consent 
to our union if my love was strong enough to take a 



CHARLES SANSON DE LONGVAL. 21 

share of the opprobrium and hatred which belonged to 
himself and his child ; that without scruple I had dis- 
honoured the executioner's daughter ; and that I could 
only atone for my crime by becoming an executioner 
myself. 

My ancestor's confession comes to a sudden ter- 
mination. He fails to give the conclusion of his ad- 
venture, as he abstained from giving an account of the 
events which preceded it. Colombe Brossier and 
Marguerite Jouanne had no doubt left two deep wounds 
in his heart, and these he only exhibited with grief and 
reluctance. He married Marguerite Jouanne ; and I find 
in the official record of an execution which took place 
at Rouen a proof that the relentless Master Jouanne 
exacted from his son-in-law a stringent discharge of his 
engagements. The record says '■ that, having to break 
on the wheel a certain Martin Eslau, Master Pierre 
Jouanne, principal executioner, having compelled his 
son-in-law, who was but lately married, to aim a blow 
at the culprit, the said son-in-law fell in a fit, and was 
hooted by the mob.' 

The happiness which Charles Sanson had so dearly 
paid for passed away as a dream. His wife died, after 
giving birth to a son. 



22 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER III. 

ARRIVAL IN .. ARIS. 

It was towards the end of the year 1685 that my an- 
cestor Charles Sanson de Longval quitted Normandy, 
leaving behind him the remains of that Marguerite 
Jouanne who had brought him so unfortunate a marriage 
portion. The events I have chronicled had almost dis- 
turbed his reason ; he had fallen into a dark, fidgety 
mood, which increased the sinister appearance he owed 
to his avocations. At Rouen he was avoided with 
something like terror ; when he passed through the 
streets, the inhabitants pointed out to each other the 
man who all over his person bore thie marks of a stormy 
existehce. Most ignored his trials ; but a glance at 
Sanson was sufficient to identify him as the executioner ; 
and men, women, and children recoiled from him. 

For many reasons, therefore, my ancestor was not 
sorry to renounce his unpleasant celebrity, and to leave 
a spot replete with sad recollections. He hastened to 
accede to the proposal which was made to him of an 
exchange of his provincial jurisdiction for that of the 
capital of the kingdom. The time was fraught with 
grave events. Chancellor Letellier had just died, re- 



ARRIVAL IN PARIS. 23 

signing his seals into the hands of President Boucherat, 
who was reputed a kind and honest man. The Marquis 
de Bullion, a perfect gentleman, had just been appointed 
Provost of Paris. Thus the magistracy was being 
altered at the two extremities of the social ladder in the 
persons of the Chancellor of France, the Provost of 
Paris, and the executioner. 

The profound emotion caused by the sudden deaths 
which had thinned the Royal P'amily on the very steps 
of the throne, the mysterious doings of the Chambre- 
Ardente with regard to the subtle poison, borrowed of 
the Borgias, which had been styltd powder of succession ; 
all this excitement, we say, had just subsided ; and 
nothing could have troubled the horizon, if an act of the 
v/orst policy — the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes — 
had not opened for the nation a new era of calamities. 
I shall not enter into any digression concerning this 
return to an intolerance which had already fed so many 
civil wars in France; I merely wish to allude to the 
effect this event had in Sanson de Longval's exceptional 
sphere. A declaration of the King decreed the most 
rigorous penalties against the dying who refused the 
Sacrament because they belonged to the Reformed 
Religion. It ordered that in case of recovery heretics 
should be sentenced to amende honorable, hard labour 
for life, and forfeiture of property ; and in case of death, 
that their trial should nevertheless be proceeded with, 
and their bodies be dragged on a hurdle, and then 
thrown into the common sewer. 

Another declaration enacted the same penalties 



24 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

against the heretics who attempted to leave the country, 
as well as against those who abetted them. All the 
Protestant emigresy and those reputed as such, were 
threatened with forfeiture when they returned to France 
after a brief delay, and a reward of i,ooo livres was 
promised to whoever could give information of or pre- 
vent a design of emigration. I hasten to add that such 
excesses of fanaticism were posterior to my ancestor's 
resolve to accept the office of executioner of Paris ; 
otherwise I have no doubt he would have remained in 
Rouen. Moreover, these awful laws and posthumous 
penalties were little more than legal fictions, being 
enacted rather to intimidate than to be carried out. I 
find no trace of such sentences having been executed, in 
the papers left by Sanson de Longval. If real perse- 
cutions were devised at the time against the Protestants, 
it was in the provinces, not in Paris. 

On his arrival, Sanson was disagreeably impressed 
by having to put up at the House of Pillory, or, as the 
people called it, the Executioner's Mansion. This abode, 
by no means a cheerful one, was a dark, octagonal con- 
struction, over which was placed a revolving cage, the 
whole edifice terminating in a sharp steeple. Before the 
door was a cross, at the foot of which bankrupts came to 
declare that they abandoned their property, after which 
they received a green cap from the executioner's hands. 
Around the house were shops which the executioner 
rented ; and adjoining these were a stable and a kind of 
shed, under which the bodies of those who perished by 
the executioner's hand were deposited for a night. 



ARRIVAL IN PARIS. 25 

During his short stay at the House of Pillory, my ancestor 
acquired a taste for anatomy ; and. his studies were not 
fruitless, for he consigned to writing many curious obser- 
vations on the muscular system, and I have still some 
prescriptions of his for diseases of the joints. The study 
of anatomy and the manipulation of certain remedies 
were perpetuated in our family. None among us ab- 
stained from this practice ; and the reader will be 
astonished at the enumeration, in the sequel of the 
present work, of the cures of patients who came to us 
for relief 

Sanson de Longval soon had enough of his official 
residence ; and, as no law compelled him to live there, 
he sought suitable quarters in some remote part of Paris. 
The place now occupied by a part of the Faubourg 
Poissonniere was then an almost deserted spot called 
New France. The only buildings it contained was the 
convent of Saint Vincent de Paul, and a modest church 
patronised by St. Anne. Nowadays the church has been 
turned into a beershop, and the convent into a prison. 
Charles Sanson had a house erected near the Church of 
St. Anne, after letting the Executioner's Mansion for 600 
livres — a large sum for the time. 

The first years of Charles Sanson de Longval's 
residence in Paris were marked by no particularly in- 
teresting occurrence until the trial and execution of 
Madame Tiquet. I find many a page of blood in the 
annals of my family before reaching the account of this 
remarkable case ; but even crime, it must be admitted, 
has its aristocracy, and I should far less interest my 



26 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

readers by relating to them the execution of some ob- 
scure criminal than by the authentic details I am in a po- 
sition to give as to a young womxan whose fate engrossed 
the attention of the whole of Paris towards the end of 
the seventeenth century. Her trial, of which the ter- 
mination was far more tragic, produced in those days as 
much sensation as that of Mdme. Lafarge in our time. 
For the sake of accuracy, I must, however, mention a 
few executions superintended by Charles Sanson. The 
culprits were : In 1685, Claude Vautier, broken on the 
wheel for theft and murder. In 1688, Jean Nouis fils, for 
the same crime. In 1689, Francois Mannequin, for false 
evidence : he was only one-and-twenty years of age, and 
during his trial he pretended that he was only seventeen, 
hoping to soften his judges. In 1690, Gabrielle Henry, 
wife of Jacques Piedeseigle, assistant major of Count de 
Chamilly, convicted of murder. In 1691, Urbaine 
Attibard, wife of Pierre Barrois, aged thirty-five, who, 
having poisoned her husband, was sentenced to amende 
honorable, to have her fist struck off, and to be hanged ; 
her body to be burnt, and her ashes to be scattered to 
the wind. And lastly, Claire Lermenet, wife of Michel 
Cloqueteur, servant of M. de Breteuil, put to death, 
after horrible tortures, for common theft. 



27 



CHAPTER IV. 

TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF MDME. TIQUET. 

In the first months of the year 1677 a strange event 
produced a profound sensation throughout Paris, and_ 
'soon became the leading topic of conversation. A well- 
known and esteemed magistrate, M. Tiquet, escaped, as 
if by miracle, from a conspiracy against his life. After 
being fired upon by a number of murderers placed in 
ambush near his house, he fell insensible on the pave- 
ment, and but for the prompt action of his valet, who 
had heard the report of firearms, and rushed out to his 
master's help, he would probably have been despatched. 
Much surprise was evinced when it became known 
that M. Tiquet, mindless of his desperate plight, had 
obstinately refused to be taken to his own house, and 
had preferred the hospitality of one of his lady friends, 
Mdme. de Villemur, to that of his own mansion, where, 
however, he knew that he could command the cares of 
his wife and of the two children he had had by her. 
This conduct, which, to say the least, was singular, might 
have given birth to rather unfavourable comments on 
the morality of the councillor, if far graver rumours had 
not furnished a quite different explanation. It was also 



28 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

said that Mdme. Tiquet, on hearing of the crime, had 
gone to Mdme. de Villemur's house to see her husband ; 
but that access to him had been denied her ; and further, 
that when the magistrate sent to him to inquire into the 
crime had questioned him, M. Tiquet answered that, to 
his knowledge, the only enemy he had was his wife. 

This was enough to awaken the curiosity of a popula- 
tioft'at all times greedy of scandal and domestic mysteries. 
The history of M. and Mdme. Tiquet was soon in every 
mouth. It ran thus : Angelique Carlier (Mdme. Tiquet) 
came from Metz, where she was born in 1657. ^^^ 
father was a rich printer and bookseller ; and at his death 
he left a fortune of 80,000/. to be divided between his 
daughter and her brother. The latter had been her 
only guardian. When she appeared in society, she was 
an accomplished person, and possessed great powers of 
fascination. Her beauty was striking, her education left 
nothing to be desired ; in fact, her destiny promised to 
be one of unusual brilliancy. She was soon sought by a 
considerable number of suitors, among whom were 
rich and powerful men. But, either from her inability to 
make a choice, or because love was unknown to her 
heart, Angelique took a long time before she came 
to a decision. Her hesitation became favourable to M. 
Tiquet, a magistrate, who had come forward in the 
ranks of her admirers : his position as a councillor of 
Parliament tickled the girl's vanity, and she at length 
selected him. The plebeian name of Pierre Tiquet suffi- 
ciently testified that he owed his position as a magistrate 
to his own talents rather than to his birth ; but at that 



TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF MDME. TIQUET. 29- 

time mixed alliances were far less frequent than they 
eventually became, and Mdlle. Carlier could hardly 
aspire to a higher station than that which her husband 
offered her. As to M. Tiquet, he married both for love 
and for money. He had spared no means to arrive at his 
ends, and had gained the good graces of two powerful 
auxiliaries, Angelique's brother and one of her aunts who 
had some influence over the girl. With this help he 
surmounted the secret repulsion he inspired in Angelique^ 
less, perhaps, on account of his grave and unattractive 
face than as a result of his^age, which at the time exceeded 
the bounds of ordinary maturity, and of his rather vulgar 
name. 

The counsels of her aunt and brother, and the pros^ 
pect of becoming the wife of an exalted magistrate, 
triumphed over her real feelings, and she accepted M. 
Tiquet's hand. It was said that the latter, in order to 
hasten her determination, had resigned himself to an 
heroic effort of generosity. On Angelique's birthday he 
offered her a magnificent bouquet of which the flowers 
were mingled with diamonds and precious stones worth 
15,000 livres (about 45,000 francs in our money). The 
honeymoon lasted nearly three years. Two children, a 
boy and a girl, were born, and nothing seemed to trouble 
the domestic peace of M. and Mdme. Tiquet. The lady, 
however, had expensive tastes ; she had a fine establish- 
ment, carriages, horses, &c., and she also received in her 
drawing-rooms a brilliant, although rather mixed society. 
Her husband, whose only income came from his office, 
and who had made heavy debts in order to marry, occa- 



30 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

sionally remonstrated With his wife on her ruinous taste, 
but without the slightest effect. His admonitions, at 
first tender and friendly, became imperative, but without 
avail. Angelique began to dislike her husband, and at 
last she got to hate him. Without being aware of it, 
her brother contributed to this revulsion of Ang^lique's 
sentiments for her husband. He introduced to her a 
friend of his, a young officer named M. de Mont- 
georges, captain of the French guards. The latter 
was young, handsome, of martial gait and imposing 
stature, and gifted with elegant manners ; and he con- 
trasted favourably with the morose husband of Mdme. 
Tiquet. The handsome officer made an impression on 
her heart. The daily disputes with Tiquet made her 
still more accessible to her dawning passion. Mdme. 
Tiquet was soon intimate with Montgeorges, and if 
anything could atone for her fault, it was its singularity 
and the fact that she was true unto death to her lover. 

Mdme. Tiquet was imprudent enough to make no 
mystery of her amours. In the violence of her passion 
she forgot everything, and the councillor was soon 
apprised of the conduct of his wife. Great was his 
surprise, and great also was his anger. He began by 
turning out Montgeorges and making away with Ma- 
dame's evening parties. This act of domestic authority 
was not calculated to restore harmony in the household. 
Angelique vowed she would never submit to the kind of 
life her husband wished to impose upon her, and that all 
his efforts would tend to free her. This appeared to 
her the easier as her fortune belonged to her. Unfortu- 



TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF MDME. TIQUET. 31 

nately she found ready auxiliaries in her brother and 
aunt. At the instigation of the latter, an army of 
creditors assailed Tiquet, and obtained against him 
sentence after sentence. On her sida Mdme. Tiquet 
lost no time in demanding a judicial separation. The 
husband was not the less active on his own behalf. He 
complained of the scandalous conduct of his wife, excited 
the compassion of his brother councillors, and by the 
intermediary of M. de Novion, the President of Parlia- 
ment, he at length obtained a lettre-de-cachet (a blanlc 
order for imprisonment to be filled up by the holder) 
against Angelique. Henceforth he thought he was the 
master, and attempted to dictate to his wife. He ordered 
her to be more submissive, if she cared for her liberty, 
never to see again the handsome captain, and to stay all 
proceedings for separation. Angelique could not keep 
her temper. She bitterly insulted her husband ; and as 
M. Tiquet, stung to the quick, was triumphantly showing 
his lettre-de-cachet, saying that he would make im- 
mediate use of it, Angelique tore it from his .hand and 
threw it into the fire. 

M. Tiquet's rage and disappointment were supreme. 
He made vain attempts to procure another lettre-de- 
cachet ; but his solicitations only met with laughter and 
irony. The luckless councillor became the laughing- 
stock of Paris : and this might have pacified his wife. 
She, however, persisted in her intention of separating 
from him. It was then that she devised a criminal plan 
for getting rid of her husband, so as to marry Mont- 
georges, whom she still continued to see, after Tiquet's 



32 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

narrow escape. She communicated her murderous object 
to Jacques Moura, her porter, who became her accomplice. 
Many others, whose names it is of no use to give, joined 
in the plot. On the evening appointed for the crime, all 
the accomplices were posted on Tiquet's way ; but at the 
last moment Angelique was undecided, and out of re- 
morse or fear she countermanded the execution of the 
plot. As to the councillor, although he had no suspicion 
of the criminal designs of his wife, he became more and 
more jealous. Suspecting the honesty of his porter, 
Jacques Moura, he dismissed him with many reproaches 
and threats, and being unwilling to entrust the door to 
anyone, he actually became the porter of his own mansion, 
receiving only well-known persons, taking the key away 
with him when he went out, and concealing it under his 
pillow during the night. 

This minute inquisition and almost complete im- 
prisonment exasperated Mdme. Tiquet, and threw her 
again into morbid ideas of murder. One day the old 
councillor was ill, in his room ; his wife, suddenly be- 
coming affectionate, sent him by her valet a cup of broth 
she had prepared herself; but the shrewd servant, guess- 
ing his mistress's design, made a pretence of stumbling, 
dropped the cup, and left the house. Tiquet knew 
nothing of this second attempt. Mdme. Tiquet was not 
discouraged, and still entertained sinister intentions. 

A few nights after this adventure M. Tiquet was 
in the company of Mdme. de Villemur, who lived in a 
house not far from his, while bis wife remained at home 
with the Countess de Lenonville. As M. Tiquet emerged 



TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF MDME. TIQUET 33 

in the street, several shots flashed through the darkness, 
and he fell, struck by five bullets. None of the wounds, 
however, were mortal. 

On the following day Mdme. Tiquet rose early, and, 
probably to avert suspicion, she paid a visit to her 
friend, Mdme. d'Aunay. The latter asked her whether 
M. Tiquet suspected any one. ' Even if he knew them/ 
answered Angelique, ' he would take care not to say so. 
Ah, my dear friend, to-day it is my turn to be murdered ! * 
Mdme. d'Aunay tried to calm her by assuring her that 
so foul a charge could never be brought against her. 
* The best thing they can do,' she added, ' is to arrest the 
porter your husband dismissed the other day. He may 
very well have committed the crime out of revenge.' 

These words struck Mdme. Tiquet ; she saw all that 
she could make, for her own defence, out of the dismissal 
of Jacques Moura, who had more than once expressed the 
greatest vindictiveness with regard to his former master, 
and had uttered threats against him. She resolved to 
remain in Paris, and turned a deaf ear to the advice that 
was given to her on all sides. A monk offered to disguise 
her, and take her to Calais, where she could embark for 
England. Angelique steadily refused, but in spite of her 
apparent security she felt anything but safe. One 
morning she was conversing with the Countess d'Aunay, 
who, being convinced of her innocence, was faithful to her 
to the last. As the Countess was about to retire, Mdme. 
Tiquet kept her back, saying that she had a foreboding 
that she was going to be arrested, and she should like 
her friend to be present. Hardly had she uttered these 
VOL. I. D 



34 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

words when the criminal lieutenant entered, followed by 
a number of archers. Mdme. Tiquet remained unmoved. 
She asked leave to embrace her youngest son, followed 
the lieutenant, and during the whole of the way showed 
extraordinary calm and serenity. She was taken to 
the little, and then to the great Chatelet. The indict- 
ment preferred against her was drawn up with unusual 
expedition. 

As soon as Angelique's arrest was known a man 
named Auguste Cathelain spontaneously declared that 
three years before he had received money of Jacques 
Moura, commissioned by Angelique, to join in the murder 
of M. Tiquet. Jacques Moura and the informer himself 
were arrested. They were confronted with the chief 
prisoner ; no proof, however, could be adduced that they 
were the authors of the last attempt ; but proofs were 
not found wanting concerning the first plot. And, 
strange to say, the conspiracy which had not been carried 
out became the basis of the charge against Mdme. 
Tiquet. 

Sanson de Longval had followed all the phases of 
this celebrated affair with painful Interest, for he but too 
well foresaw that work was being prepared for him. It 
was with grief that he heard, on June 3, 1699, that a 
sentence of the Chatelet * condemned Angelique-NIcole 
Carlier to be decapitated In the Place de Greve ; Jacques 
Moura, her late porter, to be hanged ; their property to be 
confiscated, and from Angelique's property ten thousand 
for the benefit of the King, and one hundred thousand 
livres for that of Tiquet, her husband, to be extracted.' 



TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF MDME. TIQUET. 35 

This sentence, of which I have given the textual 
wording, caused much sensation, although it was felt 
that something must intervene before it was carried 
out. M. Tiquet appealed to the Parliament, on the 
plea that only 100,000 livres had been awarded to him 
and to his children. He asked that an additional 1 5,000 
livres should be taken from his wife's fortune and handed 
over to him. The Parliament was not deaf to the prayer 
of one of its own members. By a decision taken on 
June 17, 20,000, instead of 15,000, livres were awarded 
to Tiquet. But the remainder of the sentence was con- 
firmed. This decision was much criticised. The public 
felt that the Parliament exacted too harsh a retribution 
for the crime committed against itself in the person 
of M. Tiquet. After all, the victim had recovered ; M. 
Tiquet was quite well again, and no proof tended to 
show that Angelique was responsible for the second 
attempt on her husband's life. And then Mdme. Tiquet 
was handsome, witty, and accomplished, and she belonged 
to the best society ; her love passages with Montgeorges, 
« to which the trial had attracted general attention, her 
ill-assorted union with an old man, to whom she had 
sacrificed her youngest years, and many other things 
besides, contributed to make her interesting. Her fate 
excited much" compassion, and on all sides it was hoped 
that royal clemency might spare so touching a victim. 

It was said that M. Tiquet himself went to Versailles 
with his two children, and threw himself at the feet of 
Louis XIV. Having failed to obtain either his wife's 
reprieve, or some mitigation of her punishment, he asked 

D 2 



36 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

that the whole of her property should be remitted ta 
him. This he obtained. But the cupidity manifested 
by the old councillor on this as on other occasions 
excited universal indignation ; and this naturally gave 
rise to a corresponding amount of interest and sym- 
pathy on Mdme. Tiquet's behalf Her brother also 
was moving heaven and earth to save her. Thanks 
to his high connections, he induced the most powerful 
persons to intercede in her favour ; and Louis XIV. might 
have yielded but for the stubborn opposition of the 
Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal de Noailles. 

All hope being lost, my ancestor could only expect a 
prompt requisition of his services. The execution was 
appointed to take place on the day after the Fete-Dieu. 
The altars erected in the public places and streets had 
but just been removed, when Sanson de Longval arrived 
on the Place de Greve to see the scaffold erected. An 
immense crowd witnessed these sinister preparations. 

Meanwhile Mdme. Tiquet was led into the chamber 
of torture, where, in the presence of the criminal lieu- 
tenant, her sentence was read to her without bringing a 
tinge of paleness to her cheeks. Deffita, the criminal 
lieutenant, was one of Angelique's former admirers. He 
could barely contain his emotion ; but nevertheless he 
thought fit to address to the victim a few words of 
exhortation. The poor woman could hardly forbear 
from comparing the times when this magistrate was 
sighing at her feet, with the present occasion. ' I am 
not afraid to die,' she said. * The day which brings my 
life to an end sees the last of my misfortunes. I do not 



TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF MDME. TIQUET. yj 

defy death, but I hope to bear it with resignation, and 
God will perhaps do me the favour to permit me to 
preserve on the scaffold as much calmness as I have 
5hown during my trial and in this room where my 
sentence has just been read to me.' 

The lieutenant then implored her to confess her crime 
and to reveal the names of her accomplices, so as to 
avoid the horrors of torture. At first she peremptorily 
refused. But, after drinking the first jugful of water, her 
fortitude forsook her as she saw the preparations for other 
tortures, and she at length confessed everything. When 
she was asked whether Montgeorges had taken part in 
the crime : ' Good heavens, no ! ' she exclaimed ; ' if I 
had told him of it, I should have lost his esteem, which 
was dearer to me than life.' She was then handed to 
the Abbe de la Chetardie, her confessor. He took a 
place beside her in the fatal cart, where was also Jacques 
Moura, accompanied by a priest. The cortege slowly 
wedged its way through the multitude of spectators, and 
reached the Place de Greve. As was usual, Mdme. 
Tiquet was clad in spotless white, and her dress enhanced 
the splendid beauty she still retained, in spite of her 
forty-two years, and of her terrible trials. The cart had 
scarcely halted before the scaffold when a violent storm 
burst. The execution was momentarily deferred. For 
half an hour Angelique had before her the apparatus of 
death and a hearse drawn by her own horses, which 
had been sent by her family to take away her body. 

The fatal moment was at hand. Jacques Moura was 
executed first. When Angelique's turn was come, she 



38 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

advanced, gracefully bowing to my ancestor, and holding 
out her hand, that he might help her to ascend the steps. 
He took with respect the fingers which were soon to be 
stiffened by death. Mdme. Tiquet then mounted on 
the scaffold with the imposing and majestic step which 
had always been admired in her. She knelt on the plat- 
form, said a short prayer, and, turning to her confessor, 
* I thank you for your consolations and kind w^ords ; I 
shall bear them to the Lord.' 

She arranged her head-dress and long hair; and, 
after kissing the block, she looked at my ancestor, and 
said : 

' Sir, will you be good enough to show me the position. 
I am to take t ' 

Sanson de Longval, impressed by her look, had but 
just the strength to answer that she had only to put her 
head on the block. 

Angelique obeyed, and said again : 

' Am I well thus t ' 

A cloud passed before my ancestor's eyes ; he raised 
with both hands the heavy two-edged sword which was 
used for the purpose of decapitation, described with it a 
kind of semicircle, and let the blade fall with its full 
weight on the neck of the handsome victim. 

The blood spurted out, but the head did not fall. A 
cry of horror rose from the crowd. 

Sanson de Longval struck again ; again the hissing 
of the sword was heard, but the head was not separated 
from the body. The cries of the crowd were becoming 
threatening. 



TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF MDME. TIQUET. 39 

Blinded by the blood which spurted at every stroke, 
Sanson brandished his weapon a third time with a kind 
of frenzy. At last the head rolled at his feet. His 
assistants picked it up and placed it on the block, where 
it remained for some time ; and several witnesses asserted 
that even in death it retained its former calmness and 
beauty. 



40 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER V. 

PAMPHLETS UNDER LOUIS XIV. 

I HAVE now to relate a lamentable history which dwells 
on a time posterior to the death of Mdme. Tiquet;^ 
but as the events which led to it are anterior to this 
lady's execution, I am compelled to return on my steps 
as early as the first half of Louis XI V.'s reign. The sun 
which the great King had taken for his emblem was be- 
ginning to pale. 

The Augsburg league had just given the last blow 
to the public funds, already exhausted as they were by 
thirty years' war and extravagant prodigality. France 
had conquered at Fleurus, Nerwiaden, and La Mar- 
saille ; but she was tiring of glory, and calculating the 
cost of such victories. Likewise the disaster of La 
Hogue, the failure of the campaign of 1693 which Louis 
XIV. led in person, had shown at home as well as 
abroad that, after all, the monarch was only a human 
being. The accomplishment of the French unity which 
he received from the hands of Richelieu, and whicb he 
so gloriously achieved, was not completed without diffi- 
culty. Louis XIV. committed a grievous mistake. 
After introducing unity into his government, he wished to 



PAMPHLETS UNDER LOUIS XIV. 41 

extend it to the consciences of his subjects. On 
October 17, 1685, he had revoked the Edict of Nantes 
and covered France with those singular apostles whom 
Louvois called his booted missionaries. In January 
1686 another edict deprived the Protestants of the right 
of keeping their children. The * heretics ' emigrated in 
large numbers. Those who abjured retained deep 
hatred for the despotic power which oppressed them. It 
was then that the revolutionary spirit of the nation 
awoke. Popular revendication commenced ; it was 
inaugurated by the warfare of pamphlets. These 
attacks became the more dangerous because the per- 
sonal prestige of Louis had not survived the greatness 
of the monarch. The chivalrous lover of La Valliere, 
Fontanges, and Montespan had espoused, in 1684, the 
widow of Scarron the cripple. This sudden fall of the 
demigod gave a fearful weapon to his adversaries, 
and the pamphleteers made prompt use of it. In 
1689 a pamphlet entitled the 'Sighs of Enslaved 
France for Liberty ' -produced a great effect. The liberal 
aspirations which it contained were so new that, although 
it was couched in rather dogmatic terms, the most 
superficial minds were captivated by them ; and for 
some time there was a real struggle between the public 
and the police, who with equal avidity searched for copies 
of the pamphlets ; the former to read, the latter to destroy 
them. This affair, of course, led many people to the 
Bastille or to the torture-chamber. 

If the government of Louis XIV. had been severe in 
all such attempts against the majesty of the throne, it 



42 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

became pitiless with those who dared attack the com- 
panion chosen by the King. The latter was doubtless 
aware that in marrying Mdme. de Maintenon he had 
made a political mistake ; but he was so spoilt by adula- 
tion that the most enormous crime was to remind him 
of his error. In 1694 a few copies of a libel entitled 
the ^ Ghost of M. Scarron ' were circulated in Paris and 
Versailles. The pamphlet was adorned with an engraving 
which parodied the monument raised by Marshal Lafeuil- 
lade, on the Place des Victoires, to the glory of his master. 
Instead of having four statues chained at his feet, the 
King was represented chained between four women : La 
Valliere, Fontanges, Montespan, and Maintenon. 

It was among the princes of the blood and at the Court 
that the ^/<^ woman, as the Palatine Princess called her, 
had most enemies. This hatred defeated the vigilance 
of the police ; before the prefect, M. de la Reynie, knew 
of the existence of the work, the King found a copy 
under his napkin at breakfast, and Mdme. de Main- 
tenon received another copy at the same time and in the 
same way. 

This outrage, inflicted, as it were, in the midst of his 
palace, exasperated Louis XIV. M. de la Reynie was 
immediately called to Versailles ; the King bitterly up- 
braided him for what he called his guilty indifference, 
and ordered him to discover the authors of the libel 
and to punish them without pity. 

Either the persons who had given cause for royal 
anger were very powerful and clever, or the means of 
action of a lieutenant of police were limited, for the best 



\ 




MARQUISE DE MAINTENON. 
SECOND WIFE OF LOUIS XIV. 



PAMPHLETS UNDER LOUIS XIV. 43, 

agents of M. de la Reynie were unsuccessful. Still, the 
King was as angry as ever ; he even seemed as vexed at 
the failure of his agents as at the insult, and whenever 
he saw the lieutenant he did not spare his reproaches, 
to that unfortunate official. 

At length chance smiled on M. de la Reynie, who' 
saw his disgrace fast drawing near. One morning he 
was carelessly listening to the complaint of an artisan, 
from whose dwelling 5,000 livres had been stolen 
the day before. The poor fellow obviously took the 
lieutenant for Providence itself, and^ supposing that he 
could get his money restored, he was loud in his lament- 
ations. While he was speaking, the secretary of the 
lieutenant entered and hurriedly handed a letter to this 
magistrate, begging him to read it at once. 

The lieutenant had scarcely glanced at the paper 

than he jumped in his arm-chair with every sign of 

strong excitement. At his bidding the secretary went 

j in quest of a police officer, while M. de la Reynie was 

' feverishly writing a few lines on a piece of parchment 

bearing the seal of the State. 

His emotion was so great that he altogether forgot 
the presence of a third party ; and he did not notice 
that the despoiled artisan, who was standing within a 
yard of him, could read every word he was writing. 
The man was looking on with the candid confidence of 
one who is so convinced of the importance of his 
bi:i^iness that he cannot doubt but that the magistrate is 
engrossed by it ; but the secretary, who had returned 
with an officer, roughly pulled him back. 



44 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

M. de la Reynie looked up and appeared disagree- 
ably surprised by the presence of the artisan. 

' Write down your name,' said he in a harsh voice ; 
* your affair shall be seen to.' 

Profound astonishment appeared on the face of the 
man ; he hesitated for a few seconds, went to the table, 
took up a piece of paper and a pen, and then turning 
round : 

'Allow me to observe, monseigneur,' said he, * that I 
have had the honour to acquaint you with my name and 
occupation ; and further, that you remembered my 
words so well that I was marvelling at the strength of 
your memory when, a moment ago, I saw you writing 
my name down as correctly as I could do.' 

M. de la Reynie bit his lip, and made a sign to his 
secretary to draw closer to the artisan. 

' Your name is Jean Larcher,' said he to the latter. J 

' It is, monseigneur.' " 

' You are a bookbinder of the rue des Lions-Saint- 
PauL' 

' Monseigneur is quite right,' answered poor Jean 
Larcher, who was smiling, while he crumpled in his 
fingers the piece of paper he was about to write upon. 

M. de la Reynie was smiling also, although in a 
different way. He took the police officer aside, whispered 
a few words in his ear, and then introducing him to the 
bookbinder : ' This gentleman,' said he, '■ will accompany 
you to your house ; he will do all in his power to dis- 
cover your thief, and we shall take care that you meet 
with such justice as is due to you.' 






PAMPHLETS UNDER LOUIS XIV. 45 

The lieutenant laid stress on these last words, and 
the bookbinder, astounded at meeting with so gracious 
a reception from a high magistrate, could hardly find 
words to express his thanks and gratitude. He left 
the residence of the lieutenant of police without any- 
other apparent escort than that obligingly tendered 
by M. de la Reynie. On the way the police officer 
questioned the bookbinder, who furnished him with all 
the information he had already given to the lieutenant, 
not omitting to give the topography of his house, concern- 
ing which his companion seemed particularly interested. 
Master Jean Larcher was overjoyed at the great atten- 
tion shown by M, de la Reynie's man : he did not doubt 
but that his 5,000 livres would soon be returned to him, 
and he insisted on regaling his companion with the best 
wine they could procure in a wine shop. 

After this halt they went in the direction of 
the rue des Lions-Saint-Paul. Soldiers and police- 
men were standing around the bookbinder's house. 
The good man manifested more satisfaction than 
surprise at this military display. He observed to his 
companion that if his house had been as well guarded 
on the preceding night, so many good people would not 
have to be troubled now. The house inhabited by 
Larcher was narrow, but rather deep. It consisted of a 
ground floor composed of two rooms, one on the street 
side which was used as a shop and dining-room, the other 
being a workshop. An alley led to a staircase which 
communicated with the first floor, composed of two more 
rooms. One of these was Master Larcher's bedroom ; 



46 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the other contained the books and papers reserved for 
binding. To this last room the police officer asked to 
be taken. But while Larcher was showing the cup- 
board wherein his money had been secreted, M. de la 
Reynie's man took quite another direction, and climbing 
up to the top of another cupboard, he brought down a 
small bundle of pamphlets upon which a commissaire, 
who suddenly turned up, pounced like a vulture. 

Master Larcher, greatly astonished that so much 
attention should be given to what appeared to him of 
no import concerning his own business, was pulling the 
officer by the sleeve to show him how the cupboard had 
been forced open. But this last gentleman's manners 
towards him had considerably changed ; he hardly 
listened to the man who, a few moments before, was 
treated by him as an intimate friend. 

However, the commissaire began to question the 
bookbinder. He showed him the pamphlets, and asked 
if they were his property. 

In his impatience. Master Larcher answered with 
some rashness that all that was in the house belonged to 
him or to his clients. The commissaire then untied the 
bundle, took a copy of the pamphlet, thrust it under 
Larcher's eyes, and asked where it came from. 

When he read the title of the pamphlet, ' M. Scarron's 
Ghost,' of which he, as well as others, had heard, he 
turned white, trembled, took his head in his hands, and 
for a few moments remained quite stupefied. He, how- 
ever, recovered his powers of speech arid *swore that he 
had no knowledge of the presence of the fatal pam- 



PAMPHLETS UNDER LOUIS XIV. 47 

phlets in his shop, and that he now saw them for the 
first time. M. de la Reynie's people shrugged their 
shoulders disdainfully. In vain did he repeat his asser- 
tions and try to exculpate himself by reminding thenl • 
that he himself had brought the police to his house with 
the calmness of a faultless conscience. The officers told 
him he could explain himself before his judges ; and they 
prepared to take him away. 

In a corner of the apartment, Jean Larcher's wife, 
concealing her face in her apron, was weeping and 
giving every token of violent grief As Larcher was 
crossing the threshold, he begged the officer with whom 
he had been at first on friendly terms to allow him to say 
farewell to the woman he hardly hoped to see again. 
Hardened as he was, the policeman could not refuse this 
slight favour ; he signed to his men to relent, and the 
unfortunate husband exclaimed, * Marian, Marian ! ' But 
Madame Larcher's sobs became more violent, and she did 
not seem to hear her husband's call. Those who stood 
around her pushed her towards the prisoner; she hesi- 
tated, and then rushing into Larcher's arms she em- 
braced him with many demonstrations of grief and 
tenderness. 

The woman's hesitation had not escaped the officer's 
eye ; he also remarked that Mdme. Larcher was crying 
in the way of children ; that is, that her eyes were dry, 
and that not one tear trickled down her cheeks. This 
struck him as so extraordinary that he began to suspect 
.that Jean Larcher's innocence might, after all, be more 
genuine than that of the miscreants it was his wont to 



48 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

apprehend. When his prisoner was safely confined in 
the Chatelet, he imparted his suspicions to M. de la 
Reynie. He reminded him that it was an anonymous 
letter which denounced Jean Larcher, and indicated the 
precise spot where the pamphlets were concealed ; he 
related what he had seen, and expressed his conviction 
that the unfortunate bookbinder was the victim of some 
conspiracy. But the lieutenant of police had already 
announced the man's arrest to the King, who had con- 
gratulated him on his capture ; he held his culprit, and 
he was no man to relinquish his prey for a shadow ; that 
is to say, for the uncertain chances of an enquiry. 

If divers circumstances told in the prisoner's favour, 
there were heavy considerations on the other side. 
Before he was found in possession of the libel which had 
baffled the search of the police, Jean Larcher had 
seriously misbehaved himself. He was a convert to 
Protestantism, and had allowed his son to remain faithful 
to his family creed and to take refuge In England against 
persecutions. To this ' crime ' he added another — that 
of remaining in constant communication with his child. 

Jean Larcher appeared alone at the bar. He was 
tortured three times, and he suffered with more firm- 
ness than might have been expected of a poor man 
already advanced in years. He constantly refused to 
name his accomplices. When questioned he said that 
the death of one innocent man was enough for his 
judges, and that he had no wish that, through him, the 
latter should have to answer for more blood. 

Sentenced to be hanged, he was led to the gibbet on 



PAMPHLETS UNDER LOUIS XIV. 49 

Friday, November 19, 1694, at six o'clock in the evening. 
He was seated in a cart with a man named Rambault, a 
printer of Lyons, convicted of a similar crime. Larcher 
was fidgety, and seemed filled with thoughts not re- 
lating to his approaching end. He however behaved 
with courage, and died protesting his innocence. 

Before dying he earnestly begged Sanson to take a 
scapulary he had, and to give it to his son if he claimed 
it. Some years after, my ancestor had an opportunity of 
accomplishing the poor man's wish. It led to a fearful 
tragedy, and at the same time to the demonstration of 
the bookbinder's innocence. The scapulary contained 
the name of a man who was Master Jean Larcher's 
assistant. Nicolas Larcher, the son, who had been in 
England, discovered that his mother had married the 
man designated by his father as the culprit. Seized with 
frenzy, he broke into their house in the dead of the 
night, and murdered both his mother and her second 
husband. The young man was arrested, but died in 
prison of brain fever. 

In 1699 my ancestor had passed his sixty-fourth 
year. Hitherto he had borne his lot with manly and 
severe resignation ; but he suddenly broke down. He 
began to abhor the solitude he liked so much. He was 
uneasy, and started at the slightest noise ; silence filled 
him with awe. Darkness caused him such terror that he 
constantly kept a lighted lamp near his bedside. This 
change became so alarming that his friends and his son, 
who had reached manhood, advised him to choose 
VOL. I. E 



50 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

another partner, whose presence and cares might soften 
the bitterness of his last days. Some time before he had 
been able to appreciate the qualities of Jeanne Renee 
Dubut, daughter of Pierre Dubut, upholsterer, of the rue 
de Beauregard. Touched by the friendship and devotion 
she had shown him, my ancestor married her on Satur- 
day, July II, 1699. 

Jeanne Renee to a certain extent realised the hopes 
of the few who were attached to Sanson de Longval. 
But his quietude seems to have been of short duration. 
He resigned his office into his son's hands, for anything 
that reminded him of the functions he had discharged 
for so many years filled him with fear and horror. The 
sight of a drop of blood threw the old executioner into 
nervous fits which appalled all those who witnessed 
them. 

He could bear to sojourn in Paris no longer ; he 
.soon retired with his second wife to a small farm at 
Conde, in the Brie district, which he had bought, and 
where he at length found the only repose our like can 
Jiope for — death. 

In spite of minute searches and enquiries I have been 
oinable to ascertain the exact date of his death. The 
municipal record of the little village which saw the last 
•of Charles Sanson has, naturally enough, disappeared, 
.and his last day was not recorded in his son's notes. 



CHAPTER VI. 

CELLAMARE'S CONSPIRACY. 

Sanson's son, whose Christian name was Charles, like his 
father's, took official possession of the functions he had 
discharged for the last five years, on September 8, 1703. 
He was of a mild and gentle disposition, and by temper 
and appearance was much like his mother. Marguerite 
Jouanne. On April 30, 1707, he married Marthe 
Dubut, his stepmother's sister. No astonishment need 
be felt at both father and son espousing two sisters, 
when it is remembered that Sanson de Longval married 
at an advanced stage of life, and that he took his 
wife only as a companion of his old age. Moreover, 
I may observe that, in our unfortunate profession, we 
_could__hardIy choose our wives out of our own sphere, 
and that, as with accursed races, our families perpetu- 
ally mingled and intermarried in such a way as to 
unite in the same person divers degrees of relationship 
which usually exclude each other. Thus, by this mar- 
riage, Sanson de Longval's widow became the sister-in- 
law of her stepson, and the young person Charles 
Sanson married was previously, in some degree, his aunt. 
I can make these anomalies more apparent by enu- 

E 2 






52 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

merating the persons who were present at the wedding. 
On one side were a second Marguerite Jouanne, widow 
of Jean Baptiste Morin in the first place, and in the 
second of Nicolas Levasseur, both executioners, quali- 
fied in the act of marriage as my ancestor's maternal 
aunt ; Jeanne Renee Dubut, widow of Charles Sanson 
de Longval, his stepmother, and sister of the bride ; 
Nicolas Lemanchand, executioner at Mantes, cousin of 
the bride, through Marie Levasseur, his wife ; and Noel 
Desmasures, usher of the Chatelet, friend. On Marthe 
Dubut's side were Pierre Dubut, her father ; Elizabeth 
Voisin, his second wife ; Gilles Darboucher, green- 
grocer, who had married a sister of Dubut's first wife, 
and was, therefore, uncle of Marthe ; and lastly. Mar- 
guerite Guillaume, widow of Andre Guillaume, one of 
the King's officers. 

It may be seen that the second Marguerite Jouanne 
had only been able to find executioners for husbands, 
that Marie Levasseur had the same fate, and lastly that 
Marthe Dubut could not pretend to a higher union than 
her eldest sister's. The gibbet and the axe were in 
the dowry of these poor women when they went to the 
altar. 

Charles spared no means to brighten Marthe Dubut's 
existence. The emoluments of the executioner were 
then considerable ; they amounted, chiefly through the 
right of /lavage, to not less than 60,000 livres. My 
second ancestor was, therefore, enabled to surround 
his young wife with all the comforts and elegances of 
ife. 



^.tol -'^^ 



Xo 



'i<> 



CELLAMARE'S CONSPIRACY. 53 

Shortly after his marriage he left the old house of 
New France. His notary, Master Touvenot, purchased 
for him a superb dwelling situate at the corner of the 
Rue des Poissonniers and the Rue d'Enfer, now the Fau- 
bourg Poissonniere and the Rue Bleue. It is the house 
which forms the corner of the Rue Papillon and Rue 
Bleue, but it would be difficult to discriminate the fea- 
tures of the old house amidst the changes and improve- 
ments that have taken place in it. In my ancestor's time 
it was a large mansion between court and garden, built 
on grounds of twelve acres in extent. Behind the 
mansion were immense gardens, picturesquely laid out, 
of which a part, planted with shrubs and trees, had the 
appearance of a real park. 

This property belonged to M. Paul Antoine-Caignet, 
on one part, and on the other to Charles-Auguste 
Angenont, equerry, when Charles Sanson bought it 
through M. Touvenot's agency. It remained in the 
family until my grandfather sold it in 1778 to two 
gentlemen named Papillon and Riboutte. These 
gentlemen gave their names to the two streets they 
constructed on the land occupied by the shady paths of 
the garden of my ancestors. I am sure that few of the 
inhabitants of these streets know that their dwellings 
are erected on the spot where the former executioners 
of Paris used to stroll, after accomplishing their bloody 
work. 

The rate of land had increased so much in 1778 
that my grandfather sold for more than 100,000 livres 
the house and grounds, for which Charles Sanson 



54 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

had only given 6,oco. In his time it was an almost 
lordly dwelling ; the building, two stories high, was 
preceded by a large court, surrounded with adjoining 
constructions of all kinds, sheds, stables, coach-house, 
hot-houses, &c. On the ground floor was a hall,, 
giving access to the garden by a double staircase ; on 
the right of the hall the kitchens ; on the left, the 
dining and drawing room ; on the first floor my 
ancestor's apartments ; and on the second floor the 
servants' rooms. 

The garden was one of those marvels such as the 
agglomeration of modern cities no longer allows. One 
part of it was converted into beds of flowers, which 
bloomed along the paths ; beyond was a series of un- 
equal squares, carefully separated by sanded alleys, 
which were bordered with fruit trees. A large sward 
occupied the middle of the garden. At the other end 
of the grounds were clusters of trees symmetrically 
pierced with one large path, and four lateral paths, 
above which the boughs of the trees met and formed 
the thickest shade. 

In this charming house Charles Sanson spent his 
life with Marthe Dubut, his wife. He lived there 
humbly and quietly, forgetting, as well as he could, the 
avocations and bent of his existence. I am not aware, 
however, that he justified the apprehensions which had 
poisoned the last years of Sanson de Longval, and ever 
regretted his fate. 

From 1703 to 17 16, the list of executions of the 
second Sanson is almost exclusively composed of 



CELLAMARE'S CONSPIRACY. 55 

obscure names, connected with vulgar crimes. Cupidity- 
is always their chief motive, and murder the means of 
execution. A few highway robbers, Licaon, La Ches- 
naye, Muillart, Arpalin, Petit-Jacques, hardly relieve the 
monotony of this nomenclature by the audacity of their 
deeds. 

Louis XIV. died in 171 5 ; the throne devolved to a 
child five years old, and the Regency, which the late King 
wished to confide to the Duke du Maine, fell to the 
Duke of Orleans. After the splendours of his reign, 
and perhaps on account of such splendours, Louis XIV. 
left France humiliated and ruined. The task of retriev- 
ing his faults was a difficult one ; but the hatred of the 
multitude for the monarch whose corpse was being 
taken to Saint-Denis in a solitary hearse, its enthu- 
siasm for a prince who was only noted for his dissolute 
life, prompted the latter to undertake the task. 

One of the first acts of the new sovereign was 
an edict against the farmers of the revenue. On 
May 12 a Chamber of Justice was established, before 
which a whole class of men were made to disgorge the 
gold on which they had fed. This court was established 
in the Couvent des Grands- Augustins, and an adjoining 
room was turned into a chamber of torture. Question 
was applied to the enriched financiers just as if they 
had been vulgar criminals. The penalties inflicted by 
the court were amende honorable, pillory, imprisonment 
with hard labour, death, and confiscation in any case. 

This long and minute series of trials had the usual 
result of quarrels between great people. The booty 



56 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

changed hands, but the people had no share in it. 
Scarcely eighty millions were returned to the coffers of 
the State, and the remainder was appropriated by those 
whose duty it was to punish exactions. It was the 
eternal theft of thieves deceived by confreres which, it is 
said, has the privilege of exciting the devil's hilarity. 
President de Fouqueux appropriated the property of one 
Bonvalais, famous for his immense wealth. There 
were many victims. Paparel, brother-in-law of the 
Marquis de la Fare, who was one of the Regent's 
favourites, was condemned to death. Ferlet, Francois 
Aubert, d'Armilly, Pierre Maringue, de Berally, Gourgon, 
Crojet, Chaillon, Renault, and many others were simi- 
larly treated. The Regent, who, as the worthy grand- 
son of Louis XI IL, liked to play the part of dispenser 
of justice, was relentless, and would not interfere. These 
executions offered nothing remarkable, for I find but 
few allusions to the subject in Charles Sanson's notes ; 
and as I do not pretend to make of this book an_exhj;^ 
bition of human butchering, I must fain leave the sub- 
ject, and pass on to a more important event of the time 
in which my ancestor was concerned in a singular 
manner. 

The scandalous orgies of the Regent at the Palais 
Royal and the acerbity of pamphlets had at length 
compromised his popularity, and his enemies thought 
the time well chosen to deprive him of power. At the 
head of the Regent's opponents were Philip V., King of 
Spain, whose ambition was to add to his crown another 
realm, and thus become King of the half of Europe; 



CELLAM ARE'S CONSPIRACY. 57 

and also the legitimised princes designated for the 
Regency by Louis XIV., who by a decree of Parliament 
had recently been deprived of the prerogatives of 
princes of the blood at the instigation of the Duke 
of Orleans. These ambitions and hatreds clubbed 
together ; the plotters devised gigantic plans ; enhsted 
a few poor noblemen ; and it was this circumscribed 
intrigue, the authors of which would have appeared 
more ridiculous than guilty but for their alliance with a 
foreign prince, which was called the conspiracy of 
Cellamare. 

Cardinal Alberoni, minister of Philip V., Prince de 
Cellamare, the Spanish Ambassador in Paris, and the 
Duchess du Maine, who could not console herself for 
losing the opportunity of governing France, were the 
chief wirepullers of the plot. This plan was not wanting 
in boldness. Philip d'Orleans was to be captured and 
imprisoned in the citadel of Tarragonie, and the Duke 
du Maine was to be proclaimed Regent ; the Pretender 
was to be landed in England ; it was further proposed 
to return Naples and Sicily to the empire, to annex the 
Netherlands to France, to give the duchy of Tuscany to 
the second son of the King of Spain, Sardinia to the 
Duke of Savoy, Commachio to the Pope, Mantua to 
the Venetians ; to recognise Philip V.'s claim to his 
'grandfather's throne in case the boy-king Louis XV. 
should die ; in short, to organise a Latin empire 
which was to exercise an irresistible preponderance in 
Europe. 

This was no doubt a vast conception, and it is curious 



58 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

that the man of genius who devised it was so mistaken 
in the instruments and the means he used to carry it out. 
Among the princes and noblemen who joined him, not 
one had the stuff of an average conspirator. The 
auxiliaries who recruited these powerless plotters were, 
for the most part, timid and discredited adventurers. 
The result of this conspiracy on paper is well known, 
and it is doubtful whether it would ever have been men- 
tioned in history had it not led to a new war between 
two nations the occurrence of which family links seemed 
to render impossible. 

The statesmen who, in the boudoir of the Duchess 
du Maine, plotted a change in the destinies of a great 
nation committed the absurd blunder of giving the 
documents they wished to send to Spain to an under- 
writer of the King's library, named Buvat. A note left 
among the papers entrusted to his hands awoke Buvat's 
suspicions, and on leaving the house of the Prince de 
Cellamare he hastened to communicate with the able 
Dubois, prime minister of the Regent. Dubois used him 
as a spy, and was informed, day after day, of all the 
secrets, with which he took care not to interfere until he 
knew them thoroughly ; and then he put a sudden stop 
to the conspiracy by capturing all the conspirators. But 
the Regent, whose influence was restored through this 
cabal, could show clemency without peril. No execution 
followed this rose-coloured plot, and there would be no 
need for me to allude to it if Charles Sanson had not 
chanced to take a part in one of its least known inci- 
dents. 




ANNE-LOUISE-b6n6dICTE DE bourbon, DbCHESSE DU MAINE. 



CELLAMARE'S CONSPIRACY. S9» 

An Italian nobleman, who had obtained the confi- 
dence of the Regent by promising to tell him how to 
make gold, at length persuaded him that he possessed 
the power of evoking the devil ; and the adept having 
chosen the pits of Vanves for his operations, the Regent 
promised to join him there with the Marquis de Mire- 
poix. This Italian was the agent of a Silesian adven- 
turer named De Schlieben, who had been sent to France 
by the Princess des Ursins. Some time before a late 
colonel called La Jonquiere had tried to capture the 
Regent in the Bois de Boulogne which the prince was to 
traverse. He missed Philip by a quarter of an hour. 
La Jonquiere had fled, but he had been arrested at 
Liege and imprisoned in the Bastille. Schlieben under- 
took to accomplish what La Jonquiere had failed to do, 
and stratagem very nearly succeeded where strength 
had been unsuccessful. The Regent's incredible curiosity 
was very nearly followed by fatal consequences, and his 
liberty was preserved in the following manner : 

A woman who had recently arrived in Paris, and 
whose beauty was remarkable, was living in furnished 
apartments of the Rue du Pont-aux-Choux. She received 
many visits ; at times her visitor was an abbe or an 
officer ; at others a countryman or a bourgeois. Her 
neighbours, who took her for a woman of dissolute life, 
felt little astonishment at the number of her acquaint- 
ances ; but one of them discovered that this profusion 
of adorers was but apparent, and that only one man, 
under different disguises, visited the unknown. He 
informed the lieutenant of police of his discovery ; and 



.6o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

this official was about to order the woman's arrest when 
.a terrible uproar was heard in her room. The door was 
forced open, and the lady was found struggling with a 
man dressed as a musketeer, whom the neighbours again 
identified under the thick moustache he had added to 
his disguise, and who spoke with a foreign accent. It 
appeared that jealousy was the cause of the scene, for 
the woman threatened the man who, judging by appear- 
ances, was her lover, with a dagger she held in her hand. 
The police were sent for ; but the musketeer managed 
to escape ; and the policemen having failed to question 
her on the spot, when she was excited and might have 
spoken the truth, she afterwards gave only vague and 
mendacious information. The lieutenant of police con- 
demned her to imprisonment at the general hospital, 
after being publicly whipped. This punishment was 
usually inflicted by the executioner's assistants. On the 
day after it was inflicted, Charles Sanson remarked with 
astonishment that the assistant who had been employed 
on the occasion wore a signet ring of great value ; he 
also noticed that the man blushed when he looked 
at him. Hereupon Sanson demanded how the jewel 
was in his possession ; the assistant with some hesi- 
tation answered that the unfortunate woman had re- 
sisted, and that the ring and a small diamond had 
fallen from her hair ; he took possession of the jewels ; 
and as the woman after the infliction was being led to 
the hospital, she told him in a low voice that she had 
seen him, but that she did not intend to denounce him, 
and should even give him the small diamond if he would 



CELLAMARE'S CONSPIRACY. 6r 

take the ring to a merchant named Planta, at the Duke 
de Richelieu's mansion, and that he should be amply- 
remunerated by him ; she also begged him to ask the 
man to whom she sent him not to forget her. 

The improbability of this quality of merchant at- 
tributed to the owner of a ring of which the crest was- 
surmounted with an earl's coronet, struck Sanson. He 
severely scolded his assistant, and immediately took the 
ring to the lieutenant of police. The woman was con- 
fronted with the executioner's assistant, and, when she 
was threatened with torture, she volunteered a full 
confession. Her name was Antoinette Sicard. She waS' 
M. de Schlieben's mistress, and had come with him from 
Bayonne to Paris. She had vaguely heard of grand 
projects which were to be for her lover a source of great 
wealth ; he had once brought with him to her room an 
Italian with whom he was on intimate terms. In the 
course of the dinner they laughed at the simplicity 
of a person whose name they did not pronounce, who- 
had consented to go and see the devil, at night, in the 
pits of Vanves, when it was so easy for him to enjoy 
the sight in his own palace by looking at himself in a 
mirror. 

These revelations were communicated to the Abbe 
Dubois. He had heard of the Regent's absurd intention,, 
and had vainly besought his master to renounce his con- 
templated journey. The discovery which (thanks to the 
intervention of Charles Sanson) the lieutenant of police 
had just made, confirmed the suspicions he already 
entertained. He ordered the arrest of the ' devil ' and 



'62 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

his companion, but they both took to flight. The 
ItaHan took refuge in Spain. De Schlieben, less for- 
tunate, was taken just as he was about to cross the 
frontier. Those who captured him took him back to 
Paris in a stage-coach without saying a word of their 
mission to the other passengers. When the coach ar- 
^rived in Paris, it drove into the Bastille. 

Schlieben's ring remained in Charles Sanson's pos- 
session ; it was the only reward he received for the 
service he had rendered the State. 



63 



ft 



CHAPTER VII. 

COUNT DE HORN. 



Count Antoine-Joseph de Horn was the scion of a 
princely race ; and he was connected with the highest 
tiobiHty of Europe. At the time when speculation, 
under Law's auspices, was raging in Paris, and the 
temptation of gain was leading astray many persons of 
position and family, Count de Horn was living in the 
capital the life of a young lord of fashion and fortune. 
The sensation which was produced may easily be 
imagined when it was heard that he had been arrested 
and put under lock and key under the twofold charge of 
having murdered, in company with a Piedmontese, 
called the Chevalier de Milhe, and a third unknown 
person, a Jew who speculated in the shares of the 
Royal Bank, in order to rob him of a pocket-book which 
contained a sum of 100,000 livres. 

The murder was perpetrated in a tavern of the Rue 

Ouincampoix, where, it was alleged. Count de Horn and 

his accomplices had made an appointment with the Jew, 

I under pretence of purchasing the shares he had in his 

pocket, but in reality to steal them from him. 

The greatest agitation prevailed at Court in con- 



64 . MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

sequence of this affair, owing to the illustrious rank of 
the accused, and of his connection with the loftiest aris- 
tocracy of the land. De Horn's trial was pursued with 
unprecedented rapidity, and it seems as if the numerous 
steps taken to save the young man's life only hurried 
his fate. When his parents heard of his incarceration, 
they lost no time in moving heaven and earth on his be- 
half. On the eve of the trial, a large number of his 
kinsmen assembled in the Palais de Justice, and waited 
for the members of the court, to bow to them as they 
passed, by way of commending the accused to their in- 
dulgence. This imposing manifestation, undertaken by 
the first seigneurs of France, produced no effect : the 
court of La Tournelle sentenced Count de Horn and the 
Chevalier de Milhe to be broken on the wheel, and left 
there until death should follow. 

This sentence filled the young man's friends and 
parents with terror and surprise. They sent to the Regent 
a petition in which it was represented that Count de Horn's 
father was mad, that his kinsman Prince Ferdinand de 
Ligne was in a similar condition, that lunacy was a com- 
mon ailing in his family, and that the young man must have 
committed the crime when of unsound mind. Among 
those who signed the petition were Prince Claude de 
Ligne, Marquis d'Harcourt, the Earl of Egmont, the 
Duke de la Tremouille, the Duke de la Force, the Arch- 
bishop of Cambray, Prince de Soubise, the Princess de 
Gonzague, and many others of the same rank. All the 
facts adduced in this petition were certainly authentic. 
The great race of the Princes de Horn and Overisque 



COUNT DE HORN. 65 

had given many examples of mental aberration. All 
the subscribers of the petition went in a body to the 
Palais Royal ; but the Regent only consented to receive 
a deputation. He was inflexible with regard to a 
reprieve ; and it was with much difficulty that he con- 
sented to a commutation of the sentence into decapita- 
tion. He could only be moved by being reminded that 
he was himself related to the culprit through his mother 

the Princess Palatine. How he kept his promise will 
be seen hereafter. 

This obstinacy on the part of the Regent was much 
commented upon. Personal animosity was said to be the 
cause. M. de Horn, being young, handsome, and captivat- 
ing, had been something of a lady-killer. Now, morality 
was not the distinguishing feature of Philip d'Orleans* 
Court, and it was said that several beauties in fashion 
had regarded the foreign young lord with more than 
ordinary favour. Mdme. de Parabere's name was par- 
ticularly mentioned ; and it was related that the Regent 

! had once surprised M. de Horn in conversation with the 
beautiful marchioness. In his fury the prince showed him 

 the door, saying, ' Sortez ' — to which the Count made the 
proud and appropriate answer : ' Monseigneur, nos an- 
cotres auraient dit, sortons.' To this adventure, whether 
real or invented, was attributed the Regent's hatred for 
Count de Horn, whose life he had sworn to sacrifice. It 
is not my business to discuss this question. What was, 
most certain was that Law, the minister of finance, and 
Dubois, the prime minister, showed themselves the 
bitterest foes of Count de Horn. The influence of the 
VOL. I. F 



66 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

shares of the Royal Bank and of the Mississippi was 
diminishing ; and they were in hopes that this might be 
mended by a display of unparalleled severity for the 
punishment of a murder committed with the object of 
taking possession of some of these shares. 

Shortly afterwards, Charles Sanson received a visit 
from the Marquis de Creqy, the nobleman who had been 
the instigator and leader of all the attempts made to save 
the unfortunate youth. He seemed convinced that the 
Regent would keep his word, and showed him a letter in 
v^hich the Duke de Saint-Simon expressed his conviction 
that Count de Horn would be decapitated. The Marquis 
added that his royal highness had also promised that 
the execution should take place in the court of the 
Conciergerie, to spare the culprit the shame of being led 
through the crowd. The only thing was to spare the 
unhappy young man as many sufferings as possible. 
M. de Creqy expressed a wish to see the sword which 
was to be used for his execution ; he turned pale when 
ray ancestor produced the broad double-edged blade, 
sharp and flashing, which could hardly be styled a 
-weapon. On one side was engraved the word Justitia ; 
on the other a wheel, emblem of torture. It was the 
sword with which the Chevalier de Rohan had been de- 
capitated. 

M. de Creqy could hardly refrain from weeping when 
he begged Charles Sanson to be as lenient as possible 
in the execution of his fearful mission, to uncover only 
the neck of the victim, and to wait until he received 
the priest's absolution before giving him the fatal blow. 



COUNT DE HORN. 67 

The conversation then turned to the measures to be 
taken for the remittance of the body, which M. de 
Creqy claimed in the name of the family. He re- 
quested my ancestor to procure a padded coffin wherein 
to place the remains of De Horn, which were then to be 
taken away in a carriage sent expressly for the purpose. 
Charles Sanson promised to see to the accomplishment 
of these lugubrious details. 

When he left, M. de Creqy, wishing to reward my 
ancestor for the services he asked, presented him with 
100 louis, and insisted on his accepting the gift. But 
Charles Sanson firmly refused. M. de Creqy appeared 
moved, and retired. I may be forgiven for dwelling with 
some complacency on this trait of disinterestedness on 
the part of one of those who preceded me in the office I 
held for many years ; it may be considered as an answer 
to the charge of cupidity which has been launched at a 
profession which did not appear sufficiently soiled by 
blood. 

Only a few hours had elapsed since the visit of the 
Marquis de Creqy, when Charles Sanson received the 
order to take, on the next morning at six o'clock, from 
the Conciergerie, Count Antoine de Horn ; to convey him 
to the Place de Greve, after passing through the torture- 
chamber, and carry out the sentence of Parliament in its 
cruel tenour. My ancestor's expectation was justified ; 
the Regent did not keep his word ; Law and Dubois had 
won the day against the Duke de Saint-Simon and the 
nobility. 

To my ancestor's extreme surprise, the sentence did 



68 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

not even contain the secret restriction of a rctentitniy 
which spared horrible sufferings to the accused, by 
ordering the executioner to strangle him before breaking- 
his limbs. How could he now keep the promise he had 
made to the Marquis de Creqy ? Charles Sanson 
passed the night in anything but pleasant reflections. 

It was broad daylight when my ancestor arrived at 
the Conciergerie with his sinister cortege. He imme- 
diately entered the prison, and was conducted to a lower 
room in which were the Count de Horn and M. de 
Milhe, who had just been tortured. Both were horribly 
mangled, for they had supported the boot to the eighth 
spike. The Count was extremely pale. He cast a 
haggard look around him, and kept speaking to his com- 
panion, who seemed much more resigned and listened 
with religious attention to the priest who was consolin.p- 
him. As to M. de Horn, instead of being plunged in 
the state of prostration which usually followed the 
abominable sufferings he had just borne, he gesticulated 
with feverish animation and pronounced incoherent 
words which almost seemed to justify what had been 
alleged in his defence concerning the unsoundness of his 
mind. He violently repulsed the priest, who was 
dividing his attention between the two sufferers, and re- 
peatedly asked for Monsignor Frangois de Lorraine,, 
Bishop of Bayeux, from whom he had received the com- 
munion the day before. 

The fatal moment came. The culprits were carried 
to the executioner's cart. Charles Sanson sat down 
next to the Count, while the priest continued speaking 



COUNT DE HORN. 69 

to the Piedmontese. Seeing the unhappy young man's 
extreme agitation, my ancestor thought he might quiet 
him by giving him some hope, even were that hope to 
remain unrealised. 

' My lord,' he said, * there is perhaps some hope. 
Your relations are powerful.' 

The prisoner violently interrupted him. * They have 
abandoned me,' he exclaimed ; ' the Bishop — where is 
the Bishop } He promised to return.' 

' Who knows t ' my ancestor ventured to say ; 
^ reprieve may yet come.' 

The young man's lips turned up contemptuously. 
^ If they wanted to spare my life, they would not have 
crippled me in this fashion,' he replied, bitterly, casting a 
look at his lacerated legs and feet. 

Charles Sanson says in his notes that he really hoped 
and expected that some attempt would be made to save 
De Horn. But nothing occurred. The Pont-au-Change 
was passed, and in another minute the cortege reached 
the Place de Greve. The Count looked at Sanson re- 
proachfully as if upbraiding him for what he had said ; 
but he was now quite collected and the fear of death had 
left him. 

At length the cart stopped at the foot of the scaffold. 
The culprits, owing to the torture they had undergone, 
could not move unaided. Charles Sanson therefore took 
Count de Horn in his arms and carried him up the steps. 
At the same time he whispered in his ear the advice that 
he should ask permission to make revelations, as a means 
of gaining time ; but the unfortunate young man had again 



70 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

lost his self-possession and gave vent to incoherent excia 
niations. ' I knew they would not allow the Bishop to 
come,' he said ; . . . ' they have arrested him because he 
had shares also. But I shall sell my life dearly ; only give 
me arms ! . . . . they cannot refuse to give me arms ! ' . . . 
While he was thus expressing himself, Charles Sanson 
stepped back, motioning to his assistants to begin their 
work which consisted in tying him to the plank on 
which he was to be broken. When this was done, the 
priest, who had just left the Piedmontese, approached 
De Horn : ' My son,' he said, * renounce the sentiments 
of anger and revenge which trouble your last moments. 
Only think of God : He is the sovereign author of all 
justice, if you appear before Him with a contrite and 
humbled heart' 

The Count at length seemed moved, and he joined 
in the priest's prayer. As to my ancestor, he remem- 
bered M. de Creqy's request as to priestly absolution, 
and in this respect his conscience was firm ; but he had 
also promised not to make the young man suffer. In an 
instant he decided on the course he should adopt. Simu- 
lating sudden illness, he passed his iron bar to Nicolas 
Gros, his oldest assistant, took the thin rope used for the 
secret executions of the retentimi, passed it round the 
Count's neck, and before Gros had raised the heavy bar 
wherewith he was about to break the culprit's limbs, he 
pulled the rope, and thus spared him the most atrocious 
sufferings ever devised by human cruelty. 

On the other hand, the Chevalier de Milhe, who was 
being broken, uttered wild shrieks. In vain did the 



COUNT DE HORN. 71 

priest wipe the perspiration from his brow, and pour a 
few drops of water into his mouth. Charles Sanson was 
struck with the inequaHty of the sufferings of the two 
men, and told Gros to give him the cotip de grace — the 
blow which broke the chest. 

Gros obeyed, but not without casting an uneasy look 
at the commissaire, who was viewing the execution from 
the balcony of the H6tel-de-ville. No doubt the latter 
cared little for executions of this kind, of which, perhaps, 
he had seen but too many, for he perceived nothing. At 
this moment the priest, surprised not to hear the cries of 
Count de Horn, returned to exhort him to repentance : 
he saw that death had forestalled him. The rope was 
still hanging from the young man's neck, and my ances- 
tor hastened to conceal it while the ecclesiastic was 
standing between the H6tel-de-ville and himself; then, 
placing a finger on his lips, he solicited the priest's dis- 
cretion. 

Both passed the remainder of the day beside the 
mangled remains. Shortly after the execution, a carriage 
drawn by six horses, preceded by a mounted servant, and 
followed by six servants in gorgeous livery, entered the 
Place de Greve. It was the Duke de Croy d'Havre, whose 
arms could be descried on the panels of his carriage 
through the black crape which covered it. He was soon 
followed by three other carriages, which stopped on the 
north side of the square. They were all in deep mourning, 
as also the harness of the horses and the liveries of the 
servants. The blinds were closed, as much to avoid public 
curiosity as to conceal the cruel sight of the scaffold. 



72 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

But it was whispered in the crowd that the last comers 
were the Prince de Ligne, the Duke de Rohan, and a 
Croiiy, the last scion of the illustrious race of Arpad, 
which traced its origin to Attila, and put forth more legi- 
timate rights to the crown of Hungary than the house 
of Hapsburg. 

My ancestor was surprised not to see the Marquis de 
Creqy. But his astonishment was short-lived, for a 
rumour at the other end of the Place announced the 
arrival of two other carriages, in an apparel still more 
pompous. They drove up to the other carriages and took 
up a position in the same line. The Marquis de Creqy 
stepped out, and advanced on to the square clad in the 
uniform of a colonel-general and general inspector of 
the King's armies, and wearing the insignias of the 
Golden Fleece, the grand crosses of Saint-Louis and 
Saint-Jean of Jerusalem. His countenance bore the 
traces of profound grief. He traversed the Greve with 
a firm step ; the crowd stepped back respectfully before 
this great personage, who was one of Louis XIV.'s 
godsons. 

As soon as the commissaire saw M. de Creqy, he 
retired from the balcony of the H6tel-de-ville, as if 
only waiting for this final protest to bring the scene to a 
conclusion. This meant that justice was satisfied. The 
Marquis walked straight up to my ancestor with a severe 
face, and looking at him almost threateningly : 

* Well, sir,' said he, in a stern voice, ' what of your 
promise } ' 

* Monseigneur,' answered Charles Sanson, ' at eight 



COUNT DE HORN. ,73 

o'clock this morning M. le Comte de Horn was dead, and 
the bar of my assistant struck a dead body.' 

The priest confirmed my ancestor's words. 

' Well,' said M. de Creqy, in a milder tone, ' our 
house shall remember that if it could obtain nothing 
from the clemency of the Regent and from the justice 
of Parliament, it is at least indebted to the humanity of 
the executioner.' 

The Count's body was then untied and taken to one 
of the carriages. It was so mutilated that the limbs 
seemed ready to separate from the trunk. As _a protest 
against the cruelty of the sentence, M. de Creqy in- 
sisted on holding one of the legs, which only adhered to 
the corpse by the skin. When this was done the car- 
riages moved away in a file, and stopped before the 
house of the Countess de Montmorency-Lagny, nee 
De Horn, where the Count's remains were placed in a 
bier and deposited in a chapel. It remained there for 
two days, surrounded by a numerous clergy who sang 
the mass of the dead. Meanwhile Prince Francois de 
Lorraine, Bishop of Bayeux, had returned to Paris. He 
expressed much grief at having been unable to attend 
his unfortunate kinsman to the scaffold, thinking that 
the execution was to take place at a later date. He 
nevertheless arrived in time to join his prayers to those 
of the clergy, and, in company with MM. de Creqy and 
de Plessis-Belliere, he escorted the body to the Castle of 
Baussigny, in the Netherlands, where the Prince de 
Horn, eldest brother of the defunct, and head of the 
family, usually resided. 



74 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

This extraordinary affair greatly irritated the highest 
personages of the State against the Regent and his 
favourites : it proved of no assistance to Law, whose fall 
was unavoidable. On his return from his country-seat 
the Duke de Saint-Simon hastened to write to the Duke 
d'Havre to express his regret at what had occurred, and 
to say how he himself had been deceived by the false 
promises of the Duke d'Orleans. 

I quote here the Duke d'Havre's answer, because it 
not only expressed the sentiments of all the French 
nobility, but it corroborates what I have said concerning 
Charles Sanson's conduct : 

'■ My dear Duke, — I accept with gratitude, and I un- 
derstand quite well, the regret you are kind enough to 
express. I do not know whether the Marquis de Para- 
bere or the Marquis de Creqy obtained of the execu- 
tioner of Paris the charity which is attributed to him ; 
but what I do know is that the death of Count de Horn 
is the result of a false policy, of the financial operations 
o? the Government, and, perhaps, also of the poHcy ofthe 
Duke d'Orleans. You know my sentiments of considera- 
tion for you. Croy D'Havr£.' 

Was Count de Horn really innocent } We have no 
right to judge the merits of those it was our mission to 
put to death. Nevertheless I have taken the liberty to 
allude to the rumours which were current at the time of 
De Horn's arrest, and which made him out to be the victim 
of the Regent's personal animosity. Another version 



COUNT DE HORN. 75^ 

tended to establish his innocence, or, at least, so to- 
diminish his responsibility in the Jew's murder, that,, 
were the version correct, the sentence he sufifered could 
only be regarded as a monstrous iniquity. It was said 
that M. de Horn and the Chevalier de Milhe had not 
made an appointment with the Jew with the intention, 
of murdering and robbing him, but merely with the 
object of obtaining from him a large sum in shares of 
the Bank which the Count had really entrusted to him ; 
that not only did the Jew deny the deposit, but that he 
went so far as to strike Antoine de Horn in the face. 
Upon this the young man, who was hot-blooded and pas- 
sionate, seized a knife that lay on the table and wounded 
the Jew in the shoulder. It was De Milhe who finished him 
and took the pocket-book, of which the Count refused to 
have a share. If the affair occurred in this way, it must 
be acknowledged that the Regent, and the magistrates 
who served his hatred, had a heavy reckoning to answer 
for. 



76 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

CARTOUCHE. 

On October 15, 1721, Paris was in a fever of excitement. 
The whole population was crowding the streets ; in 
shops, taverns, and even in drawing-rooms, people greeted 
each other with this phrase, which nevertheless met with 
much incredulity : 

/ Cartouche is captured.' 

' Barbier's Journal ' related the capture in the fol- 
lowing terms : 

' 15th. — Great News in Paris ! — I have spoken before 
of one Cartouche, a notorious robber who was sought 
for everywhere and was found nowhere. It was thought 
to be a fable. His existence is only too real. This 
morning at eleven o'clock he was taken ; but never was 
a thief more honoured. 

* Words attributed to him inspired fear in the Regent, 
so that secret orders were given for his apprehension ; 
and the report w^s spread in Paris that he had left the 
capital, that he had died at Orleans, and even that he 
was a myth, so that he should not imagine that he was 
being looked for. 

* He has been discovered through a robbery he com- 



i 



CARTOUCHE. 77 

mitted at an innkeeper's with three of his companions, 
and also at the instigation of a patrol soldier who sold 
him. Pekom, major of the guards, who knew that he- 
was acquainted with Cartouche, took him to the Chatelet 
to be dealt with by justice, unless he gave information 
concerning Cartouche. The soldier consented and acted 
as a spy. M. le Blanc, Secretary of State for War, who 
conducted the whole affair, took with him forty picked 
soldiers and a number of policemen, who had orders tCK 
take Cartouche dead or alive ; that is, to fire upon him 
if he tried to run away. 

* Cartouche had gone to ' bed on that day at six 
o'clock, at a wine dealer's of La Courtille, and he was lying; 
in bed, with six pistols on the table. The house was 
surrounded, and fortunately he was captured while still 
in bed ; otherwise he might have' killed some one. 

* He w^as bound with ropes,, and taken to M. le 
Blanc's, who did not see him, because he was ill ; but 
M. le Blanc's brothers and the Marquis de Tresnel, his 
son-in-law, saw him in the court, among numerous 
officers and clerks who were there. He was then taken 
afoot to the Chatelet, so that the people might see him, 
and know of the capture. 

* It is said that Cartouche was insolent, and gnashed 
his teeth, and that he said they should not hold him 
long. The people believe him to be something of a 
sorcerer ; but as for me, I think that cannot prevent him 
from being broken on the wheel. 

* He has been thus taken to the Chatelet, escorted 
by a large concourse of people. .He has been put in a 



78 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

•cell, attached to a pillar, for fear he should attempt to 
break his head against the walls, and the door is guarded 
by four men. Never were such precautions taken before. 
He is to be questioned to-morrow. . . . 

* It is said that he answers readily, and that he main- 
tains that he is not Cartouche ; that his name is Jean 
Bourguignon, and that he comes from Bar-le-Duc' 

One may judge from the above document how Car- 
touche was feared by the population which, during ten 
years, he had robbed with a good fortune only equalled 
by his audacity. 

I do not share an opinion expressed in another 
quarter, that the deeds of all the ruffians who at the 
time swarmed in the capital were combined in this 
legendary figure, nor that the people, ever greedy of 
extraordinary occurrences, used to attribute to Cartouche 
the crimes of the great criminals of the period, such as 
Balagny-le-Capucin, Dantragues, Louis Marcant, Rozy- 
le-Craqueur, Charles Blanchard, Pierrot-le-Bossu, and, 
above all, Pelissier alias Boileau, a famous criminal who 
was hanged in 1722, and who had almost as many titles 
as Cartouche to the sad notoriety which belonged to the 
latter. 

I will prove this by giving a nomenclature of the 
■executions which form the subject of the following 
chapter. Never were robberies, burglaries, and attacks 
on the high road so numerous as from 171 5 to 1725. It 
seemed as if one half of Paris were robbing the other half. 

This fever of rapine and crime was only natural. 
The Regency was a period of social transformation. 



CARTOUCHE. 79 

The public mind, compressed by the severe autocracy 
of Louis XIV., was awaking, and, in its reaction against 
the asceticism of the last years of the reign of the Roi 
Soleil, it had no higher aspiration than a craving for the 
satisfaction of its material appetites. A kind of frenzy 
possessed the nation. Honour, the former object of 
her veneration, was replaced by pleasure ; and licence, 
the result of a relaxation of manners, had rapidly spread 
through the lower classes of society. The system 
which could in the course of a day enrich the poor, and 
ruin the rich, initiated noblemen, bourgeois, and men of 
the people into the emotions of gambling. The shrine 
of Hazard was substituted for that of patient work and 
resigned probity. This fever of riches, this thirst for plea- 
sures and ups and downs in fortune, filled Paris with 
a flock of disappointed adventurers, ruined gamblers, 
and unsatisfied libertines, ready to seek in crime the 
pleasures which a regular life could not afford them. 
The luxury of servants had increased enormously, and 
in their ranks the army of disorder found numerous and 
willing recruits. It also found elements in the army, and 
even among an ill-organised and undisciplined police. 

It was thus that individual and organised banditism 
was enabled to engage in an open struggle with society, 
oppose strength to the strength used to destroy it, and 
persevere with impunity, during many years, in its depre- 
dations and outrages. 

Cartouche has remained the ideal of the thieves-of 
the eighteenth century. In the sphere of crime he is 
the exact image of the period of transition during which 



So MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

he lived. In this miscreant's person there Is much of 
the brigand of the middle ages and, at the same time, 
of the thief of our times. Like the former, he has fre- 
quent recourse to brutal strength, but he prefers stra- 
tagem, of which he is a master. He has the intuition of 
all the improvements introduced by his successors in the 
art of appropriating other people's property ; and it may 
be said that he is the precursor of thieves of our gene- 
ration. 

Cartouche's biography, which has been frequently 
written, does not come within my province. He only 
belongs to me from the time when the law handed him 
over to that one of my ancestors who then wielded the 
sword of justice. I will therefore say but a few words 
concerning Cartouche's birth and life, and relate a few 
anecdotes which I find in my notes. 

Cartouche, who was the son of a cooper, passed his 
youth in that quarter of Paris called the Marais. After 
being a bohemian, a recruiter, and a soldier, he returned 
to Paris in 17 15. His biographers say that peace cast 
him penniless on the King's pavement. It appears to 
me more probable that he deserted the ranks. What is 
quite accurate is the tradition which attributes to this 
singular man the powers of organisation of a general, 
and shows us this Csesar of the highway at the head of a 
legion in which he had established a kind of military 
hierarchy and a unity of command and action ; he had 
accomplished spies in all ranks of society, and his 
army had even its surgeons. 

Thus organised against an almost powerless police, 



CARTOUCHE, 8i 

Cartouche's gang put society in such peril that pro- 
tracted impunity might have given it the proportions 
of a pubHc calamity. Thieves were so numerous, night 
attacks were so frequent, that no one ventured out of 
doors after dark without an escort, and caravans were 
organised to cross the bridges or to go along the quays ; 
the waylayers acted with such eitsemble and upon plans 
so well combined that all their attacks were crowned 
with success. Otherwise it would be hard to explain 
the prodigious number of their misdeeds. 

Cartouche's strength and audacity, his ingenious 
fecundity of stratagems, his extraordinary agility, the 
energy with which he endured privations and fatigues, 
and above all his really superior intellect, naturally 
designated him as the leader of gangs of thieves. Cer- 
tain adventures in which members of the aristocracy 
played a part, gave him notoriety ; a daring escape and 
many singular exploits established his celebrity, and 
made him almost popular. 

The robbery committed on the Archbishop of 
Bourges was the subject of public conversation and 
caused considerable amusement at Court. Monseig- 
neur was travelling when, in the neighbourhood of 
Saint Denis, he was waylaid and robbed by Cartouche's 
men. They took from him his pastoral cross, his 
pontifical ring, ten louis he had in his purse, and two 
bottles of Tokay. It was said that the thieves had 
taken the Abbe Cerutti, who accompanied the arch- 
bishop, and was young and handsome, for a disgui'^ed 
VOL. I. G 



82 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

lady, and that, as Monseigneur de Bourges was much 
ofifended by the suggestion. Cartouche had beaten his 
subordinate, saying, * This will teach you to respect the 
clergy ! ' Mdrtle. la Marquise de Beauffremont was also 
the heroine of art adventure with Cartouche. It was 
alleged that she distributed safe-conducts and was on 
good terms with Cartouche, for the following cause : One 
night, after returning from a ball, she sent away her maids, 
and began to write by hef fireside. She suddenly heard 
a noise in her chimney, and soon after a man, armed to 
the teeth, tumbled in the room amidst a cloud of soot, 
dust, and sparrows' nests. As> in his fall, the visitor 
had sent the burning logs about the floor, he took 
the tongs, and mindless of the effect produced by his 
singular way of entering, he methodically replaced all 
the wood in the grate, and then turning to Mdme. 
de Beauffremont : 

'May I venture to ask, madam/ said he, 'whom I 
have the honour of addressing } ' 

' Sir,' stammered the Marchioness, trembling with 
fear, * I am Mdme. de Beauffremont ; but as I do not 
know you at all, and as you have not the looks of a 
thief, I cannot guess why you gain access to my room 
in the dead of the night and down the chimney.' 

* Madam,' answered the unknown visitor, ' in coming 
here I was not precisely aware of the nature of the house 
into which I was compelled to intrude. And to shorten 
a visit which, I have no doubt, is not of your liking, allow 
me to ask you to have the kindness to accompany me as 
far as the gate of your mansion.' 



CARTOUCHE. 83 

As he spoke, he drew a pistol from his belt, and took 
up a candle. 

'But, sir' 

' Madam, have the goodness to be quick,' he added, 
cocking his pistol. * We must descend together, and 
you will be good enough to request the porter to open 
the gate.' 

* Do not speak so loud, sir ; the Marquis de Beauffre- 
mont might hear you ! ' said the frightened lady. 

' Put on your cloak, madam. It is freezing, and you 
might catch cold.' 

Things took place as the audacious visitor desired. 
. Mdme. de Beauffremont was so frightened that she sank 
in a chair in the porter's lodge after the man passed the 
threshold of the mansion. She then heard a tap at the 
porter's window, and the voice of the strange visitor was 
heard saying : 

* Monsieur le Suisse, I have walked three or four 
miles on the roofs of houses during the night to escape 
from the policemen who were after me. Do not go and 
inform your master that there was any impropriety in 
being in this house ; otherwise you shall be dealt with 
by Cartouche.' 

Mdme. de Beauffremont returned to her room and 
awoke her husband, who told her she must have been 
dreaming. Two or three days after this adventure she 
received a letter of apology and thanks, written in very 
respectful and choice terms, which enclosed a safe- 
conduct for Mdme. de Beauffremont and an authori- 
sation to deliver similar documents to members of her 

G 2 



84 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

famrily. With the letter came a small box containing 
a fine diamond which was estimated at 6,000 livres, 
which sum Mdme. de Beauffremont hastened to present 
to the H6tel-Dieu. 

An anecdote which may appear more authentic is 
the trick Cartouche played at the expense of the chief 
officer of patrols, whom he deprived of his silver forks 
and spoons in broad daylight. One day, at twelve 
o'clock,, as this officer was sitting down at table, the 
door was thrown open, and he saw a magnificent carriage 
flanked with two tall servants standing near his window. 
A stiff and self-possessed old man stepped out, and, 
annoHncing himself as an Englishman of distinction, he 
asked to see the chief officer. He was introduced to the 
dining-room. Perceiving that dinner was on the table, he 
apologised profusely, declined to take a seat, and having, 
he remarked in an accent which could leave no doubt 
as to his nationality, only a few words to say, he took 
the officer to a corner of the apartment, placing himself 
so that the latter should turn his back to the windows. 

After relating how an anonymous letter had warned 
him that his house was to be attacked on the follow- 
ing night, after asking for sentries and promising a 
hundred guineas to the policemen if they captured the 
famous Cartouche, for whom the generous old English- 
man expressed the most profound hatred, he left his 
host, who, much pleased at the prospect of a connection 
with so rich a man, insisted on escorting him to his 
carriage, and looked at the fine set-out as it disap- 
peared round the street corner. 



CARTOUCHE. 85 

He was disturbed in his contemplation by the cries 
of his servant, who had just discovered that not a single 
spoon or fork remained on the table. 

Cartouche, for it was no other, had acted his part so 
well, that the officer defended his visitor against the 
accusations of his servants, and maintained that he had 
not even approached the table. But soldiers in the 
court had seen the noble stranger's people carelessly 
leaning against the open window ; the table being at a 
short distance from the window, it was probable that 
while the counterfeit Englishman was engaging the 
chief officer's attention, the tall footmen, stretching out 
their arms, had taken the silver plate. 

A few minutes after, these suspicions were confirmed. 
A commissionaire brought to the chief officer a dozen 
forks and spoons of the finest tin, in place of those he 
had lost. 

The salient feature of all Cartouche's acts was the 
witty frolic which was inseparable from them. The 
thief was not content with despoiling his victims ; he 
laughed at them in the most disagreeable manner. This 
was, perhaps, the secret of his renown ; Cartouche under- 
stood that much would be forgiven if he amused those 
who feared him. 

It was on October 27 that Charles Sanson saw Car- 
touche for the first time. He was still at the Chatelet, 
and there was a large crowd before the entrance of the 
prison. Everybody wished to say, ' I have seen him ! ' 
and permission to visit the bandit was solicited as a great 
favour. Women were especially eager to have a peep at 



86 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

him ; the Regent's mistress, Madame de Parabere, was 
one of the first who scanned his features. 

Charles Sanson was perhaps the only man who had 
a right to be more patient ; but the lightness of senti- 
ments which characterised the times possessed even 
the executioner ; he could not resist the solicitations of 
a few friends who asked to accompany him, and he 
failed to understand that it was neither fair nor chari- 
table to appear prematurely before a man who was 
doomed to meet him on the scaffold. In his notes, 
Charles Sanson says that Cartouche looked forty — a 
statement which does not agree with the date of his 
birth, but which can be explained by the effect produced 
on his appearance by the passions, debaucheries, and 
fatigues of his profession. His head between the ears 
was extraordinarily developed ; his hair was thin and 
shaggy, and the eye was not wanting in malice. He 
was of rather low stature, but thinness made him 
look taller than he really was. ' We examined him 
with surprise,' adds my ancestor, * so astonished were 
we that a man so ugly should have been represented 
as a woman-killer. He looked joyful and in good 
health, and when one of our number asked him whether 
he really was Cartouche, he shrugged his shoulders, 
and sung a chorus in the language of thieves.' 

Cartouche recognised his grim visitor ; he was rather 
troubled, but he soon recovered from his agitation, and, 
showing more gaiety than he had hitherto displayed, 
he pointed to the executioner's stick, and asked him if 
he had brought it to take his measure. 



CARTOUCHE. 87 

An attempt at escape, which was nearly successful, 
induced the authorities to transfer Cartouche to the 
Conciergerie. He was in a cell with another prisoner, 
who happened to be a mason. They made a hole in a 
sewer gallery. They fell into the water, waded their way 
to the end of the gallery, and, having removed a very 
large stone, they emerged in the cellar of a greengrocer, 
They went up to the shop, but, unfortunately for the 
fugitives, the greengrocer's dog began to bark furiously. 
The servant heard the noise, opened the window, and 
shrieked for help ; the greengrocer came down with a 
light, and would have allowed them to run away, but 
four policemen, who were in the neighbourhood, ran up, 
entered the shop, and recognised Cartouche, who had 
chains to his feet and hands. They took him back to 
prison with his companion, and henceforth he was 
watched with the utmost vigilance. 

Cartouche's trial was soon concluded. On November 
26 was passed a sentence by which Louis Dominique 
Cartouche, alias Lamarre, alias Petit, alias Bourguignon ; 
Jacques Maire, Jean Pierre Balagny, Pierre Frangois 
Guthrus, Duchatelet, and Charles Blanchard, were con^ 
demned to be broken, after suffering the question ordi-. 
naire et extraordinaire. Two minor accomplices of Carr 
touche, Magdelaine and Messier, were sentenced to be 
hanged. 

On the next day, November 27, Cartouche was tor- 
tured. He suffered the ' boot ' with extraordinary firm- 
ness, and refused to make any confession. Mear^while 
the ' carpenter ' had been ordered to erect five wheels 



88 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

and two gibbets on the Place de Greve. It was known 
at large that Cartouche was to be executed on that day: 
the streets were crowded, and windows on the Greve 
had been let at a high price. Whether it was because 
the magistrates did not care to satisfy public curiosity, 
or because the other culprits were not in a state to 
appear on the scaffold, I do not know ; but at two 
o'clock in the afternoon, four of the wheels and one of 
the gibbets were taken down, one gibbet being left to 
hang the ^^gy of a man named Camus, sentenced in 
contiimaciani. Towards four o'clock Charles Sanson 
went to the Conciergerie, accompanied by his assistants ; 
and the clerk of the court, after reading the sentence to 
the culprit, handed him over to the executioner. 

Cartouche was very pale ; but neither the sufferings 
he had endured nor approaching death made any im- 
pression on his hardened soul. Public curiosity had 
borne fruit ; Cartouche thought he was a hero. He was 
about to ascend the steps of the scaffold, as the 
gladiators of Rome appeared before the Caesar, and he 
wished to die amidst the applause of the people. 

After he was placed in the cart, Charles Sanson 
uttered the traditional exclamation by which the last 
act of justice was announced, and the cortege set out. 
On the way, Cartouche, who was stretched at the 
bottom of the cart with his head resting against the seat 
occupied by the executioner, manifested great im- 
patience. He repeatedly attempted to turn round, and 
at length he asked my ancestor whether the other carts 
were preceding theirs. His agitation became extreme. 



CARTOUCHE. 89 

When the cart reached the Place de Greve, he made an 
effort, rose and looked at the scaffold. When he saw 
that only one wheel was erected, he turned pale, large 
drops fell from his brow, and he repeated several times 
* Les frollants, les frollmits ! ' (the traitors). He obviously 
expected to be executed in good company, and his 
courage was vanishing. As a means of prolonging his 
life, he said he wished to confess his crimes, and he was 
taken to the H6tel-de-Ville. Meanwhile the scaffold 
remained standing, and the crowd that had congregated 
to see the execution did not disperse. On the following 
morning Cartouche was again handed over to Charles 
Sanson : but he was an altered man ; he no longer 
made a show of his cynicism, and although his firmness 
was not impaired, it had lost all appearance of bravado. 
His instincts, however, appeared again ; when he was 
placed on the ' Croix de St. Andre,' and the dull thud 
of the iron bar descending on his limbs was heard, Car- 
touche exclaimed in a stentorian voice, as if counting 
the blows, * One ! ' 

But he relapsed into silence. Many as were the 
crimes of Cartouche, he had the benefit of retentttm, a 
clause -which stipulated that the culprit should be 
strangled after a certain number of blows ; but the clerk 
of the court was so confused that he forgot to mention 
the fact to the executioner. Cartouche was so strong 
that it required eleven blows to break him, and I can 
affirm that, contrary to what was stated in the prods 
verbal of the execution, he lived more than twenty 
minutes after being placed on the wheel. 



90 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE ACCOMPLICES OF CARTOUCHE. 

If Cartouche had been able to guess the future, he might 
have seen that the fate of his accomplices was no better 
than his. On the fourth day after the execution of the 
celebrated bandit, Balagny and a few others took their 
place on the ignominious and barbarous wheel which 
was the certain end of anti-social lives. They gave in- 
formation as to their accomplices, and made, at the foot 
of the scaffold, confessions which torture had failed to 
elicit from them. 

They implicated so many persons, that another series 
of trials began, which lasted as long as the declarations 
of convicted prisoners compromised other persons, and 
threw new light on the immense ramifications of an 
association of miscreants which had for many years 
defied the police. More than sixty persons were under 
lock and key at the time of the execution of Cartouche 
and Balagny. This number increased every day in con- 
sequence of the confession of those who hoped to save 
their lives by denouncing their accomplices, and in June 
of the following year it rose to one hundred and fifty. 
The execution of Louis Marcant took place in March, 
that of Rozy in June ; and all this blood, instead of 



THE ACCOMPLICES OF CARTOUCHE. 91 

washing the affair away, seemed rather to make it more 
serious. Each day brought to Hght some new discovery ; 
and this shows how profoundly mistaken were those who 
denied that Cartouche, the centre and wire-puller of 
this horrible association, possessed the organising spirit 
without which he could not have extended this immense 
net over the Parisian society. 

Rozy revealed more than any of those who suffered 
before him. On the night which followed his last inter- 
rogatory before execution eighty persons were arrested 
and taken to the Conciergerie. M. Arnauld de Boueix, 
the instructing judge, questioned them during no less 
than thirty-two consecutive hours. This magistrate 
showed extreme zeal and firmness. Some even accused 
him of excessive rigour and even cruelty. This was easy 
to account for. M. Arnauld de Boueix was the son of a 
criminal Heutenant of Angouleme, who had come to 
Paris to watch a lawsuit, and who, on his return home, 
had been murdered on the high-road. Hence M. 
Arnauld de Boueix's hatred for his father's murderers. 

The most curious feature of Rozy's denunciations 
was that they seriously implicated two police officers 
named Leroux and Bourlon. Rozy maintained their 
complicity with the association, and also especially charged 
them with taking part in the murder of a poor poet 
named Vergier, who had been killed a year before in the 
Rue du Bout-du-Monde. 

The enemies of the Regent — and they were many — 
sought to trace to him the responsibility of this murder ; 
they said that Vergier was killed by mistake, that the 



92 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

murderers, paid by the prince, thought they struck down 
Lagrange-Chancel, author of the ' Philippics,' a collection 
of satires which had caused him the greatest irritation. 
This calumny was not credited, and it no doubt induced 
the Regent to show indulgence to the author of the verses, 
who, instead of rotting in a cell of the Bastille, as hap- 
pened to Latude at Mdme. de Pompadour's instigation, 
was sent to the St. Marguerite isles, whence the poet 
escaped to Holland. 

The arrest of Leroux and Bourlon caused some sen- 
sation. This, however, was not the first time that the 
police were found in connivance with thieves ; but these 
two men were so warmly supported that their case 
attracted universal attention. M. d'Argenson, lieutenant 
of police, interposed on behalf of his employes ; M. de 
la Vrilliere, Secretary of State, in whose service Bourlon 
had once been, joined him in his efforts to extricate the 
two police officers. On the evening which followed their 
arrest, M. de Maurepas came with a lettre-de-cachet, to 
remove them from the Conciergerie to the Bastille. The 
gaoler, who thought he was under the order of the Parlia- 
ment, refused to give them up. M. de Maurepas returned 
with another lettre-de-cachet which empowered him to 
take the gaoler with him if he persisted in his disobedience. 
The first president was then referred to ; the latter re- 
ferred to M. Amelot, president of La Tournelle ; and these 
magistrates decided on handing over Bourlon and Leroux 
to M. de Maurepas, who took them to the Bastille. But 
on the next day the Parliament, ever jealous of its pri- 
vileges, expressed much irritation and blamed the weak- 



THE ACCOMPLICES OF CARTOUCHE. 93 

ness and timidity of its officials. After the sitting, they 
sent the procureur-generalto the Palais Royal : the Regent 
declined to see them. At twelve o'clock President 
Amelot and two councillors came again. This time they 
were received. They humbly prayed his royal highness 
to appoint commissioners in order to finish the prosecu- 
tion of Cartouche's gang, for, as far as they were con- 
cerned, they would immediately set free all the criminals 
who were still in prison. The prince was afraid of a 
great scandal, so he yielded, and Bourlon and Leroux 
were taken back to the Conciergerie. They probably 
escaped scot-free, for I do not find their names on Charles 
Sanson's dead-lists. 

Still the scaffold and the gibbet were in constant use 
in the course of the year 1722, and it seemed as if the 
ramifications of the Cartouche association were endless. 
After the men came the turn of the women. As one 
may think, Cartouche was no puritan. He always had 
behind him a perfect seraglio, the members of which 
not only directed him but acted as powerful and useful 
auxiliaries. They had their part in his crimes, and it 
was deemed necessary that they should also have a share 
of the retribution. 

Five of the principal mistresses of the notorious bandit 
were hanged in July 1722. One of them made a full 
confession, and, when tortured, implicated sixty persons. 
Most of the receivers of stolen goods were captured. 
Among them were large jewellers, well known in Paris, 
who hitherto had been taken for honest and influential 
tradesmen. The honour of the invention of Moutonnage^ 



94 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

which consists in obtaining the confessions of prisoners 
and thereby getting information from them, has been 
attributed to the modern poHce, particularly to Vidocq 
and his successors. The invention is not a commendable 
one ; but I do not think that it belongs to our time. 
Police officers of a low order have always had recourse 
to such stratagems. Vidocq was especially clever, in 
this way, because he was a peculiar individual ; his ante- 
cedents and connections rendered him more apt than 
anybody else to gain the intimacy of malefactors. But 
Vidocq's system died with him ; and if the celebrated 
police agent is still regarded as a giant in his own 
sphere, it must be acknowledged that his successors are 
dwarfs. Of course it is well known that these informers 
are necessary to the police ; and they have been found 
in all times. ^ 

I hasten to add that the revelations which were made 
in the course of the executions of Cartouche's accom- 
plices are quite different ffom modern confessions. 
Nowadays the prisoner is allured with a better treat- 
ment in prison, the hope of pecuniary remuneration 
and free pardon. Cartouche's accomplices were con- 
demned, and never spoke during the investigation of this 
stupendous affair, which lasted two years. Many stoically 
suffered torture and did not confess ; but their demeanour 
altered at the foot of the scaffold, their courage failed, 
and all the culprits asked to stop at the Hotel-de-Ville 
merely to prolong their lives. Cartouche, as we have 
seen, acted in the same way. However, he had chiefly 
strived to exonerate his brothers, maintaining that they 



THE ACCOMPLICES OF CARTOUCHE. 95 

had taken no part in his crimes, because he would not 
allow them to join him in his expeditions. His generosity- 
had no effect ; his young brother, who was scarcely 
fifteen years of age, and whom he particularly loved, 
was sentenced to hard labour for life, and also to be 
suspended under the armpits for two hours on the Place 
de Greve. This new species of punishment was invented 
by M. Arnauld de Boueix. Hardly was the child sus- 
pended than he began to utter frightful shrieks, saying 
that he would rather die at once than suffer so much. 
Charles Sanson and his assistants were astonished and 
embarrassed, not knowing the effects of a kind of punish- 
ment to which they were not used ; but as young Cartouche 
was said to be precociously wicked, they thought there was 
exaggeration in his complaints. Seeing, however, that 
his face was reddening, and that he could speak no longer, 
they freed him before the expiration of the two hours. 
He was taken to the Hotel-de^Ville, where he died with- 
out returning to consciousness. 

This accident was much talked of ; and M. Arnauld 
de Boueix was loudly taxed with cruelty. Tanton, uncle 
of the victim, was hanged on the same day. 

In March 1723 trials were still going on. One of 
Cartouche's notorious accomplices was broken on the 
wheel. Like his predecessors, he halted at the Hotel-de- 
Ville and incriminated one hundred persons. 

I have now done with this association, of which the 
existence has often been contested ; but I must complete 
this chapter by rapidly enumerating a few other execu- 
tions which took place at the time. The first was that 



96 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

of Pelissier, a bold robber, who, disguised as a surgeon 
and a gendarme, had perpetrated crimes worthy of 
Cartouche himself Having sufficiently 'worked/ he 
retired from ' business,' and went to Lyons, where he 
was living comfortably when he was arrested and 
transferred to Paris. His trial was soon concluded, 
although he denied that he had any accomplices. He 
had placed his fortune, which was considerable, in the 
Bank of Venice, and he was on the point of leaving 
France when he was arrested. His execution was one 
of the last by the hand of Charles Sanson. Although 
young, his health was rapidly declining, and a constitu- 
tional malady was fast leading him to an early grave. 
He was almost dying when, on May 24, 1726, he was, as 
it were, compelled to rise from his bed to watch the 
preparation of a punishment not frequently resorted to — 
burning. It was inflicted on Etienne Benjamin des 
Chaufifours, a gentleman from Lorraine, for an infamous 
crime. 

Charles Sanson did not survive this execution by many 
days. He died on September 12, 1726, at the age of 
forty-five. His widow gave him a superb funeral in the 
Church of St. Laurent. He left three children ; the 
eldest was a girl, Anne-Renee Sanson, who married a 
man named Zelle, of Soissons ; and two sons, Charles 
Jean-Baptiste Sanson and Nicolas Charles Gabriel 
Sanson ; born, the first in April 17 19, the second in 1721. 
The age of these two heirs of the sword of the law was 
an excellent opportunity for declining the bequest. Their 
mother judged otherwise, and took active steps to obtain 



THE ACCOMPLICES OF CARTOUCHE. 97 

for Charles Jean-Baptiste the official investiture of the 
sinister office left vacant by his father, although he was 
only seven years old. This woman's severe face, of 
which I have a likeness, shows that she must have pos- 
sessed a singular temper. She certainly had strange 
notions of the duties of maternity, for she did her utmost 
to obtain the post of executioner for the child. She was 
recommended by the criminal lieutenant and the pro- 
cureur-g^neral, and Charles Jean-Baptiste Sanson was 
appointed. During his minority, two questionnaires 
discharged the functions in his name ; these were 
Georges Herisson, who eventually became executioner 
of Melun, and a certain Prudhomme. 

Although the child invariably accompanied his locum 
tenens, and was present at all executions to legalise them 
by his presence, he was too young to note his impressions 
as his father and grandfather had done. There is, there- 
fore, a gap in these memoirs, which prevents me from, 
alluding to several well-known executions. 



VOL. I. ' H 



98 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER X. 

DA MIENS THE REGICIDE. 

One evening, at the Palace of Versailles, Louis XV. 
was leaving the apartments of Mesdames, accompanied 
by the Dauphin and a part of the Court. He went 
down the flight of steps which led to the entrance of 
the palace, before which his carriage was waiting. It 
was bitterly cold ; everybody was shivering, and the 
King, who was of a chilly disposition, wore two over- 
coats, one of which was lined with fur. As he was pre- 
paring to step into the carriage, a man rushed between 
the guards, forced back the Dauphin and the Duke 
d'Ayen, and struck the King, who exclaimed : 
* Some one has given me a fearful blow ! ' 
In the confusion caused by the double movement of 
the crowd that pressed forward to have a glimpse of the 
King, and the guards who kept them off", no one seemed 
to be aware of what had taken place. However, a foot- 
man who had seen the stranger place his hand on the 
King's shoulder, rushed upon him, and captured him, 
with the assistance of two other footmen. 

The King passed his hand under his vest and per- 
ceived that he was wounded. At the same time he 



DAMIENS THE REGICIDE. 99 

turned round, and, seeing the man who had struck him, 
he exclaimed : * He is the man ; arrest him, but do him 
no harm ! ' After this, he returned to his apartments, 
supported by MM. de Brienne and de Richelieu. 

The guards and the Switzers surrounded the 
murderer and led him to their guard-room. He was a 
tall man, from forty to forty-five years of age, with an 
aquiline and protuberant nose, deep-set eyes, and shaggy 
hair. He wa s so re d in the face that even with the 
emotion he must have felt he did not appear pale. He 
was searched, and the weapon with which he had just 
struck the King was found in one of his pockets. It 
was a two-bladed knife, and he had used the larger 
blade. Thirty-seven louis of gold were also found, 
together with a book entitled, ' Christian Instructions 
and Prayers.' 

When he was questioned, he said that his name was 
Francois Damiens, and that he had attempted to take 
the King's life for God and the people. A guard 
having asked him whether the money he had w^as the 
pay he received to perpetrate his crime, he refused to 
answer ; but, apparently moved, he begged that the 
Dauphin should take care of himself and abstain from 
driving out of the Palace. 

These words, which the man only uttered to increase 
his own importance, convinced the guards that Damiens 
was one of the agents of a vast plot which threatened 
the days of all the members of the Royal Family. In 
their excessive zeal they organised an extra-judicial 
interrogatory, and, forgetting that they were gentlemen 

H 2 



lOO MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

and officers, they disgraced themselves by torturing the 
murderer. 

Meanwhile the King had been undressed and his 
wound was examined. The utmost uneasiness was 
felt in consequence of the great loss of blood, but the 
doctors soon ascertained that Louis was in no danger. 
Damiens' knife had encountered three garments, and no 
vital organ was injured. But the King, who at first 
had shown so much coolness, became very agitated 
when he heard one of his courtiers observe in a low 
voice that the blade might be poisoned. He sent twice 
to the murderer to know whether he had dipped his 
knife in some drug ; and the monarch's apprehensions be- 
came so great that he asked for his confessor, insisted 
five or six times on receiving absolution, summoned the 
Dauphin, entrusted him with the presidency of the 
Council, and generally behaved like a man who is con- 
vinced that death is drawing near. 

The King's terror filled the palace with consternation ; 
it incited Damiens' improvised tormentors to display 
additional cruelty in the tortures they inflicted upon him. 
His answers hardly differed from those he subsequently 
gave. In an incoherent and vague manner he protested 
that he never intended to kill the King, but only to give 
him a ' good warning,' which would induce him not to 
persecute provincial parliaments, and to dismiss the 
Archbishop of Paris, who was the cause of the evil. 
Damiens was obviously a lunatic, or nearly so. 

At this stage of the murderer's interrogatory, M. de 
Machault, keeper of the seals, arrived. His perplexity 



DAMIENS THE REGICIDE. loi 

was great. His own disgrace must follow the King's 
death ; the Dauphin's severe principles leaving but little 
likelihood of his accepting a minister who had been 
Madame de Pompadour's creature. Forgetting all 
dignity and sense of humanity, the keeper of the seals 
joined the officers in the discharge of their disgusting 
work, and surpassed them in cruelty. He thrust tongs 
into the fire, and, when they were red-hot, he began singe- 
ing with his own hands the unfortunate Damiens' legs, 
taking care never to pinch the same part of the leg twice, 
so that more acute suffering might be inflicted. The 
violence of this torture 'extorted no confession from the 
murderer, who merely observed that the King had recom- 
mended that no harm should be done to him. An odour 
of burnt flesh filled the room when the Duke d'Ayen 
came in ; and when he saw what was going on, he 
bitterly upbraided M. de Machault and his companions 
for dishonouring their swords in such a manner. But 
M. de Machault was not deterred from his purpose ; 
he had Damiens' legs exposed to a fire until they were 
but one sore ; and as he still was silent, he threatened 
to throw him into the flames. Fortunately the lieutenant 
of police arrived, claimed Damiens as his prisoner, and 
took him away to the Conciergerie, where he was in- 
carcerated in the cell once tenanted by Ravaillac, 
Henry IV.'s murderer. 

Damiens' attempt was already known in Paris, and 
the old affection shown for the King was rekindling. 
The Archbishop of Paris ordered that prayers for his re- 
covery should be said during forty-eight hours, and the 



I02 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

churches became too small for the congregations. Couriers 
from Versailles were anxiously waited for and ques- 
tioned ; and all the provincial parliaments sent ad- 
dresses of loyalty to Louis. This effervescence, how- 
ever, was of short duration ; the King's wound was soon 
healed, and a few days after the momentous occurrence 
France hardly remembered that for a few hours the 
King had again been ' the beloved.' 

As to Damiens, he was so hurt that he could not 
move. But he showed no signs of weakness. When 
questioned, he continued his incoherent statements, and 
showed that he was more of a religious fanatic than any- 
thing else. Suspecting his impending fate, he gave it to be 
understood that his accomplices belonged to the highest 
rank ; but a subsequent investigation showed the un- 
truth of his assertions. While preparations were being 
made for his trial he was watched as if the fate of 
France depended on his escape. Damiens was con- 
tinually strapped down on a leather mattress, his right 
hand only being left free. Twelve sergeants picked 
from the French guards watched him day and night, and 
a cook of the Court was exclusively entrusted with his 
food, of which he never allowed him to partake before 
tasting it, for fear Damiens should be poisoned. One 
cannot but wonder at these extraordinary precautions 
against a man whose proper place was in a madhouse. 

He recovered sufficiently to appear on March 17 
before the Chambre de la Tournelle. He persisted 
in his previous statements, except in so far as they con- 
cerned his accomplices. He pretended that he only 



DAMIENS THE REGICIDE. 1Q3 

wished to give a wholesome warning to the King, and 
denied that his crime was instigated by others. This 
did not satisfy his judges ; every stratagem was resorted 
to to get at Damiens' secret ; and, contrary to habit, 
a confessor was sent to him in the course of the trial, in 
the hope that a priest might obtain what judges could 
not elicit. But all such steps were of no avail. 

On March 26 the Parliament was in full array ; and 
the presence of the princes of the blood and of the 
chief members of the aristocracy showed that the last 
day of the trial was at hand. The procureur-general 
had drawn conclusions which were lying sealed before 
the president, M. Pasquier. After a few more questions 
Damiens was again adjured to name his accomplices. 
The conclusions of the procureur were then opened 
and read ; they proposed that Damiens should suffer 
the punishment awarded to regicides, and be tortured 
before execution. At seven o'clock the Court came to 
the following decision, which I must quote for my 
readers to believe in its atrocious barbarity : 

* The Court declares Robert Francois Damiens duly 
convicted of the crime of Ihe-majeste^ divine and human, 
for the very wicked, very abominable, and very detest- 
able parricide perpetrated on the King's person ; and 
therefore condemns the said Damiens to amende 
honorable before the principal church of Paris, whither 
he shall be taken in a cart, wearing only a shirt and 
holding a taper of the weight of two pounds ; and then, 
on his knees, he shall say and declare that, wickedly 
and with premeditation, he has perpetrated the said 



I04 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

very wicked, very abominable, and very detestable parri- 
cide, and wounded the King with a knife in the right side, 
for which he repents and begs pardon of God, the King, 
and Justice ; and further the Court orders that he then 
be taken to the Greve and, on a scaffold erected for the 
purpose, that his chest, arms, thighs, and calves be burnt 
with pincers ; his right hand, holding the knife with 
which he committed the said parricide, burnt in sulphur ; 
that boiling oil, melted lead, and rosin, and wax mixed 
with sulphur, be poured in his wounds ; and after 
that his body be pulled and dismembered by four horses, 
and the members and body consumed in fire, and the 
ashes scattered to the winds. The Court orders that 
his property be confiscated to the King's profit ; that 
before the said execution, Damiens be subjected to 
question ordinaire et extraordinaire, to make him confess 
the names of his accomplices. Orders that the house in 
which he was born be demolished, and that no other 
building be erected on the spot. 

* Decreed by Parliament on March 26, 1757. 

'Richard.' 

This sentence, which so minutely describes the 
details of the punishment, cannot but inspire irresistible 
horror. Formal deliberations took place at the house of 
the procureur-g^n^ral regarding the choice of pre- 
liminary tortures ; the contagion of cruelty extended 
to the public, and private individuals made sugges- 
tions on the subject. One proposed that matches 
should be inserted under Damiens' nails, and then 



DAMIENS THE REGICIDE. 105 

lighted ; another that his teeth should be pulled out ; 
another that he should be partly flayed and a burning 
liquid poured over his muscles. The surgeons of the 
Court examined these proposals, and decided that 
torture by the * boot ' was preferable to other means. 

If I give these sickening details, it is because 
Damiens' execution was almost unique in its atrocious 
cruelty. Singularly enough, this, the most horrible of in- 
flictions ever recorded, occurred but a few years before 
the abolition of torture. 



io6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XL 

EXECUTION OF DA Ml ENS. 

The authors of the apocryphal memoirs published by 
Sautelet^ found no better means of endowing their com- 
pilation with the appearance of authenticity than to 
allege that these memoirs were written by my grand- 
father. They represent him as being present during 
Damiens' execution, of which the details were said to be 
furnished by him, and Charles Jean-Baptiste Sanson, 
who was then executioner. Charles Henri relates how 
his father became almost mad with grief, when he 
heard that he had to dismember ; how he went to Melun 
to purchase the four horses required for the occasion ; 
the whole being spiced with details not a whit more 
accurate. The chapter in question is completed by the 
narrative of a visit which the keeper of the seals, 
escorted by four seigneurs, one of whom was the Duke 
de Richelieu, paid to the executioner with the object of 
replacing the horses he had bought for the dismem.ber- 
ment by weaker animals, so as to prolong the sufferings 
of the culprit. 

' Fictitious memoirs of Charles Henri Sanson, executioner during the 
Revolution, were published in 1832. Balzac was one of the authors of this 
work, which was one of pure invention. 



EXECUTION OF DAMIENS. i&r 

Not only did nothing of the kind take place, M. de- 
Machault usually transmitting his orders to my ancestor 
through the procureur-general, or requesting him to call 
at his residence, but Charles Jean-Baptiste Sanson could 
take no part in the execution of Damiens, as, in the 
month of January 1754, he became paralysed, and also 
because this execution was not within his province, but 
that of Nicolas Gabriel Sanson, his younger brother^^ 
executioner of the Prevote de 1' Hotel. 

This office was little more than a sinecure ; crimes 
tried by the Prevote had not been met with capital pun- 
ishment for fifty years. When Gabriel Sanson received an 
order to prepare, not only for the execution of Damiens^ 
but also for his torture, he was filled with apprehension. 
He spoke to M. Leclerc de Brillet, lieutenant of the 
Prevote, who gave him a letter for the procureur- 
general, in which he urged the latter, in the interest of 
all parties, to entrust the forthcoming execution to other 
hands. But, as I said, Charles Jean-Baptiste Sanson was 
paralysed. His son, Char les Henri Sanson, who was ta 
take his place, was only seventeen years of age. He had 
discharged his father's functions for the last two years ; 
but the official title of executioner did not belong to him,, 
and it was hardly advisable to entrust so young a man 
with an execution which was only known by tradition. 
The procureur was therefore unable to grant the request, 
but he ordered that Charles Henri, the provisional exe- 
cutioner, and his assistants should be at Gabriel Sanson's 
disposition. 

It was Charles Henri who bought the four horses ; 



io8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

he paid for them 432 hvres, a large sum for the time. 
These horses were placed in a stable of the Rue des 
Vieilles Garnisons, behind the H6tel-de-Ville. At the 
request of M. Leclerc de Brillet, the archives were 
searched, and papers on the manner of carrying out the 
execution were found and handed to the executioner of 
Prevote de I'Hdtel, whose terror was in no wise dimi- 
nished by the communication. Indeed, his feelings 
became so strong that he fell ill. The procureur sum- 
m^oned him to his presence, and upbraided him for what 
he styled his childishness. The magistrate's threats 
did not affect him much, for he was speaking of giving 
up his office, which was his only source of income, when 
an old questionnaire whose father had taken part in the 
execution of Ravaillac, and had given some information 
regarding the punishment of regicides, offered to under- 
take the burning with pincers. 

The scaffold was erected in the night of the 27th. 
On Monday, the 28th, at six o'clock in the morning, 
Gabriel Sanson, his nephew Charles Henri, and their 
assistants v/ent to the Greve to see if all their direc- 
tions had been attended to. The scaffold was erected 
in the centre of a space of a hundred square feet, 
which was surrounded by thick wooden palings. This 
enclosed space had only two entrances ; one for the 
culprit, the executioners, and the guards, the other com- 
municating with the Hotel-de-Ville. 

They then repaired to the Conciergerie, where they 
found the questionnaire, who was waiting for them. 
Soon afterwards they were joined by M. Lebreton, the 



Execution of damiens. 109. 

clerk of the court, accompanied by MM. Carmontel and 
Peuvret, the ushers. They then prepared to go to 
Damiens' cell, but on the staircase the clerk bethought 
himself that it was too small to contain the whole party, 
and it was decided that the prisoner should be sent 
for, and sentence read to him in a hall on the ground 
floor. 

Damiens was brought forth : he was carried in a 
leather bag which was closed over his shoulders, and only 
allowed his head to appear. He was extracted from 
this kind of strait-jacket, and told to kneel. Damiens 
listened to his sentence with extreme attention ; and he 
examined those who were present with much curiosity, 
trying no doubt to recognise the executioner. His face 
was as yellow as wax. He could scarcely bear the glare 
of daylight ; but nevertheless his eyes flashed with 
unwonted energy. When the clerk had done, Damiens- 
asked the archers who had carried him in to help him 
to rise, for his wounds were not yet healed, and he 
murmured several times, * Mon Dieu ! mon Dieu ! ' 

Gabriel Sanson now approached and placed his hands 
on his shoulder. Damiens started and looked scared ; 
but at this moment the Cure de St. Paul approached, and 
the countenance of the regicide became again calm and 
smiling. The priest motioned to the others to draw 
back, and remained alone with Damiens. He spoke to 
him in a low voice, and Damiens prayed with much 
fervour. The priest's exhortation seemed to impress 
him deeply. When their prayers were finished, Damiens 
was oflered food, but he refused to take anything but a 



no MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

glass of wine, which, however, he was unable to drink. 
He was affected by a kind of paroxysm which, during the 
first part of my professional career, I had many occa- 
sions to remark in the most courageous and stoical con- 
victs, a violent contraction of the muscles of the neck 
which prevents the culprit from swallowing. 

Damiens was then removed to the torture-chamber 
where Presidents Maupeou and Mole, and Councillors 
Severt, Pasquier, RoUin, and Lambelin were already 
assembled. He was again interrogated. But no 
question could elicit any information concerning accom- 
plices ; and at length the judges rose and told Damiens 
that he must be tortured, since he would not speak out. 
The executioners came forward, and the questionnaire of 
Parliament enclosed the prisoner's leg in the ' boot,' 
pulling the cords more tightly than he usually did. 
The pain must have been insufferable, for Damiens 
shrieked ; his face became livid, he threw back his head 
and nearly fainted away. The surgeons approached, 
felt his pulse, and declared that the fit was not serious. 
Damiens opened his eyes and asked for drink ; a glass 
•of water was offered to him, but he begged for wine, 
saying in a broken voice that his energy was failing 
him. Charles Henri Sanson helped him to carry the 
glass to his lips. When he had drunk he heaved a deep 
sigh, closed his eyes, and murmured a prayer. The 
executioners once again surrounded him : two judges 
had left their seats and were walking in the hall. 
President Mole was very pale, and a pen which he held 
was trembling. Torture was begun again, and for two 



EXECUTION OF DAM I ENS. in 

hours and a quarter the unfortunate Damiens endured 
the most excruciating sufferings. At the eighth bro- 
dequin the surgeons said the sufferer could stand no 
more, and the judges rose to depart with an alacrity 
which proved that perhaps they could not see any more 
either. The boot was taken off. Damiens tried in- 
effectually to raise his legs, and then, bending forward, 
he looked at his broken limbs with an air of grief. 
Meanwhile the proces-verbal was finished, and Damiens 
had to sign it. The regicide was then taken to the 
chapel of the Conciergerie, where he remained with the 
Cure de St. Paul and another priest. 

Profound consternation was depicted on every face, 
and yet Damiens had only endured a small part of the 
sufferings which were in store for him. Charles Henri 
Sanson and two assistants remained with the prisoner, 
to take him to the Place de Greve, while Gabriel Sanson 
repaired to the scaffold to see if all was ready. The 
torturer who had undertaken the burning with pincers, 
and who curiously enough bore the name of one of the 
great seigneurs of the time, Soubise, had promised to 
procure all the necessaries indicated in the sentence. 
On nearing the scaffold Gabriel Sanson immediately 
perceived that Soubise was drunk and incapable of dis- 
charging his duties. Seized with apprehension, he asked 
to see the lead, sulphur, wax, and rosin which the old 
drunkard had undertaken to purchase ; the man had 
procured nothing, and at the moment when the prisoner 
was expected to arrive, Gabriel discovered that the wood 
of the pile was damp, and could scarcely be set alight. 



112 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

Gabriel Sanson lost his presence of mind ; and for a 
time the scaffold was a scene of indescribable confusion ; 
the assistants ran to and fro, all spoke at the same time, 
and the unfortunate executioner of the Prevote de 1' Hotel 
tore his hair, deploring the terrible responsibility he 
had assumed. 

The criminal lieutenant came up, and put an end to 
the scene. He severely reprimanded Gabriel Sanson, 
and told him he would send him to prison for a fortnight 
for neglecting his duties ; he then ordered him to re- 
turn to the chapel and send Charles Henri Sanson to 
the Greve in his stead. The assistants were sent to the 
neighbouring grocers to purchase what was missing ; 
but the crowd followed them, they were recognised in 
all the shops they applied to, and the tradesmen refused 
to sell the articles they asked for, or said they had not 
got them. If coercion had not been resorted to, nothing 
could have been procured. 

The difficulties were so great that preparations were 
not completed when the culprit arrived, and he had to 
sit on the steps of the scaffold while the last arrange- 
ments for his death were being made before him. He had 
recovered his firmness, and looked calmly about him. 
He asked to be taken to the Hotel-de-Ville ; he begged 
the magistrates to protect his wife and daughter who 
were ignorant of his intention to murder the King, 
and swore that he had no accomplices. He was then 
taken back to the scaffold. 

The chafing-dish on which the sulphur was being 
burnt with the hot coals filled the atmosphere with 



EXECUTION OF DAM I ENS. 113 

acrid vapour. Damiens coughed, and, while the as- 
sistants were making him fast to the platform, he 
looked at his right hand with the same expression of 
sadness which had appeared on his face when looking at 
his legs after torture. His arm was tied to an iron bar 
so that the wrist should over-reach the last board of the 
platform. Gabriel Sanson brought the chafing-dish. 
When the blue flanie touched Damiens' skin he uttere<3 
a frightful shriek, and tried to break his bonds. But 
when the first pang had shot through him he raised his; 
head and looked at his burning hand without mani- 
festing his feelings otherwise than by grinding his teeth. 
This first part of the execution lasted three minutes. 

Charles Henri Sanson saw the chafing-dish trembling 
in his uncle's hands. By his pallor, which was almost as. 
deathly as the sufferer's, and the shudder which made his 
limbs shake,, he perceived that he could not proceed 
with the burning with red-hot pincers ; and he offered 
a hundred livres to one of the valets if he would under . 
take the horrible task. The man, whose name was 
Andre Legris, accepted. The remainder of the execu- 
tion was proceeded with ; every clause of the atrocious 
sentence was literally carried out, and, when the four 
horses had dismembered the body, the remains of 
Damiens were thrown on the pile. 

It was discovered that the victim's hair, which was 
brown when he was brought to the Greve, had turned 
as white as snow.^ 

' The translator has thought fit to suppress some of the really too 
horrible details of this execution ; and if he has preserved its main features, 

VOL. I. I 



114 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

The execution of Damiens produced so fearful an 
impression on Gabriel Sanson, that he was induced to 
throw up the office of executioner of the Prevote de 
THotel. He gave it to his nephew in return for a yearly- 
stipend of two thousand four hundred livres. Charles 
Sanson henceforth discharged two functions which had 
hitherto been separate. 

it is because he thought he had no right to divest this historical occurrence 
of that which might fully impress the reader with its atrocious cruelty, with- 
.out entering into too sickening details. — N. Ed. 



115 



CHAPTER XII. 

LALL Y- TOLLENDAL: 

On May 6, 1766, the Parliament assembled in Court of 
Justice condemned Thomas Arthur de Lally-Tollendal, 
lieutenant-general, and commander of the French forces 
in East India, to capital punishment, /^r betraying the 
interests of the Ki^ig. 

Iniquitous as this sentence was, it should be said 
that it was partially supported by public opinion, which, 
however, was so warm at a later period in asking for 
Count de Lally-Tollendal's rehabilitation. Our mishaps 
in India and the loss of our colonies had exasperated 
the national pride which the French are sufficiently dis- 
posed to exaggerate. Thomas Arthur de Lally-Tol- 
lendal was of Irish extraction. His family had followed 
the exiled Stuarts. He became a soldier when he was 
only a child. At twelve years of age he held a com- 
mission in Dillon's Irish regiment, and he took part in 
the siege of Barcelona. He promptly obtained the 
command of a regiment, which took his name in 1740; 
and at the age of thirty-seven he was appointed lieutenant- 
general. 

He devised a plan for landing 10,000 men on the 
I 2 



ii6 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 

English coast, to support the rights of the Pretender, 
This idea, which was as bold as it was impracticable, 
could not be carried out, although Count de Lally de- 
voted a large part of his fortune to its execution. His 
dislike for the English and his extreme bravery induced 
the Government to entrust to him the chief command of 
the colonial troops ; but the violence of his temper, his 
obstinacy, and especially his contempt for all means of 
action except brutal strength, were destined to lead him 
into mistakes in a position demanding more knowledge 
of politics than science of war. Sixteen years before 
Lally-Tollendal's appointment, Dupleix, with scanty 
forces, at enmity with the Company, receiving neither 
help nor subsidies from the mother country, had held 
in check English power in the Indian peninsula by mere 
diplomatic proficiency. Lally knew how to conquer; 
but he was incapable of studying and detecting the 
secrets of Dupleix's policy. He began by taking St. 
David by storm ; he also captured Goudelour, and swept 
the Coromandel coast. At St. David he permitted 
frightful excesses. His ill-paid troops rushed into the 
town and ransacked it. At the same time Lally, in his 
contempt for the Hindoo religion, violated the most 
revered sanctuaries, and caused natives suspected 
of being spies to be blown from cannon. The 
Hindoos who had remained with the French now left 
them. Deprived of their co-operation, and against 
the advice of his generals, he marched forward. The 
English retreated before him ; but when he was in 
the heart of the country they attacked him, and Lally, 



LALLY-TOLLENDAL. 117 

at length aware of his mistake, but too late to repair it, 
retraced his steps, harassed in a retreat which cost him 
a quarter of his army. Such a defeat, however, would 
not discourage a man like Lally. He attacked and 
captured Arcate, and besieged Madras, which soon 
fell into his hands. His soldiers repeated, or rather 
transcended, the horrors of the pillage of St. David. 
But 4,000 Englishmen had taken refuge in the white 
tower called Fort St. George, where they defeated all 
attacks. At the same time the Dekhan army, the 
command of which Lally had taken from Bussi, one of 
Dupleix's lieutenants, to entrust it to the Marquis de 
Conflans, was beaten and captured at Masulapatam. 

To relate the sequel of Lally's career in India 
would be an infringement of history. The end of his 
resistance is well known ; from disaster to disaster, 
Lally came to be surrounded and besieged in Pondi- 
cherry, which, however, he defended with extraordinary 
bravery. At length he was compelled to assemble a 
council of war to discuss the conditions of his capitula- 
tion. General Coote refused to accept anything except 
an unconditional surrender ; and Lally-Tollendal, to- 
gether with the greater part of his soldiers, were sent to 
England as prisoners. 

The news of this disaster excited general indignation 
in France. Lally-Tollendal's numerous enemies threw 
the brunt of the misfortunes of the French arms on his 
shoulders. Not only were his military talents and his 
courage impeached, but it was said that he had wasted 
the public resources, and kept the money sent to him 



Ii8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

to pay his soldiers. Lally was in London and had 
nothing to fear ; but on hearing of the rumours that 
were current, he forgot the dangers that might threaten 
his life. He solicited of the English Government leave 
to return to France on parole, and arrived in Paris not as 
a culprit, but rather as a prosecutor, threatening his 
enemies with prompt revenge. 

However great public anger might be at the time 
against the man to whom was attributed the disgrace of 
the French armies, the Government did not care to have 
Lally arrested. Perhaps the Ministry had no wish to 
sacrifice the innocent accomplice of the faults for the 
greater portion of which the Government of Louis XV. 
was responsible. 

Count Lally's enemies, however, were powerful, and 
an order of arrest was at length issued. The Count's 
relations and friends urged him to return to England 
before it was too late ; but the fiery general would not 
hear of a retreat, and implored the King to send him to 
the Bastille, where he was imprisoned on November 15, 
1764. 

His captivity was not a severe one, and he doubtless 
had little idea of the fate which was in store for him ; he 
was allowed to walk about the prison, and to receive his 
friends while preparations for his trial were being made. 
The trial lasted more than nineteen months. Far from 
appeasing the hatred of his enemies, his misfortunes in- 
flamed the ardour with which they called for judgment 
upon him. On August 3 a petition was sent to the King 
by M. Legvis and the members of the Superior Council 



LALL V- TOLLENDAL. 1 19 

of Pondicherry, who, offended to the highest degree in 
their honour and reputation by the imputations of 
M. de Lally, asked for a judicial sanction of his or their 
conduct. Moreover, the Superior of the Jesuits of 
Pondicherry, Father Lavaur, returned to Paris at this 
time ; and he was soliciting a pension for the services he 
had rendered in India to the French Government when 
he died. His papers were seized and searched ; and, 
besides a large sum in gold which was found at his 
residence, a long memoir was discovered in which Count 
Lally was charged with malversation and treason. 
Noisy as were the clamours of his enemies, so little 
reason could be given for a charge of dishonesty that the 
Jesuit's document was the only basis taken by M. Pas- 
quier, who conducted the procedure of this grave affair. 

As for the Count, he was so convinced of his own 
innocence that he was imprudent enough to impeach 
the officers who had served under his orders, together 
with the administrators of the colony. He charged 
them with such violence that his death and condemna- 
tion became indispensable for their justification. 
Letters-patent of the King deferred Lally 's trial to the 
Grande Cham.bre des Tournelles. When the accused 
appeared before his judges, he was no more able to 
control his temper than when he was in India. He 
disputed the ground step by step, protesting against 
the charge, answering, fuming, retorting, stigmatising 
the cowardice of some, the cupidity of others, and hinting 
that the only guilty party was the powerless Govern- 
ment, which had neither assisted him in his triumph 



120 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

nor in his misfortunes. The vehemence of his speech, 
the eloquent expression of his leonine head, which, 
even in silence, he raised with pride and defiance, and 
the manner in which he conducted his own defence, 
produced a favourable impression on the public, 
and diminished the hostility of the masses. It be- 
came evident that treason only existed in the im- 
agination of Lally's enemies ; or why had he volun- 
tarily returned to France and thrown himself between 
the lion's jaws t The charge of malversation was 
equally groundless ; but to prove Lally's abuse of power, 
violence against the administrators of the colony and his 
soldiers, and cruelty to the natives, there were but too 
many witnesses ; and for a prejudiced tribunal this 
was a sufficient pretext to inflict capital sentence. 

This sentence was pronounced on May 6, 1766. 
Thomas Arthur, Count de Lally-ToUendal, was con- 
demned to be decapitated, as duly convicted of having 
betrayed the interests of the King, of the State, and of 
the Company, and of having abused his authority. 

Lally's pride inspired him with so high a sense of 
his own importance that, like Marshal de Biron, he had 
never admitted the possibility of such a result. Many 
indications of his impending fate should have ap- 
prised him of the danger. One morning the major of 
the Bastille was taking him to Parliament, and a crowd 
surrounded the carriage. Lally having tried to look out 
of the window, this officer told him that he had orders 
to kill him at the slightest word he should address to 



LALLY-TOLLENDAL. 121 

the people. Again, a few days before judgment, and as 
he always appeared dressed as a general and wearing all 
his orders, the President directed the major to deprive 
him of these. The officer intimated his orders to the 
Count, and begged him not to oblige him to have 
recourse to violence. Lally answered that he would 
rather part with his life than with the rewards of his 
bravery and devotion to the King. A struggle followed ; 
Lally was seized by the soldiers, who had to tear his 
uniform before they could deprive him of his epaulettes 
and decorations. After sentence was read out to him, 
he remained dumbfounded and stupefied. But his 
silence was short. He burst out with curses, and called 
his judges executioners and assassins. He recovered 
his self-possession when taken back to the Bastille ; ex- 
pressed his regret to the officer for what had occurred, 
and embraced him. He went to bed and slept pro- 
foundly for a few hours. At seven o'clock in the even- 
ing he was roused and told that M. Pasquier, who had 
reported on his trial, wished to see him. He rose and 
told the gaoler to introduce the visitor. 

Many petitions had been addressed to the King. 
M. de Choiseul himself interceded in favour of Lally ; but 
Louis XV. was inflexible. However, it was with soft words 
and hints of the possibility of a reprieve that M. Pasquier 
spoke to the prisoner ; but he used the word '■ crime ' in 
qualifying the acts which the Count deemed worthy of 
reward, and Lally heard no more. He was seized with 
a fit of fury greater than any he ever had experienced 



122 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

before, and, seizing a compass which he used to draw the 
map of the former scene of his success and reverses, he 
stabbed himself near the heart. The weapon encountered 
a rib, and only inflicted a slight wound ; the gaolers 
rushed upon him and wrenched the compass from his 
hand. But despair gave extraordinary strength to the 
unfortunate old man ; he shook off their grip and made 
for M. Pasquier. Soldiers had to be called in to prevent 
mishap. 

M. Pasquier was so annoyed by this scene that he 
forgot what was due to an illustrious victim ; he ordered 
Tollendal to be gagged, and asked that, in consequence 
of the general's attempt to commit suicide, the hour 
of execution should be advanced. 

On the preceding night Charles Henri Sanson had 
been told to be ready on the following day, at two 
o'clock in the afternoon. Thus the exeattion of Lally- 
Tollejtdal was fixed before sentence was passed. 

Charles Sanson was at home, waiting for definite 
orders, when a carriage drove up before the door ; and 
from it alighted his father, who some years before had 
retired to the little town of Brie-Comte Robert. Jean- 
Baptiste Sanson was deeply agitated ; he had heard of 
the result of Lally's trial, and the Count's name had 
stirred in his mind some curious recollections. 

Five-and-thirty years before, a few young raen, who 
had spent the evening in one of the houses of the suburbs 
of Paris which was afterwards to be called the Faubourg 
Poissonniere, lost their way, and splashed through the 
mud, completely at a loss as to the direction they should 



LALL V- TOLLENDAL. 1 23. 

take. At length they perceived at the end of a street a 
row of brilliantly lighted windows on the facade of a 
large house. They heard a faint murmur of instruments- 
which issued from the premises, and having peeped 
through the garden gate they saw the figures of dancers, 
whirling past the windows. The young men were 
somehat elated with wine, and they resolved to join in 
the fun if they could. They boldly knocked at the 
door, and gave their names to the servant, requesting 
the honour of admittance to the ball. The master 
immediately appeared. He was a man of about 
thirty, with a gay face and a somewhat distinguished 
appearance ; and the elegance of his dress pointed to a 
higher social station than the young men had sup- 
posed when they plied his knocker. He greeted them 
with courtesy, and heard their request with the smile 
of a man who understood the frolic of youth. He 
told them that the ball was given on the occasion of his 
marriage, added that it would doubtless be for him a 
great honour to receive his visitors in his ball-room, but. 
that the society they wished to join was not, perhaps, 
worthy of them. 

The young men, however, insisted ; and the bride- 
groom, having conducted them to the ball-room, intro- 
duced them to his young wife and to his family. 

At the expense of this family the young noblemen 
no doubt intended to laugh ; but, with the exception of 
the bridegroom, all the good people retained, in the midst 
of their pleasures, a dark and severe aspect which 
damped the gaiety they had anticipated. They looked 



124 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

with surprise at these curious guests, whose faces re- 
mained rather grim and sinister even when they had 
to express the good-will they felt for the strangers. 
Some of the women, however, were pretty ; the noblemen 
were in high spirits, and too young and light-hearted to 
;give attention to the circumstance. They danced all 
night, and seemed delighted at the whole proceedings. 

At daybreak, and as they were about to retire, the 
master of the house asked them whether they wished to 
know the name and quality of the host of whose hospi- 
tality they had kindly consented to partake. The young 
men rather sarcastically acquiesced, expressing their 
thanks for the pleasant time they had spent. The young 
bridegroom, still smiling, then told them that his name 
was Jean-Baptiste Sanson, that he was the executioner, 
and that most of the gentlemen whose pleasures they 
had shared exercised the same profession. 

This piece of information very visibly disturbed two 
of the young men ; but the third one, who wore the 
uniform of Dillon's Irish regiment, and who was remark- 
able for the manly beauty of his features, burst out 
laughing, and said that he had long wished to make 
the acquaintance of the functionary who decapitated, 
broke, and burned so many good people, and he was 
very glad of the opportunity. He then begged Sanson 
to have the kindness to show them his instruments. 

Jean-Baptiste hastened to comply with the wish, 
and took the party to a room which was the arse- 
nal of his tools of torture and death. While the 
officer's companions were expressing astonishment at 



LALL Y-TOLLENDAL. 125 

the curious shape of certain instruments he examined 
the swords of justice with much attention. Jean- 
Baptiste Sanson took one down and handed it to the 
young rnan. This sword was the same which Charles 
Sanson had shown to the Marquis de Creqy, at the 
time of Count de Horn's trial. The officer looked at it 
carefully, and taking it with both hands he wielded it 
with uncommon strength and dexterity, asking his host 
whether it was possible to strike off a head with it at a 
single blow. Jean-Baptiste answered in the affirmative, 
and added jocosely that if ever the fate cf MM. de Bout- 
teville, de Cinq Mars, or de Rohan' gave him the 
opportunity, he could pledge his word that he would not 
make him suffer. 

The young officer, whose curiosity might almost be 
termed a presentiment, was Count de Lally-Tollendal. 

Jean-Baptiste Sanson never forgot the adventure ; 
and, being struck by the strange concourse of circum- 
stances which now seemed to urge him to the dis- 
charge of his promise, he resolved to honour his en- 
gagement. 

Charles Henri Sanson could hardly refrain from 
smiling when he heard his father speak. The muscles of 
his right side, which had been paralysed, were now 
strong again ; but he was, on the whole, weak and old. 
His hair was as white as snow, and although he was only 
sixty he appeared much older than he really was. It was 
not without trouble that Charles Henri induced him ta 
give up his intention ; and he only did so on the under- 
standing that his son in person should wield the 



126 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

sword, and that he himself should superintend the exe- 
cution. 

While they were conversing, a police officer came to 
announce to Charles Henri that the hour appointed for 
the execution had been advanced, and that he was 
impatiently expected at the Bastille. Jean-Baptiste 
chose among the swords that which, five-and-thirty 
years before, M. de Lally had held ; and father and son 
repaired in great haste to the State prison. The vesti- 
l)ule which led to the prisoner's cell was filled with soldiers 
and policemen. When Lally heard of the change of 
hour, he exclaimed that he cared not, and that, although 
lie had been gagged in prison, they could not prevent 
him from addressing the people while being led to exe- 
cution. Thick as were the walls of the Bastille, the 
sighs and cries of the prisoners sometimes traversed 
them and excited popular sympathy. The unworthy 
manner in which Lally was treated had become known, 
and, on the whole, public opinion was favourable to him. 
Anger had made place for pity ; the fate of the unfor- 
tunate and illustrious old man was out of proportion 
to his mistakes. The authorities feared that his violent 
and impassioned address might induce the people to 
rescue him, and it was ordered that he should remain 
gagged while being led to death. The officers of 
justice did not wait for the executioner to pinion Lally, 
who resisted with extreme energy ; and an iron gag was 
thrust into his mouth. 

These new violences had just taken place when the 
two Sansons arrived. Jean-Baptiste was much moved. 



• LALLY-TOLLENDAL. 127 

The cell bore the traces of the struggles which had just 
taken place there. The table was upset, the papers fly- 
ing about the cell, the chairs broken. Lally himself was 
stretched on the bed, bruised and his clothes torn to 
tatters. Blood was flowing from two deep gashes 
on his face. A groan, which was more like a threaten- 
ing cry than an expression of pain, issued from his 
throat, in spite of the gag, and from time to tim.e he 
shook his long white hair as a lion shakes his mane. 
All the persons present were still under the im- 
pression of the fray ; some were trembling and afl'ected, 
others were irritated. When the magistrate who had 
ordered Lally to be gagged saw Charles Henri Sanson, 
he turned to him, exclaiming, in a loud and rough voice : 
'■ And now this is your business ! ' 
The prisoner heard him, and he scanned the execu- 
tioner. He also, most probably, remembered the night 
he had spent in the Rue d'Enfer. 

Charles Henri was about to order his assistants to 
take up the prisoner and carry him down when his 
father stepped forward, saying that he alone had a right 
to command. He knelt down before Lally, and, per- 
ceiving that the cords were so tight that they almost 
entered the flesh, he ordered the assistants to slacken 
them. Lally's eyes then turned to the old executioner. 
He recognised him, for a smile came to his face, and a 
tear to his eye. When, after traversing the immense 
crowd which filled the streets, the executioner's cart 
reached the Place de Greve, the prisoner had to stop for 
a moment to hear his sentence read to him. When the 



128 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

clerk of the Court came to the words, ^ for betraying the 
interests of the King! Lally pushed him away, and 
would hear no more. One could see in his face how 
much he suffered at being prevented from protesting 
against the charges brought against him. Supported 
by Jean-Baptiste, he ascended the scaffold with a firm 
and light step. When he reached the platform he cast 
a proud look at the crowd below — a look, my grand- 
father told us, which was more eloquent than anything 
he could have said. He then turned to the old execu- 
tioner. Jean-Baptiste Sanson showed him his withered 
arm, and pointing to his son who was standing at the 
other end of the scaffold so as to conceal the sight of 
the sword from the unfortunate Lally, he said that he 
was too old to strike, and that his promise must be dis- 
charged by a stronger arm and steadier hand than his. 

Lally thanked him by an inclination of the head. 
Charles Henri Sanson now approached, and he was 
about to raise his sword when old Jean-Baptiste stopped 
him. With a firm hand, he took the gag out of the 
Count's mouth, and bowing respectfully : ' Monsieur le 
Comte,' he said, ' I am the master here. As it happened 
thirty-five years ago, you are my guest. Accept the 
supreme hospitality which I then promised you. You 
can speak if you like.' 

* I have spoken enough to men,' answered Lally ; ' I 
have now to speak with God.' And he begun in a loud 
voice a prayer which I faithfully transcribe, such as my 
grandfather wrote it out from memory after the execu- 
tion : 



LALLY-TOLLENDAL. i2(^ 

*0h Lord, You see that I am innocent of the 
crimes ascribed to me ; but I sinned against You when 
I attempted to destroy myself, and for this I am justly 
punished. I receive from the hands of this man, placed 
in my way by Your unfathomable Providence, the death 
that I wished to inflict upon myself. I bless You, in 
Your justice, for You will avenge my memory and punish 
the real traitors.' 

After pronouncing these words in a very distinct 
voice, Lally asked Charles Henri Sanson to come for- 
ward. 

* Young man,' he said, ' free me of these bonds.' 

* Monsieur le Comte, your hands must remain bound 
behind your back.' 

* Is it, then, necessary to tie my hands in order to cut 
off my head ^ I have seen death often enough as near 
as now, and do they think I am going to resist .? ' 

* Monsieur le Comte, it is the custom.' 

' Then help me to take off this vest and give it to your 
father.' 

Charles Henri obeyed, and took off the vest, which 
was made of a valuable golden tissue of India. Each 
button was a large ruby of the finest water. After this, 
the Count laid his head on the block, and said, with 
nervous animation : 

* And now, you can strike ! ' 

Charles Henri raised his weapon, and let it fall on 
the old man's neck. But the hair, which had not been 
cut, but only raised, obstructed the blade, and the head 
did not fall. 

VOL. I. K 



I30 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

The blow was so violent that Lally was struck down 
to the earth. But he sprang to his feet in a moment, 
and he glared at Jean-Baptiste Sanson with a lament- 
able expression of indignation and reproach. 

At this sight, the old executioner rushed towards his 
son, and, suddenly recovering his former strength, he took 
the bloody sword from his hands, and before the cry of 
horror which rose from the crowd subsided, Lally's head 
was rolling on the scaffold. 

The old nobleman's last prayer was partly granted. 
The trial of the Count de Lally-Tollendal was revised 
and his memory was solemnly rehabilitated. 



131 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE CHEVALIER DE LA BARRE. 

After rusting for seven-and-thirty years, the political 
scaffold had just been erected again for Lally-Tollendal ; 
and the sword of justice had scarcely been restored to 
the scabbard, when it had again to be drawn against 
another nobleman, as interesting for youth and courage 
as for the disproportion between the offence and the 
punishment. 

Towards the end of June 1766, Charles Henri Sanson 
received an order to start immediately for Abbeville 
to carry out a capital sentence. The despatch, and the 
pressing terms in which it was couched, surprised him 
very much. 

A few days before, the Parliament had rejected the 
appeal of the young Chevalier de la Barre, sentenced by 
the Presidial of Abbeville to be burnt after being 
decapitated, for singing obscene songs concerning the 
Virgin and the Saints. The culprit 'was not twenty ; the 
most distinguished barristers of Paris declared that the 
proceedings which had preceded the sentence were mon- 
strous ; and it was openly said that the Parliament had 
confirmed the judgment in order to give satisfaction to 

K 2 



132 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the clergy, whom the edict of proscription against the 
Jesuits had alarmed. No one thought that the sen- 
tence could be executed, and it was generally believed 
that the King would use his privilege of reprieve. _ 

Nevertheless, the injunctions received by my grand- 
father were so formal, that he lost no time in setting out 
for Abbeville. As soon as he arrived in that town, the 
cradle of his family, he put himself at the disposal of 
the criminal lieutenant. Fearing that his profession 
might excite the repugnance of some of the persons 
who lived in the house of this magistrate, Charles Henri 
Sanson gave his name to the servant, saying that he 
would wait in the courtyard for an answer. He was not 
a little surprised when he saw the magistrate appear in 
person, and, instead of the polite but cold greeting he was 
accustomed to receive, welcoming him with demonstra- 
tions of great satisfaction. He was a tall and lanky 
man ; a low forehead, a hooked nose, and greenish eyes 
concealed under bushy eyebrows gave him a not very pre- 
possessing appearance in spite of the jubilation depicted 
on his countenance. 

My grandfather bowed low ; but, before he could 
explain the purpose of his visit, the criminal lieutenant 
told him that he knew he came about the Chevalier de 
la Barre ; that the King had turned a deaf ear to all 
petitions for the young man's life ; that the execution was 
to take place on the following day ; and with the most 
objectionable familiarity he furnished Charles Henri with 
all the details of the trial and of the crime, laying stress 
on the justice of the former and the enormity of the 



THE CHEVALIER DE LA BARRE, 133 

latter, sneering at the extreme indulgence of the Par- 
liament, which had mitigated some clauses of the 
sentence, and repeating several times : * It is a great 
culprit, a very great culprit, you have to punish, 
sir ; and you should be proud and happy to have to 
avenge the King of kings, so grievously outraged by 
this ruffian.' 

Accustomed as he was to the dignity of Parisian 
magistrates, Charles Henri Sanson could hardly credit 
his senses. After the criminal lieutenant of Abbeville 
had given him his instructions, he went to the house 
which had been assigned to him as an abode, thinking 
on the way that he was again about to serve as the 
instrument of an iniquity. 

The facts which .had brought about the conviction of 
the Chevalier de la Barre were these : In 1747 a kind of 
calvary in the Italian style had been erected on the new 
bridge of Abbeville ; it was adorned with an image of 
Jesus Christ. On the morning of August 7, 1765, 
it was remarked that the cross had been mutilated 
during the night. One of the arms of the image was 
broken, the crown of thorns torn off, and the face of the 
statue was besmeared with mud. 

This took place at a time of religious effervescence ; 
the trial of Lavalette, the edict of eviction against 
the Jesuits, the attacks of philosophers, and parliamentary 
agitation had led astray the most sincere Catholics who 
thought their religious independence was threatened. 
The sacrilegious offence which had been committed in 
their town produced deep commotion among the inhabit- 



134 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

ants of Abbeville. An expiatory ceremony conducted 
by the Bishop of Amiens increased this effervescence. 
The prelate went to the calvary at the head of a pro- 
cession, walked around it with a rope round his neck and 
barefooted, excommunicated the culprits, and called 
down upon them death and execration. 

The criminal lieutenant immediately began pro- 
ceedings. Over one hundred witnesses were heard : none 
could furnish any reliable information ; but they were 
lavish in the vague insinuations that are familiar to 
inhabitants of small towns. The airy sallies of a few 
young men assumed the proportions of premeditated 
crimes against religion, and led to the inference that the 
mutilation of the holy statue was the symptom of a con- 
spiracy of the infidels of Abbeville against the Catholic 
religion. 

M. Duval de Soicourt, the criminal lieutenant 
whom we have seen greeting my grandfather in so 
strange a manner, showed extreme passion in the course 
of this affair ; and this led, not without some show of 
reason, the people to believe that under the cloak of 
religion he was avenging his personal animosities. 
There resided in Abbeville a pious and charitable lady 
who was disliked by M. Duval de Soicourt. Mdme. 
Feydenu de Brou — such was her name — was abbess of 
Villancour, and had in her convent a girl whose guardian 
was the criminal lieutenant. The orphan was rich, and 
her guardian had always nourished a hope that her fortune 
might come into his family by the marriage of the girl 
with his son. But when she was of age she expressed 



THE CHEVALIER DE LA BARRE. 135 

the greatest repugnance to the proposed union ; the 
abbess supported her in her resistance, and she obtained a 
decision of the Presidial, by which M. Duval de Soicourt 
was deprived of his guardianship. Stung to the quick, 
and supposing that Mdme. de Villancour wished to be- 
speak the rich alHance for the ChevaHer de la Barre, a 
cousin of hers who lived with her, the criminal lieutenant 
swore that he would have his revenge. 

A few days after the sacrilege he found an oppor- 
tunity of giving vent to his hatred. The Chevalier de 
la Barre and one of his friends named D'Etalonde de 
Morival, when sauntering about town, met a proces- 
sion of monks, and did not take off their hats as it 
passed — an irreverence which was considerably ex- 
tenuated by the fact that it was raining. This was 
enough for M. Duval de Soicourt ; he connected the two 
affairs — the adventure of the procession and of the 
sacrilege, and also the blasphemous statements of which 
he had heard. He therefore accused five young men 
belonging to the most important families of the province. 
Three of these, D'Etalonde de Morival, Dumaniel de 
Savense, and Douville de Maillefer, escaped ; the two 
others, De la Barre and Moisnel, were arrested. 

The trial was soon concluded. Moisnel, who was 
only fourteen, was* acquitted ; but, in spite of Mdme. 
de Villancour's efforts, the Chevalier de la Barre and 
D'Etalonde de Morival, the latter in conttcmaciam, were 
sentenced, on February 28, 1766, to the cruel punish- 
ment before mentioned. 

I have also related how Parliament rejected La 



136 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Barre's appeal. He was taken back to Abbeville, where 
the execution was to take place. 

Charles Henri Sanson was still asleep, on the morn- 
ing after his arrival, when a loud knock was heard 
at the street door of the house ; it was a turnkey, who 
brought an order of the criminal lieutenant for 
him to attend immediately at the H6tel-de-Ville, whither 
the doomed young man had been transferred. On the 
way, the turnkey informed my grandfather that since 
La Barre had heard that the executioner of Paris had 
been summoned to Abbeville, he was very anxious 
to see him. He added that the criminal lieutenant, 
to whom the prisoner's desire was communicated, had 
answered : * Tell M. de la Barre that he can have a 
sufficient look at^ him to-morrow ; ' and that he only 
yielded after the wish had been reiterated. 

The Chevalier de la Barre was in a room on the 
ground floor of the H6tel-de-Ville. The turnkey 
informed him that the person he wished to see was at 
hand; and as Charles Henri Sanson appeared on the 
threshold, M. de la Barre, who was sitting near the 
mantelpiece, rose to meet him. 

M. de la' Barre was barely twenty ; his beardless 
face, delicate and regular features, and rather feminine 
beauty made him appear still younger than he really 
was. He was well formed and elegant ; and under any 
other circumstances Charles Henri Sanson could not 
but have been struck by his noble and distinguished 
bearing ; but he was too surprised at the extraordinary 
calmness of the young man at this terrible moment 



THE CHEVALIER DE LA BARRE, 137 

to think of anything else : a slight pallor was the 
only symptom of emotion to be seen on his face, and 
a faint redness of the eyelids showed that he had shed 
a few tears. 

He looked smilingly at the executioner, and apolo- 
gised for disturbing him so early : * The prospect of the 
deep sleep which I am to enjoy through you,' he 
said, *has made me selfish. You are the man who de- 
capitated Count de Lally-Tollendal, I think t ' 

This question was put in an easy and simple way 
which disconcerted my grandfather; and he could 
hardly find words to reply. 

* You made him suffer outrageously,' added the 
Chevalier. * I confess that this is the only feature of 
death that frightens me. I was always something of a 
coxcomb, and I cannot reconcile myself to the idea 
that my poor head, which they said was not altogether 
ugly, should horrify those who see it.' 

Charles Henri answered that M. de Lally's violent 
agitation rather than the executioner's awkwardness 
was the cause of the accident. He added that decapita- 
tion was a gentleman's punishment, because it was 
necessary that the patient should show fortitude ; and 
further, that the courage of the sufferer was as in- 
dispensable to its proper execution as the dexterity 
of the headsman. He added that the extraordinary 
coolness M. de la Barre was displaying while discours- 
ing on what was for others a subject of terror, made 
him feel confident that his head would suffer no muti- 
lation. 



138 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

* Well,' said La Barre, * I think I can give you 
satisfaction, but pray be careful ; ' after which he dis- 
missed him. As Charles Henri Sanson was retiring, an 
old lady and a monk entered the room. It was 
Mdme. de Villancour, who came to bid farewell to the 
one she loved like a son, and who brought with her a 
confessor. 

My grandfather remained at the H6tel-de-Ville. At 
eight o'clock the criminal lieutenant arrived, and 
Charles Henri was struck by the contrast presented 
by the calm and serene countenance of the victim, 
and the agitated features of his judge. M. Duval 
de Soicourt's face was livid, his lips quivered, his eyes 
had a feverish look ; he smiled continually, but his 
satisfaction was now less real than on the preceding 
day. It was not difficult to perceive that his con- 
science was unquiet. He went to and fro, hurried the 
preparations for departure, and from time to time he 
heaved deep sighs which betrayed the discomfort of his 
mind. ' 

At length the cortege started (July i, 1766). M. de, 
la Barre had on his chest a placard on which the words 
'infidel, blasphemer, abominable and execrable sacri- 
lege' were written in large letters. His confessor, a 
monk of the order of St. Dominique, was on his right ; 
the criminal lieutenant was on the other side. When the 
Chevalier saw him, a slight contraction was observed on 
his handsome face ; he told my grandfather to stand 
on his left, and, Charles Henri having obeyed, he said 
in a loud voice, looking at M. Duval de Soicourt : 



THE CHEVALIER DE LA BARRE. 139 

* It is better so ; between the doctor of the soul and 
the doctor of the body, what need I fear ? ' 

He was taken before the porch of Saint Wulfranc, 
where he was to make amende honorable ; but he ener- 
getically refused to pronounce the usual words of the 
formula. * To confess my guilt,' he cried, ' would be 
to offend God by a falsehood ; I cannot do it' 

When he was on the scaffold, my grandfather noticed 
that his colour vanished, but he recovered his self-posses- 
sion in a moment. The monk was quite overpowered. 
Charles Henri Sanson told his assistants to give him 
his sword. The Chevalier wished to see it, passed his 
finger along the edge, and, having made sure that it 
v/as of good steel and sharp, he said to the executioner : 

' Now, master, strike with a firm hand, for I am not 
afraid.' 

My grandfather looked at the young man, quite sur- 
prised. 

* But, Monsieur le Chevalier,' he said, * you must 
kneel.' 

* I cannot ; I am no criminal. I refused to make 
amende honorable. Strike me as I am.' ^ 

Charles Henri Sanson knew not what to do. * Now 
then, be quick,' added the Chevalier, in a tone of im- 
patience. 

Then occurred a fact singular enough to be recorded 
here. My grandfather handled his sword with so much 

' M. Charles Louandre, of the Revue des Deux Mondes^ has] adduced 
proofs that the Chevalier de la Barre was quite innocent of an offence which, 
in any case, it was monstrous to punish with death. — N. Ed. 



I40 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

vigour and dexterity, that it severed the spine and went 
through the neck without dislodging the head from the 
shoulders. It was only when the body fell that it rolled 
on the boards of the scaffold, to the amazement of the 
witnesses of this extraordinary feat. 

This unprecedented incident has been taken up by 
chroniclers, and all kinds of stories in prose and in verse 
have been invented thereon. They are all innaccurate. 
An unscrupulous writer has even asserted that my 
grandfather, proud of his success, turned to the crowd 
and said : 

*■ Was it not a fine blow .-* ' 

It is my duty, in justice to my grandfather and to our 
sinister corporation, to contradict these shameless words, 
which would have soiled even the lips of a headsman. 
The executioner who exercises his profession because 
he likes it, and who admires his talents of destruction, is 
an absurd fiction. If there are, in history, monsters 
cruel by instinct and sanguinary by system, they are 
not to be found in our ranks. I have, of course, known 
many of my confreres ; and if most of them were not, to 
the same degree as myself, victims of their birth and 
family traditions, I can nevertheless affirm that none dis- 
charged functions so antipathetic to the natural senti- 
ments of men without a feeling of shame. 



141 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT. 

The executions which have been described in the- 
preceding chapters have compelled me to set aside for a 
while the part of these memoirs which relates to the 
autobiography of my family, and which, according to my 
plan, should be presented simultaneously with the docu- 
ments quoted in the course of the present judicial history. 
I now return to our private matters. 

When I interrupted these domestic records, Charles 
Sanson had just died, and his widow, Marthe Dubut, 
had obtained for her eldest son, Charles Jean-Baptiste 
Sanson, aged seven years, the position of his father. 
Man becomes used to everything, and of this I my- 
self have been a sad proof ; but it is from the time of 
Charles Jean-Baptiste that my family seems to have 
quite reconciled itself, and to have accepted a kind of 
identification with the bloody appanage which it already 
regard^ed as hereditary. Jean-Baptiste was a child, and 
he never knew the gloomy feelings of his grandfather, 
nor his father's melancholy. Prepared for the calling 
which he was to adopt, he never aspired to a higher one. 



142 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Marthe Dubut had tenderly loved Charles Sanson ; 
in her reverence for his memory she desired that 
lier sons should not be ashamed of their father ; and to 
prevent this she decided that they should follow his 
profession. Not satisfied with the success of her eldest 
son, she also solicited and obtained for her second son 
the office of executioner of the Prevote-de-l'Hotel. We 
have seen by the execution of Damiens how ill-fitted 
the poor fellow was for such an office. Not so with 
Charles Jean-Baptiste Sanson. He was like his mother, 
and almost liked his profession. I said that his extreme 
youth left a gap in our family annals ; there was an- 
other reason for this lacuna : at a competent age, to use 
the expression which describes, in his letters of nomi- 
nation, the time when he could discharge his functions, 
he continued his father's and grandfather's record at 
some intervals and with an unwilling hand. It is easy 
to perceive that, being less impressed than they were by 
the scenes in which he took the most conspicuous part, 
he had little to say about them. A few notes constitute 
the only tribute he thought fit to render to the old 
custom of his predecessors ; and these notes are so vague 
that it is difficult to use them. 

It is only in the month of January 1755, when 
my grandfather is holding the pen, that I find some 
interesting information with a few details. He dwells 
first on the execution of one Ruxton, who was broken 
for murdering M. Andrieu, a barrister ; then that of 
De Montgeot, an engineer who, after an imprisonment 
of two years, suffered the same punishment for the 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT. 143 

same crime committed on the person of M. Lescombat, 
an architect. This lamentable affair is well known. 
Blinded by a fatal affection, De Montgeot murdered 
Lescombat, and tried to ward off suspicion by calling 
the patrol to his help, and pretending that he slew his 
victim in self-defence. This statement met with no 
credit, and De Montgeot was executed. Exasperated by 
the heartlessness of his paramour, Mdme. Lescombat, 
he denounced her as his accomplice. The woman 
was confronted with him at the foot of the scaffold. 
She was remarkably handsome, and she tried the effect 
of her charms on her judges, but without avail. She 
was sentenced to die, and was hanged on the Place de 
Greve. 

A month afterwards, the execution of one Dufrancey, 
a magistrate of La Marche, took place. This man 
charged a merchant named Roy with inciting a number 
of soldiers of the guard to murder him. He afterwards 
attempted to withdraw the indictment ; but it was too 
late, and he was called upon to prove his allegations. 
Dufrancey paid false witnesses to corroborate his charge, 
and persuaded them that the prisoner was in no danger 
of capital punishment. When the fourth witness came 
forward, the unfortunate Roy, appalled by the evidence, 
exclaimed : ' What have I done to you, that you should 
bring me to the scaffold t I do not even know you, and 
I never saw you before ! ' 

The witness, who was a painter, answered : * What ! to 
the scaffold ? I was not aware that the consequences 
were so serious.' These words excited suspicion. The 



144 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

man was sharply cross-examined, and the whole truth 
came out. The three other false witnesses were imme- 
diately arrested ; their trial was soon concluded, and. 
after being tortured, they were broken on the wheel 
with the man who had corrupted them. 

These are the only facts I can find in Jean-Baptiste 
Sanson's notes. In the month of January 1754 he had 
had an attack of paralysis from which he never com- 
pletely recovered. We have seen him finding again 
some strength at the execution of Count de Lally ; but 
he relapsed into his former state of weakness, and 
bestowed little attention on anything, much less on 
circumstances relating to his profession. 

By his marriage with Madeleine Tronson he had ten 
children ; three daughters and seven sons. All the boys_ 
selected their father's profession. ^One became execu- 
tioner at Rheims, another at Orleans, another at 
Meaux, a fourth at Etampes, a fifth at Soissons, and a 
sixth at Montpellier ; and the seventh succeeded to his 
father. When, on certain occasions, all Jean-Baptiste's 
children met at the same table, the family gathering 
wore a patriarchal appearance. The grandmother, 
Marthe Dubut, who reached a very old age, was seated 
at one end of the table ; and facing her was her son, 
whose paralysis gave him an appearance not devoid of 
majesty. It was in these gatherings that the servants, 
forgetting the Christian names of the sons of Jean- 
Baptiste, began to designate them by the names of their 
jurisdictions, and said in turn. Monsieur de Rheims, 
Monsieur de Soissons, Monsieur d' Orleans, &c., a habit 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT. 145 

which was preserved in our profession, although it had 
no other origin. 

The eldest, Charles Henri Sanson, who was called 
Monsieur de Paris, was undoubtedly morally and phy- 
sically superior to his brothers. Handsome and well- 
formed, he possessed a superior intellect moulded by an 
excellent education. He was extremely elegant, and 
had drawn upon himself so much attention by the rich- 
ness of his dress that a somewhat arbitrary measure 
was taken, which forbade him to wear blue because it 
was the colour of noblemen. Charles Henri might 
have shown the papers of the Longval family and raised 
the question whether the office of executioner was 
a disgrace. His manner of protesting consisted in 
wearing still more gorgeous costumes of green cloth. 
He gave fashion to this colour, and all the beaux of the 
Court, the brilliant Marquis de Letorieres at their head, 
adopted the cut and colour of his garments and wore 
coats a la Sanson. 

From my grandfather's time commences the most 
curious and now uninterrupted sequence of these memoirs. 
But, before giving the notes he left concerning the 
Revolution, I cannot do better, to introduce him, 
than quote an adventure of his youth. Of this he left 
an autograph account, which I textually give : 

* After a long day's shooting, I was entering an inn 
at dinner time, when I found myself in the company of 

Mdme. le Marquise de X , who was returning from 

her country-house to Paris. This lady bowed, offered 
me a seat, and, after half an hour's conversation, she at 
VOL. I. L 



146 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

length asked me what my profession was. Of course I 
replied that I was an officer of Parliament. She imme- 
diately requested that our dinners should be served 
together, and we made such a gay and pleasant repast 
that on both sides it seemed as if the heart had some- 
thing to do with our conversation. 

' After dessert, I ordered my horses and postchaise, 
and retired, after profusely thanking the lady for her 
gracious greeting ; but hardly had I left the room when 
a gentleman who was acquainted with the Marquise 
came up and asked her : 

* " Madame, do you know the young man who has 
just dined with you } " 

* " No," she answered ; " he told me he was an officer 
of Parliament." 

* " He is the executioner of Paris ; I know him quite 
well. He has just executed a man ; or rather superin- 
tended an execution, for he seldom does the work him- 
self." 

* At these words the Marquise nearly fainted. She 
remained speechless with confusion, shed tears, and, 
remembering that I had touched her hand, she asked 
for a basin and water and washed her hands. She 
stepped into her carriage full of anger, and during her 
journey she thought of the means of avenging herself 
Shortly after her arrival in Paris she presented a 
petition to Parliament in which, after relating what 
had taken place, she asked that I should be sentenced 
to beg her pardon, with a rope round my neck, for the 
insult of which she said I had been guilty ; and that, 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT. 147 

for the safety of the public, I should henceforth wear a 
distinctive sign so that all should know me. 

*The Court summoned the parties concerned to 
appear before it. I sought a barrister everywhere to 
take my case in hand ; but either owing to the influence 
of Mdme. la Marquise, which was great, or because of 
a reluctance to appear as the advocate of the execu- 
tioner, no one would undertake to act as my counsel, 
and I was obliged to conduct my own case. 

*The advocate of the plaintiff forgot nothing, and 
laid stress on the flagrant insult Mdme. la Marquise had 
to complain of He described with much eloquence the 
sad situation of the poor lady, after she had been in- 
formed of the profession of the man with whom she had 
dined. He said that my infamous calling did not allow 
me to eaf-everTln the company of a mere bourgeois ; 
far less could I do so with a person of Madame's rank; 
and he concluded by asking that his client's demands 
should be granted. 

* I answered in the following terms : 
' " It is fortunate for me, gentlemen, that, being 
charged before you as a criminal, nothing is alleged 
against my honesty. Thank Heaven, my conscience 
is burthened by no misdeed human justice has a 
right to deal with ; my only crime is that I discharge 
functions that are held to be infamous and disgraceful. 
Now, I ask you, gentlemen, whether there are infamous 
and disgraceful functions in the State } 

* " Infamy is the appanage of crime, and where there 
I is no crime there cannot be infamy. The discharge of 
s L 2 • 



148 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

my functions is not criminal ; on the contrary, it is an act 
of justice ; and the same principle of equity which leads 
you to pass a sentence actuates me when I have to inflict 
the penalty upon the culprit. The plaintiff did not 
reflect when she summoned me before you. If I had 
claimed your equity, she might have complained and 
suspected you. The fact is that our functions are con- 
nected together to such a degree that mine cannot be 
stigmatised without mortal imputation on yours. I 
merely act in obedience to your orders, and if there was 
aught reprehensible in my avocations it would redound 
to your discredit, since, by the essence of the laws, the 
one who orders a crime is more guilty than the person 
who commits it. 

* " I am quite aware that all public offices are not 
equally honourable ; they are creditable only because 
they are useful to society ; but according to the latter 
principle mine stands in the first rank. What would 
the State do if it were suppressed for one single day ? 
The whole kingdom would be a vast field of brigandage ; 
impunity giving encouragement to all passions, the most 
sacred laws would be trodden under foot, virtue would 
be despised and vice would prevail. There would be no 
other law than the law of the strongest ; murder, 
rapine, and theft would be fearlessly committed under the 
very eyes of Justice. It would be useless to punish and 
condemn ; pecuniary penalties do not frighten penniless 
brigands ; sentences entailing physical penalties would 
be laughed at if there was no one to carry them out ; 
for I venture to say it, gentlemen, fearless of forgetting 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT. 149 

the respect due to you, they do not fear your sen- 
tences, nor the pen of the clerk of the Court ; it is my 
sword which makes them tremble ; it is in the shadow 
of that sword that innocence breathes freely, that the 
police are powerful, and that public order prevails. 

^ *' The God of armies has placed the sword in the 
hands of the King to punish crime and protect inno- 
cence. Being unwilling to wield it himself, he has done 
me the honour to entrust it to my hands. I am the 
guardian of this treasure, which is the finest appanage of 
his royalty and the distinctive emblem of his sovereignty. 
It is not to you, properly speaking, that he has given it 
in trust ; the culprit deserves punishment because of 
his crime, not of your sentence ; or, to speak more ac- 
curately, it is the law which inflicts punishment ; you 
merely declare that he is convicted of a crime, and 
consequently, in the case of capital punishment, I, as 
public minister, use the weapon wherewith I have been 
entrusted. I punish crime and avenge outraged virtue ; 
this gives to my employment a pre-eminence and a 
degree of elevation which brings it in closer connection 
with the throne. 

' " I know that my ofiftce is considered dishonourable 
because I slay men ; hence the feeling of horror with 
which I am regarded. This is the result of mere pre- 
judice, which must soon be dispelled if the facts are 
examined without prejudice. There is no disgrace in 
shedding blood when the weal of the State demands it ; 
it is even an honourable function. Witness the pro- 
fession of arms which is highly esteemed, although it 



ISO MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

has for its object to shed the blood of the enemy. Ask 
a soldier what his profession is ; he will tell you that, 
like me, he is a slayer of men. Yet his company is 
never shunned, and no one thinks he is disgraced by 
eating in his company. For what reason do people 
despise in my profession functions which are deemed 
creditable in men of war } If there be any difference 
between us, surely it is to my advantage ; for who does 
a soldier slay .'' Innocents, very honourable men whose 
only crime is that they do their duty ! It makes the 
tears of widows and orphans flow ; whereas, in the 
accompHshment of my avocations, I respect innocence, I 
only kill culprits ; and a man who has done his duty 
has no reason to fear me. I merely purge society of 
the monsters who disturb its repose. 

' ' " By this parallel I do not pretend to diminish the 
esteem that is due to the noble profession of arms. 
Soldiers watch our frontier, foil the attempts of our 
enemies, and ensure for us the priceless boon of peace ; 
it is only just to honour a calling which is so useful to 
society ; but I do not fear to say, gentlemen, that, how- 
ever useful the profession of arms may seem to you, 
mine is still more indispensable. Soldiers only repress 
external raids. They have to fight but rarely ; lapses of 
twenty years have passed without the army being called 
to action ; whereas I preserve peace at home ; I con- 
tinually restrain the insolence of the bad citizens who 
disturb the public peace ; and scarcely a week elapses 
without there being occasion for me to punish crime and 
avenge the rights of innocence. Thus I am more useful 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT, 151 

to the public, and my help is particularly efficacious ; for 
each solitary soldier, each officer, contributes but in a 
small degree to the happiness of the State ; the glory of 
preserving public tranquillity is divided among so many 
thousand men, that each individual has only a small 
share of the privilege. On the other hand, in my pro- 
fession lies the advantage of alone ensuring public tran- 
quillity, and I can say without exaggeration that I alone 
in my vast department secure quiet more effectually 
than a hundred thousand men can do on behalf of the 
State. 

' " Do not believe, gentlemen, that, in defending the 
unjustly attacked prerogatives of my office, I claim any 
personal merit ; I know that a function, however 
brilliant, is always distinct from the individual who holds 
it. The real glory of man lies in virtue and the proper 
accomplishment of his duties, and I never sought any 
other. I should not assuredly have attempted to vindi- 
cate the duties of my office if the injustice of my 
enemies had not obliged me to do so. As I lay no 
claim to the glory of my functions, it would be unjust to 
cast upon me the opprobrium which the thoughtless 
have seen fit to attach to them, and to call me in- 
famous because it is alleged that my office deserves the 
epithet. 

* " The advocate of the plaintiff, not finding in the 
exercise of my office sufficient grounds to describe It 
as contemptible, has alluded to the unworthiness of 
those who hold it. Men deserving death, said he, 
and sentenced to capital punishment, have saved their 



152 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

lives by undertaking the hateful task which no one else 
would accomplish. This, it must be admitted, has occa- 
sionally happened, and the deplorable blindness of men 
should be regretted in such circumstances. Several 
honest men who could have served society with profit in 
the functions of this important office, blinded by preju- 
dice, gave them up and were compelled to remit them 
to less worthy hands ; but what does this prove } Just 
as a lofty office confers no degree of merit on a sot who 
happens to hold it, in the same way the demerit of 
the holder cannot in any manner affisct the office and 
dishonour it. If I had gained mine by the means he 
describes, his argument against me would be, I admit, 
conclusive ; but such is not the case. I have the honour 
to be the fourth of my family to whom it has descended 
from father to son, and if hereditary nobility were at- 
tached to it, as it ought to be, I might stand on even 
ground with Mdme. la Marquise. 

' " You laugh, gentlemen, at the word ' hereditary.' 
I cannot find anything extraordinary or preposterous 
in it. Military offices, which have the same functions 
as mine, and which, as I have observed, are inferior 
to it, enjoy the same advantage. Yours, gentlemen — 
allow me to say so, yours — which only contribute to 
the public weal in an indirect way, while mine has a 
more direct application, have the same privilege. Why 
is the concession denied to my office 1 It will not be 
denied, I suppose, that I am a member of Parliament, 
and perhaps, I may say, one of its most useful members. 
None among you gentlemen, can, individually, ensure 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT. 153 

public happiness effectually; none can pronounce a 
sentence except in conjunction with all the other mem- 
bers of the body. Thus you never act otherwise than 
as members ; whereas I procure peace alone, and I act 
as a chief. Now every chief is respectable, and to 
whatever category he may belong he should enjoy the 
privilege of nobility. The general prosecutor, who is 
the chief of his department, has it ; so does the chief 
clerk of the Court. Why should I be deprived of it by 
an unrighteous exception } I will press no further the 
sovereign reasons suggested by the justice of my case ; 
I merely point them out, as you may see. Men of my 
profession can act better than they can speak, handle 
the sword better than make a speech ; I believe, never- 
theless, that I have said enough to urge confidently 
that Mdme. la Marquise should be nonsuited. I might 
urge a plea against her, but I consider the weakness of 
her case as a sufficient rebuke. I therefore ask, not that 
the alleged infamy of my office be removed, for no 
infamy is attached to it, but that it be declared that not 
only am I a member of the Sovereign Court, but that I 
am the head of my department ; that my office has par- 
ticular resemblance to the profession of arms ; that, in 
consequence, I have a right to the prerogative of gown 
and sword ; and I further ask that, in virtue of this two- 
fold title, nobility be conferred upon me, as well as upon 
my posterity ; and I am confident that you cannot but 
grant my petition." 

'The advocate for the plaintiff perceived that my 
speech had impressed the judges, and he hastened to 



154 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

reply. " I do not know, gentlemen," he said, " whether 
the speech you have just heard is worthy of your con- 
tempt, or whether it should not excite your indignation. 

* " What ! a wretched executioner presume to com- 
pare himself to you, and even dare to claim pre- 
eminence ! He claims the lead of the officers of 
Parliament. What ! although soldiers expose their 
lives for the safety of the State, their glory does not 
equal his ; and he asks for nobility ! In fact, he is the 
first functionary of the State ! I will not stoop to discuss 
his arguments. It is sufficient to observe that the con- 
tempt and hatred that are felt for his office are as old as 
the world ; they are common to all nations and all 
times. It is an innate sentiment, a cry of the heart, 
which discards this minister of death ; one can never see 
him without feeling secret horror, and our eyes cannot 
but seek on his clothes marks of his cruelty ; it always 
seems to us that he is reeking with human blood. Let 
him say what he likes ; no argument can stand against 
the sentiment he inspires ; as long as his profession is 
to shed blood and destroy men, nature must recoil 
before him. 

* " Think of it, gentlemen ; believe the impulse of 
nature, and I am sure Mdme. la Marquise shall win 
the day." 

* I looked at him with pride and contempt, and 
answered : 

' " I did not think that it required so little to be an 
advocate. Since it is thus, and if I am contradicted 
again, I can become a lawyer in three days. What! 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT, 155; 

you rejoice in the title and you argue so lamely ? I beg 
you to observe, gentlemen, that feeling how impossible 
it is for him to answer my arguments, he merely attacks 
my conclusions and tries to turn them into ridicule ; he 
allows the premises, to use a legal expression, and denies 
the consequence. A curious answer, indeed ! He 
should have attacked my principles and denied the con- 
sequences. He does neither the one nor the other ; he 
knows that what I have said is so true that he cannot 
even doubt it. He is angry with me because I said 
that my calling is equal to the military profession, and 
that it is closely linked with your office. I am sorry for 
him, but this truth is so clearly proved that I defy him, or 
anyone else, to refute it. He feels that common sense 
is against him. He appeals to sentiment ; a paltry 
trick, indeed ! He says that he feels a loathing for my 
office ; I suppose he does experience such a sentiment 
since he says so. But, as for me, I assure you that I 
feel quite differently. He boldly asserts that all men 
feel like him. How can he say .'* Innate sentiment is 
only known to those who feel it. And even if he were 
right, what of that } It would be a traditional pre- 
judice, a result of education. This horror is just what I 
complain of. The question is whether this horror is 
equitable, and this my opponent refuses to argue. The 
only reason on which he bases the alleged infamy of my 
profession is that its object is the death of men. I have 
already observed that it is not disgraceful to shed blood 
for the welfare of the State. I will only add a few 
comments which will demonstrate my right, and show 



156 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSON S. 

the bad faith and ignorance of the advocate of Mdme. 
la Marquise, who asserts that at all times my office has 
been loathed by the public. Is he not aware, then, that 
among the ancients it was the custom to entrust the 
functions I discharge to the most meritorious in the 
State ? Solomon, the wisest of all kings, knew what 
glory was, and when he wished to bestow on some one 
a token of his friendship, he gave him an office similar 
to mine. Benaiah, the captain of his guards and his 
favourite, was invested with this dignity. 

' " It is true that there was no Parliament at the time. 
There was only the sovereign and his executioner for 
the maintenance of order. These two dignitaries were 
correlative, and one could not subsist without the other. 
Solomon alone pronounced judgment, and Benaiah alone 
could carry it out. Joab had prevaricated ; the king 
sentenced him to death, and Benaiah killed him : ' Inter- 
Jice eum et sepeli^' said the king to him. Shimei suffered a 
like fate. David acted in a similar manner. A young 
page for whom he felt affection was entrusted by him 
with the execution of the criminal Amalekite, who had 
borne a sacrilegious hand on the person of Saul, king of 
Israel. My opponent knows nothing of history, or is 
merely trying to deceive the Court. Confess, gentle- 
men, that if the King had attached a salary of one 
hundred and fifty thousand livres to my office, together 
with suitable privileges, it would be the finest office in 
the State. If you still doubt this, let us attack my ad- 
versary's principles. So long as my profession consists 
m shedding blood and slaying men, my profession must 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT. iS7 

remain infamous, and nature must recoil from me. 
Such is his argument. If it is just, all those who make 
a profession of shedding blood should share my fate. 
The principle is common to all, and the consequence 
applies to all in the same way. Thereby he stigmatises 
all soldiers ; he wounds the natural sentiments and 
tastes of all nations which always regarded them with 
favour. According to him, a brave officer who retires 
from battle covered with dust and blood should be 
regarded as an unnatural monster, deserving of horror 
and contempt. Who does not feel the absurdity of 
such reasoning ^ He is bound to admit it or to discard 
his principle; to excuse a soldier because he attacks 
armed men and risks his life is a frivolous exception ; 
his profession is, all the same, bloodshed and killing. 
Thus the principle can apply to him as well as to me. 
Six armed soldiers co-operate against a poor deserter, 
who is pinioned and unable to defend himself; they 
blow his brains out, and they certainly do not risk their 
lives in so doing ; and yet no one will venture to think 
them sullied. But what is the use of so many subter- 
fuges. It is certain that it is neither humiliating nor low 
to shed blood when the safety of the State demands it. 
It is even an honourable function. My office is the only 
one which it is intended to except. And if I ask by 
what right, no other answer can be given except that 
this state of things springs from fancy and prejudice. 
Who, among sensible men, would be guided by ideas 
that are in contradiction to sound reason, which give 
the name of virtue to vice, and of vice to virtue } 



-158 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

* " A man kills his enemy in a duel ; that is, he trans- 
gresses all divine and human laws. He deserves the 
worst punishment ; he should become in the eyes of the 
world an object of horror ; no one should eat with him, 
or even speak to him ? Not at all : fancy decrees that 
he should be regarded as a man of honour, and his 
•crime as an act of valour. How unfortunate is the age 
we live in ! Fancy is supreme ; virtue is oppressed, 
and vice condoned ! What ! an infamous duellist who 
has just killed a human creature to satisfy his brutality 
is to be considered an honest man, while a deserving 
individual, who serves society in the most important 
function of the State, is to be regarded as a ruffian who 
cannot sit down at table with any other person ! It is a 
•disgrace to our century. It is your duty, gentlemen, to 
discard this perverse taste. You cannot do better than 
:grant the prayer I address to you, I ask no favour ; but 
I expect everything of your equity." ' 

The Court retired to confer, and decided that the 
case should be indefinitely adjourned. More than a 
century after this judgment was pronounced, I publish 
my grandfather's curious brief, in which he attempted a 
rehabilitation, nay, a glorification which never occurred 
to me. I abstain from any remark. What are the argu- 
ments of logic against that innate feeling which, as the 
advocate of the Marchioness very well said, must always 
predominate } Innate feeling honours the soldier, ab- 
solves the duellist, and brands the executioner ; but 
liow can it condemn him without also discard ing capita l 
punishment .'* 



THE EXECUTIONER AND THE PARLIAMENT. 159 

I now return to my family and Charles Henri San- 
son. I have yet to relate his first love, which is interest- 
ing for more than one reason, inasmuch as the object 
of his affection was Marie Jeanne Gomart Vaubernier, 
who was to be the Comtesse du Barrv. 



i6o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XV. 

FA MIL Y ANE CD TES. 

I HAVE given a faithful description of Marthe Dubut, 
widow of Charles Sanson IL, who enjoyed a long life 
and saw her descendants multiply in the profession she 
contributed to maintain in the family. I have not, 
however, sufficiently dwelt on the career of Charles 
Jean-Baptiste Sanson, her son, who was the father of the 
numerous lineage which we have seen spreading over 
France in the capacity of executioners. However, I must 
neglect M. de Rheims, M. de Provins, and the others in 
favour of Monsieur de Paris, the head of the family, and 
the most important functionary of his order. The house 
of the executioner of Paris always held the first rank ; 
it was a kind of metropolis, of which the provincial 
executioners considered themselves suffragans. We 
were often sent out into the provinces to superintend ^ 
executions ; advice was regularly asked of us by our |P 
subordinates, and a constant correspondence was carried 
on between Paris and the other chief towns of the country. 
I may add that some of our confreres of the departments 
sent us their sons as assistants for a certain time, that 
they might acquire ability in the profession. We seldom 



FAMILY ANECDOTES. i6i 

refused to receive such pupils, and we admitted the 
novices, who sat at our table as long as they remained 
with us. 

When the number of Charles J ean-Baptiste's children 
is remembered, one may have an idea of the numerous 
company which assembled in the dining room of our 
house. Charles Jean-Baptiste shared his mother's singular 
ideas and strange principles ; both were much respected 
by their children and the strangers who found hos- 
pitality under their roof. The life of Charles Jean- 
Baptiste was very active and left him but little time for 
amusement. He studied anatomy with fervency, as 
Sanson de Longval had done. He possessed the science 
to a greater degree than any of my ancestors. He 
always rose early ; after a light meal, he went to church 
at Saint Laurent and returned to his house, where he 
received a certain number of patients whom he treated 
according to their ailings. These consultations lasted 
until dinner time. After dinner the family took a stroll 
in the garden, and then my great-grandfather returned 
to his laboratory, where he prepared his medicines or 
pursued his studies. At dusk, until supper was served, 
he sat down before his door, and breathed the fresh 
air. He occasionally encountered the hostile look of 
_some neighbour ; but he found ample compensation for 
such signs of contempt in the bows of a throng of 
paupers and patients who always found assistance and 
advice under his roof. 

It is difficult to explain the psychological phenomena 
by which many of us have been enabled to unite with 

VOL. I. M 



i62 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

a profession for which I have always felt repugnance 
the practice of the highest virtue. I could quote many- 
instances ; that, among others, of the executioner 
Gasnier, of Rennes, who, in his jurisdiction, was the 
providence of the poor, and who had earned so much 
consideration that the members of the local Parliament 
often came to see him, walked with him in his garden, 
and even asked for his advice. I can mention in favour 
of my family, if not tokens of esteem and sympathy as 
flattering, a course of conduct which deserved such gratify- 
ing marks. Connection between the magistracy of Paris 
and the executioner was less direct than in the pro- 
vinces, and since the Revolution this connection has 
steadily decreased. It was- never given to members 
of the Parliament and of the Court of Paris to know 
the moral worth of the family in which was transmitted 
from father to son an office to which even French 
legislation persists in ascribing the lowest rank. But 
the recollections my ancestors have left in the localities 
in which they dwelt are highly flattering to them. 
Despite of the reprobation which was attached to their 
functions, they were escorted to the grave by a numerous 
cortege of paupers, and I remember that a similar 
event happened when I took my poor father to his last 
resting-place. 

These reflections can especially be applied to Charles 
Jean-Baptiste Sanson, who was essentially a good and 
charitable man. Before the cruel illness which afflicted 
his old age, and led him to seek refuge in the small 
farm of Brie-Comte-Robert, which, since Sanson de 



FAMILY ANECDOTES. 163 

Longval's time, had ever been the country residence of 
Messieurs de Paris, he led the regular existence of which 
I have given the exact description. It was on one of 
the evenings which he spent before his door in the 
manner I have described that he received a singular 
visit. A legend had been circulated concerning the 
executioner's house to the effect that, having found his 
own son guilty of one of the crimes which are punished by 
law, the headsman had tried him and carried out his own 
sentence by slaying his son. The rigidity and austere 
principles of Charles Jean-Baptiste Sanson were as well 
known as his kindliness, and the high opinion enter- 
tained of him may have given rise to this fable concerning 
a Brutus of the scaffold. The story was told everywhere 
and reached Versailles ; and Louis XV. was nearly 
Induced to enquire of my great-grandfather whether it 
was true. However he forgot the whole matter ; but 
certain lords and courtiers, allured by the prospect 
of a mysterious drama, determined to ascertain the 
truth. 

Charles Jean-Baptiste Sanson was reclining on one 
of the stone seats which stood on either side of his 
gate, when a rich carriage drove up, and a man with 
•strongly-marked features stepped out and advanced. 
Without even raising his three-cornered hat, he walked 
up to my great-grandfather and asked him whether it 
was true that he had killed his son. 

Charles Jean-Baptiste shrugged his shoulders : * In- 
deed, sir,' he replied, ' allow me to say that your question 
is at least singular. Do you think that a father capable 

M 2 



i64 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

of shedding his son's blood out of a sense of duty would 
be foolish enough to reveal such a secret to the first 
idle courtier who questioned him ? ' 

The stranger turned red : ' Do you know who you 
are speaking to?' said he; 'I am the Count de 
Charolais.' 

* I am much honoured by your highness's query,' 
answered my ancestor. T am sure, at least, that, in spite 
of the severity of the laws which punish attempts on the 
lives of princes, I shall never have to exercise my 
function in connection with you, for if I were to believe 
what is said of your highness, as you believed what was 
said of me, the King, our Sire, has promised to pardon 
the man who takes your life as you took that of an 
innocent man.' 

The Count turned pale with anger : ' I have a good 
mind,' replied he, * to punish your insolence with a thrust 
of my sword. But this would confirm the absurd 
calumny which you have just repeated. Know that this 
accusation against me of the murder of a tiler is the most 
egregious of falsehoods. If a man did really perish in 
the manner described, it was not by my hand ; the 
murderer was my brother. Count de Clermont — if such 
a word as murderer can be applied to a man who is 
deprived of his senses.' 

The story of Count de Charolais firing upon a tiler, 
to -show his dexterity, while the poor artisan was work- 
ing on a roof, was so generally told at the time, that 
my great-grandfather had never doubted it. It was 
said that the King had only condoned the murder 



FAMILY ANECDOTES, ' 165 

on condition that the reprieve should extend to any 
relation or friend of the deceased who might attempt to 
avenge his victim. Charles Jean-Baptiste was, there- 
fore, extremely surprised when he heard the Count 
•denying a crime which was so universally imputed to 
him, and which he was even accused of regarding as a 
trifling occurrence. The altogether new version which 
he gave had a semblance of truth, for his brother had 
frequently exhibited the behaviour of a lunatic, and my 
ancestor experienced a revulsion of feeling in favour of 
this prince who, if public opinion charged him erro- 
neously, was more deserving of pity than of blame. He 
therefore apologised for his want of politeness, and after 
satisfying the Count's curiosity by showing him Charles 
Henri Sanson, who was playing in the garden, unaware 
of the fate which he was said to have undergone, he ven- 
tured a few questions concerning the murder of the tiler. 
The Count amply confirmed what he had said before ; it 
was his brother. Count de Clermont and Abbe de Saint- 
Germain-des-pres, who committed the crime while in a 
fit of mental aberration. As for himself, he had nothing 
to do with it, and he even invoked the evidence of one 
of his attendants. 

' Chesneau,' said he to a young man who was re- 
spectfully waiting at a short distance for his master's 
orders, * come forward and tell this good man whether it 
was my brother, the Abbe, who killed the tiler.' 

The young man confirmed Charolais' statement. 
The conversation, so unpleasantly commenced, ended 
in mutual confidences. Singularly enough, Count de 



1 66 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 

Charolais, in spite of his rank, became almost a friend 
of my great-grandfather's, and never failed to call 
upon him whenever he came to Paris. The Count, 
during his sojourn in the capital, lived in a mansion of 
the Rue des Poissonniers, and was therefore our neigh- 
bour. The faithful Chesneau always accompanied him. 
Jean-Baptiste reaped the benefit of his acquaintance. 
Since the edict which, under the Regency, had sup- 
pressed the right of travage and replaced it by a 
permanent salary of sixteen thousand livres a year, 
Charles Jean-Baptiste and his father had been very 
irregularly paid ; they were sent from one treasury to 
another, and the poverty of the State greatly contributed 
to this delay in giving satisfaction to the legitimate 
demands of my ancestors. A large sum was owed to- 
them. Charles Sanson II. saw the Regent, who, im- 
pressed by the justice of his application, gave him fifty 
thousand livres in notes of the Royal Bank ; but these 
notes were already discredited ; my great-grandfather 
could never use them, and I have them still in my 
possession. 

Count de Charolais interfered with the King on 
behalf of Charles Jean-Baptiste, and the latter at length 
received a considerable sum of which he had the greatest 
need, for during the time of non-payment he had 
defrayed the expenses of his office out of his own 
pocket. 

With regard to this prince, my father and grand- 
father never doubted his innocence, although he has ever 
been accused of the tiler's murder. The Count was rough. 



FAMILY ANECDOTES. 167 

passionate, and haughty, and his relationship to the real 
perpetrator of the crime gave rise to a charge which his 
temper, but not his action, might have confirmed. ' If 
it was not you, it was your brother,' posterity can say ; but 
this brother was a madman. I cannot otherwise explain 
the contradictions of the chroniclers of the time, some of 
whom maintain, while others strenuously deny, an event 
which has been handed down to us by hearsay. I 
believe that if, by excess of pride or too chivalrous 
devotion to his brother, the prince had not disdained to 
give a public explanation, his memory might now be 
washed of a stain which it still bears. 

Neither was it true that Louis XV. disliked Count 
de Charolais ; far from this, he received him en tcte-d- 
tcte, and the Count often attended his intimate gather- 
intrs. This we heard from the man Chesneau, whom 
I mentioned before, and who had on more than one occa- 
sion waited on the King and the Count at suppers 
to which only members of the male sex were admitted. 
Louis XV., worthy pupil of the Regent, had all the 
defects of his race ; but he was very aristocratic, and al- 
though he loaded with favour the Duke de Richelieu, 
the Marquis de Chauvelin, and a few other boon com- 
panions, it is certain that he more willingly gave vent 
to his instincts in the presence of a prince of his own 
blood, before whom, he imagined, royal majesty ap- 
peared less lowered. It was only after the death of 
Charolais, which occurred in 1760, that the King allowed 
his favourites to have their own way, and lost the scanty 
dignity which had partially veiled his faults. 



i68 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Chesneau was very clever as an armourer and en- 
graver ; he manufactured excellent and remarkably- 
elegant guns. His talents were the chief cause of the 
affection which Charolais felt for him. One day Ches- 
neau was testing a carbine in the gardens of the Hotel- 
de-Charolais, when the weapon burst and seriously 
wounded the young man in the arm and wrist. The 
Count remembered the chirurgical reputation of my 
great-grandfather ; he requested him to receive the 
wounded man in his house, and to take care of him. 
My ancestor probed the wound, which was not dan- 
gerous, and two months after Chesneau was cured. The 
poor fellow was eternally grateful to us, and remained a 
stout friend to our family. 

After the death of Count de Charolais, Chesneau 
became one of Louis XV.'s servants ; Louis XVI. in 
his turn had him in his service, and as this prince was a 
passionate lover of mechanical arts, he held Chesneau's 
merit in high esteem. But when the Revolution broke 
out the favour of princes became a danger. Chesneau, 
who had accompanied his master from Versailles to 
Paris, was driven out of the Tuileries on August lo. 
He felt the danger of wearing the Court livery, to which 
he had been accustomed during the whole of his life ; he 
thought of the house in which he had found kindness 
and hospitality when he was wounded ; and he knocked 
at our door. Jean-Baptiste Sanson was dead ; but his 
son was not less hospitable than his father was. He gave 
his hand to the old man and offered him a shelter during 
the storm. Strange to say, the servant of a prince and 



FAMILY ANECDOTES. 169 

two kings had made no fortune in the gilded atmo- 
sphere of the Court. He had eaten his daily bread with- 
out thinking of the morrow. What little money he 
received he spent in the satisfaction of his artistic 
tastes ; he bought arms of all countries, and had a 
valuable collection of these, which was left behind and 
dispersed. 

Idleness and dependence were alike distasteful to 
Chesneau, and he endeavoured to justify his presence 
under my grandfather's roof by useful work. For a 
long time Charles Henri would not suffer him to do 
anything beyond manufacturing weapons ; but when the 
poor old man had presented his host with magnificent 
arms, it was impossible to prevent him from giving his 
attention to the machine which had just replaced all 
other instruments of torture. On several occasions 
under the Terror he was heard blaming the assistants 
for some neglect, and he insisted on seeing to the good 
order of the guillotine. ' When so many good people 
perish on the scaffold,' he used to say, ' it is of no use to 
make them suffer. Kill them, Mordieu ! since you are 
obliged, but do not massacre them.' 

I was so young when old Chesneau died, that I have 
but a faint remembrance of him. AH that I can re- 
collect is, that he was a sprightly little old man, who 
used to swing me very agreeably between two large 
trees in our garden, and who made me a present on 
January 3, 1803, of a charming little gun on which was 
engraved, ' Chesneau, to his young friend M. Henri.' 

The worthy man died in 1802. I could not then 



170 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

comprehend all the teachings contained in his life, which 
began near the throne and ended near the scaffold ; but 
since then I have often thought of Chesneau ; and I do- 
not think it possible to select a more perfect impersona- 
tion of revolutionary cataclysms than the life of this man, 
which began with the hospitality of kings and ended 
with that of the executioner. 



171 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE ABBE GO MART. 

I HAVE now to Speak of a third friend of our family^ 
whose attachment was so lasting that it extended from 
Jean-Baptiste Sanson to my grandfather. This friend 
was Dom Ange Modeste Gomart, of the order of the 
RecoUets, Abbe of Picpus. 

At the end of the reign of Louis XIV. and under 
the Regency only doctors of the Sorbonne were 
allowed to accompany culprits to the scaffold ; but 
under Louis XV. and Louis XVI. this custom was 
abandoned, and the most suitable ecclesiastics were 
picked out of every religious order for the purpose. 
The venerable Father Gomart was designated for the 
dismal duty of accompanying culprits, and during the 
greater part of the career of my grandfather he faithfully 
discharged it. None was more fitted for such functions. 
Hjs face was kind, his eloquence was soft and persuasive,, 
and the most hardened hearts seldom remained un- 
touched by his words. A deep sentiment of duty had 
alone induced him to accept a task which he could only 
accomplish at the cost of a great effort. His strength 
frequently failed him in the slow and cruel executions. 



172 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

during which he was compelled to remain near the 
culprit and wipe away the perspiration that flowed from 
his brow. This always occurred when the punishment by 
the wheel, so often resorted to by the Parliament, took 
place. My great-grandfather and my grandfather could 
see the poor priest's distress, and they often came to 
his assistance. Once they took him away in such a 
state of weakness that he was unable to return to the 
convent where he resided, and he was obliged to accept 
our hospitality for a few hours. Touched by the affec- 
tionate attention which was shown to him, he sur- 
mounted the horror which he doubtless felt for the 
profession of his hosts, and henceforth showed real 
affection for those who shared his painful duties. He 
often visited my grandfather, and came to dine at our 
house every Friday. 

It was said that Father Gomart had had a stormy 
life, and that the peacefulness of his physiognomy con- 
cealed a soul which had been strongly tested by 
passions. He had entered orders after experiencing 
great sorrows. Neither my father nor my grandfather 
could ever ascertain his antecedents. They were in- 
duced to think that the romance of his youth was much 
exaggerated by those who spoke of it. He was suffi- 
ciently communicative, and, when at our table, he ex- 
pressed his uneasiness concerning a young niece of his 
who lived in Paris, and whose light and dissipated habits 
were for him a constant reason for alarm. ' She is the 
child, of sin,' said he ; ' I fear she feels the influence of 
her birth.'' 



THE ABBi: GOMART. 173 

This girl, whose name was Marie Jeanne de Vau- 
bernier, had been educated at the convent of Saint 
Anne, under the apparent care of her godfather, M. 
Billard de Monceau, but in reahty under the protection 
of the worthy Abbe, who had some reasons for con- 
ceahng from a part of society the affection he bore 
her. Education had produced no beneficial result on 
her mind. Her tastes were thoroughly mundane ; and, 
at her earnest entreaty, she was apprenticed to a 
famous dressmaker named Labille. This change was 
the cause of her loss. In this situation, which enabled 
her to see every day the elegantes of the Court and town, 
her coquetry rapidly increased, and filled her with a 
wish to emulate the brilliant models she saw. Jeanne's 
beauty was remarkable, and there was no doubt that 
her success would be great if she could appear on a 
scene Avorthy of her charms. The girl fell a prey to 
her ambition : without her uncle being able to prevent 
her, she began to lead a life of sin and dissipation. 

Jean-Baptiste Sanson heard every day the Abbe 
' Gomart's expressions of grief. He did not speak openly 
of her dissolute habits, but he alluded to her with 
bitterness, and he constantly deplored the privilege of 
fatal beauty which was the chief cause of her loss. My 
grandfather, Charles Henri Sanson, was then in the 
full strength and exuberance of youth. His imagina- 
tion was heated by the priest's description of his niece, 
and he soon felt a burning wish to make the acquaintance 
of a girl so beautiful, who was exposed to such peril. 
There always mingles something noble and chivalrous 



174 MEMOIRS GF THE SANSONS. 

with the first impulse of a young heart ; and a secret desire, 
a vague hope, to lead the girl back to the path of virtue 
was blended in Charles Henri Sanson's mind with 
feverish impatience to know the belle so often described 
by the Abbe Gomart. 

Charles Henri having learnt that Jeanne de Vaubernier 
lived in the Rue du Bac, he repaired to the house where 
she resided, and watched all the persons who entered 
the house until he saw one who answered to the lady's 
description. On the very first day he caught sight of 
a girl whose dazzling freshness, azure eyes, coral lips, and 
thick auburn hair could only belong to Jeanne. She 
was accompanied by a servant, who spoke with her in a 
light tone. They both went to the Tuileries gardens, 
where my grandfather followed them. He kept at a 
respectful distance, but his presence was nevertheless 
■discovered. Far from appearing offended, she frequently 
looked at him in a more provoking than angry manner. 

As I said before, Charles Henri Sanson was a 
handsome man, of elegant and distinguished presence, 
and he wore the sword and the three-cornered hat with 
as much grace as any nobleman. This favourable 
appearance was no doubt the reason of Mdlle. Jeanne's 
encouraging looks. Charles Henri followed her and her 
companion not only during their walk, but back to their 
house. 

He repeated his performance on the following day, 
but he did not speak to the ladles ; and this, of course, did 
not advance the conversion he proposed to attempt. He 
had just seen them disappear behind the entrance door 



THE ABBE GOMART. 175 

and was sadly pondering on the uselessness of human 
eloquence and the difficulty of salvation, when the 
curtain of a window of the first floor was slightly raised 
and Mdlle. Jeanne's charming head appeared behind the 
panes. This apparition did not disturb him, and by his 
looks he expressed as well as he could his desire that 
conversation in dumb show should soon be replaced by 
words. Either the young person understood or she 
merely wished to know the intruder's business, for, 
while Charles Henri Sanson's looks were still centred 
on the window, he felt a pull at his sleeve and beheld 
the servant, who made him a deep bow. 

'Monsieur le Chevalier,' she said, giving him the 
vague title it was usual to resort to when the rank of a 
stranger was not known, ' my mistress, Mdlle. de 
Vaubernier, has remarked that for the last two days 
you have followed her, as if you had something to 
tell her ; she sends me to you to ask what that may 
be.?' 

* I wish indeed to speak to your mistress, but, not 
knowing her, I hardly dared to accost her.' 

' Mademoiselle can be seen,' answered the servant ; 
'she is alone, and can receive whoever she pleases. 
Under what name shall I announce M. le Chevalier t ' 

' My name is of no importance, for, as I said before, 
your mistress never heard it. Still, as I have no 
reasons to conceal it, you may announce the Chevalier 
de Longval.' 

This qualification, which justified the soubrette's 
inference, appeared to her very agreeable ; she disap- 



176 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

peared and quickly returned saying that Mademoiselle 
was ready to receive Monsieur le Chevalier. 

The dreaded moment was now at hand. Charles Henri 
Sanson ascended the staircase and entered a cosy and 
comfortable room. Mdlle. Jeanne was seated in one of 
those small arm-chairs called bonheur diL jour, which 
were then in fashion. She smiled somewhat familiarly 
on my grandfather, and asked him to take a seat. * Will 
you now tell me, Monsieur le Chevalier,' she then said, ' 
* what procures me the honour of your visit } ' 

What she asked was precisely that which it was diffi- 
cult to explain. My poor grandsire was as embarrassed 
as Master Petit-Jean ; what he knew the least was how 
to begin. How could he tell the pretty sinner that he 
came to save her from Satan's claws } He was very 
young for the accomplishment of such a task, and his 
thoughts, while looking at Mdlle. Jeanne, were somewhat 
mundane. 

He resolved to break the ice at once, and confess 
himself beaten if he met with any resistance. ' Made- 
moiselle,' said he, with a deep sigh, * you know, I believe, 
the Abbe Gomart 1 ' 

At these words the young girl rose, her face turned 
pale ; anger appeared in her eye, and in a trembling 
voice, she said : 

*What is this, sir.'^ By what right do you speak of 
M. Gomart "i Are you, then, his spy t I pity you if, at 
your age, you already undertake such errands, and join 
in persecuting a poor woman.' 

'Mademoiselle,' exclaimed my grandfather, in a 



THE ABBA GOMART. 177 

piteous tone, * can you believe this ? I know the Abbe 
Gomart ; but my visit is quite spontaneous. It is 
because I have often heard him speak of you as of a 
niece for whom he feels the tenderest affection and who 
is being led to perdition, that I resolved to seek you, 
throw myself at your feet, and conjure you not to for- 
sake virtue, to listen to the voice of the worthy priest 
who speaks to you with the double authority of church 
and family, and whose dearest wish is for your happi- 
ness in this world, and your eternal felicity in the 
next ! ' 

And, suiting the action to the word, Charles Henri 
Sanson knelt before Jeanne. At the outset of this 
harangue, and when my grandfather alluded to the love 
of the Abbe, she appeared moved and tears came to 
her eyes ; but at the singular conclusion of his speech 
she burst out laughing, and turning to the servant who 
was still in the room, she said, unceremoniously, 'What 
a booby that fellow is ! ' 

One can imagine Charles Henri's embarrassment 
and stupefaction at the poor success of his eloquence. 
However, he bravely swallowed the epithet, rose, dusted 
his knees, and, convinced that he had to deal with a 
person who was deaf to virtuous exhortations, he 
abandoned all hope of redeeming her, entered into the 
spirit of the scene, and even cut a joke at the expense of 
the Abbd. 

It was now Jeanne's turn to be serious. ' Sir,' she 
said, ' I beg you to speak of M. Gomart with more 
respect. If his exhortations become ridiculous when 
VOL. I. N 



178 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

they are repeated by a young man, they are respectable 
when they come from his own lips. Remember that you 
are speaking of a member of my family who deserves all 
my respect.' 

The reprimand produced an impression on Charles 
Henri Sanson. He felt he was not doing his duty to his 
venerable friend. ' I assure you, mademoiselle,' said he, 
* that no one respects M. Gomart more than I do, but 
my first ideas when I came here were so confused that 
I hardly know what I have said or what to say. I feel 
disposed to laugh and to cry. I am glad to see you, 
so young, so gay, and so beautiful ; and then I think of 
all that your honoured uncle says of you, and I am 
filled with grief.' 

* I owe you many thanks,' answered the girl, in a 
mischievous tone, ' for the interest you take in me ; but 
as our acquaintance is quite recent, and as my uncle has 
never spoken to me of a family bearing the name under 
which you came here, you will permit me to interrupt 
this edifying conversation and to put ofT further acquaint- 
ance to a future occasion.' 

' Oh, mademoiselle ! ' cried my grandfather, ' do not 
treat me so harshly. My visit was ridiculous, I admit, 
but I was led by a high feeling of regard for your uncle, 
and an irresistible desire to know you. Need I tell you 
that this desire has increased since I saw you } Do 
not discard me ; allow me to be your friend. Some 
day, perhaps, my devotion may be of some service to 
you.' 

* There ! ' said Mdlle. Jeanne, laughing ; ' I took 



THE ABB& GOMART, 179 

him for my uncle's spy ; and now he insists on being 
mine ! ' 

Either the prospect of knowing what her family 
thought of her took her fancy, or my grandfather's 
candour and good faith touched her heart, for she 
allowed him to see her again, and got to like the 
admirer who had paid his addresses in so singular a 
fashion. 

Charles Henri Sanson from that time paid frequent 
visits to Jeanne de Vaubernier. If the present work 
had scandal for one of its objects, I might insinuate that 
he was the recipient of her favours; but I can only 
state what I know, and my grandfather never spoke of 
the friend of his young days, who was to become the 
Comtesse du Barry, otherwise than with respect and 
fondness. He did not deny that he loved her, and that 
at one time he was quite enslaved by the charms of the 
belle who became the mistress of an immoral old king ; 
but he never said that his affection was returned. I 
cannot, therefore, represent him as the Jean-Jacques 
Rousseau of a royal Warens, although the contrast be- 
tween such amours might appear striking enough. The 
same discretion has not been shown by others, for 
Charles Henri Sanson's connection with Madame du 
Barry has been commented upon and travestied in the 
most absurd manner by the inventors of apocryphal 
memoirs. They have represented my grandfather as a 
mysterious and fatal young man, who followed the steps 
of Jeanne de Vaubernier, predicting her grandeur and 
his own fall, and mingling with these solemn warnings a 



i8o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

request for favours when she should be Queen of France. 
The)^ make him appear on two different occasions in a 
memorable year of the Countess's life, foretelling her fate 
in dark and ominous terms. I do not wish at present 
to speak of the awful test which was in store for Charles 
Henri Sanson when he was called upon to behead his 
former friend ; but I am bound to contradict this tissue 
of inventions which has been reproduced in various 
works. The connection of Charles Henri with Jeanne 
de Vaubernier was such as I have related ; and as to 
the prediction which was attributed to him, it may- 
have sprung from the following circumstance. By a 
curious coincidence the favourite of Louis XV. was 
born at Vaucouleurs, in the little village that gave birth 
to Jeanne d'Arc. The lightness of Jeanne de Vaubernier's 
mind and manners did not prevent her from entertaining 
the greatest admiration for the maid of Orleans ; 
and although Jeanne d'Arc was not ranked among the 
saints, she often invoked her name and called her her 
protectress. One day as she exclaimed, as was her wont, 
* By St. Jeanne, my patroness ! ' my grandfather observed 
that she was not like her, and that should fate ever lead 
her before a king she would not enact the part of 
Jeanne d'Arc, but rather that of Agnes Sorel. 

Jeanne was the daughter of a dressmaker named Becu, 
alias Cautigny, who after Jeanne's birth married one 
Rangon de Vaubernier, clerk of the customs, on condition 
that the child should be considered by him as his own. 
My grandfather had good reason to believe that her real 



THE ABBE GOMART. 



i8i 



father was no other than the Abbe Gomart. He styled 
her his niece, because his position did not allow of his 
recognising her as his child. For a long time he spoke 
of her in terms of the strongest affection. Charles 
Henri Sanson was already in love with her, and he 
listened to the old man with eager ears ; and on more 
than one occasion he nearly betrayed his secret. For 
Mdlle. Vaubernier the executioner of Paris was still the 
Chevalier de Longval ; and he could easily maintain his 
incognito, considering that uncle and niece saw very 
little or nothing of each other, and Charles Henri 
was so much under the fascinating influence of the 
future Dubarry that he never revealed his avoca- 
tions. 

Jeanne was not only gifted with ideal beauty ; she 
was supremely pleasing and graceful. It is not my in- 
tention to retrace her biography ; it is quite enough for 
me to have to dwell on the last chapter of it. I shall 
not, therefore, follow her in her life of adventures and 
licentiousness, which culminated in her connections with 
a king. When she became Louis XV.'s favourite Charles 
Henri Sanson had long ago lost sight of her. The Abbe 
Gomart had ceased to speak of his daughter. She had 
vainly attempted to conceal from him her erratic exist- 
ence. When she became a royal mistress, she remem- 
bered her father, and thought, no doubt, that he would 
readily make the most of her equivocal elevation. Im- 
portant personages went to see Gomart, and offered him 
a bishopric ; but it was all in vain. The old priest was 



i82 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

not to be allured. He declined every offer, and to the 
end of his life he remained in his pious retreat, which 
he only left to discharge his functions and to sit down 
once a week at the executioner's table. 



i83 



CHAPTER XVII. 

ADVENT OF CHARLES HENRI SANSON. 

It was in the month of January 1754 that Jean-Baptiste 
Sanson felt the first effects of the malady which deprived 
him of the use of his limbs. His eldest son, Charles 
Henri, then fifteen years of age, was tall and strong, 
and with a little assistance capable of taking his 
father's place. But it was the second time that the 
duties of executioner devolved on a minor who might be 
regarded as wanting in experience ; a nd this led to a 
contest between us and those who wished to gain posses- 
sion of the appanage of our family. 

As soon as my great-grandfather's illness was known, 
and although, thanks to Charles Henri's assistance, 
there had been no interruption in the discharge of 
the executioner's functions, all sorts of intrigues were 
resorted to with the sole object of obtaining the 
ofHce. 

It seemed as if Marthe Dubut's life was only pre- 
served in order to see that the inheritance of our 
functions should be retained in the family. She solicited 
them on her grandson's behalf ; and when the procureur- 
gdneral expressed a doubt that so young a man could 



i84 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 

discharge the duties of executioner, she assured him 
that Charles Henri was older than his years. The 
magistrate told her to bring the young man with her on 
the next day. Marthe Dubut returned accompanied by 
my grandfather, whose vigorous constitution and pre- 
cocious gravity completely satisfied the procureur. 
He, however, declined to invest him officially, and 
Charles Henri was merely authorised to take his father's 
place until experience should prove his capacity. This 
provisional office lasted four-and-twenty years, and 
it was only when Jean-Baptiste died in 1778 that my 
grandfather became executioner en titre. 

Just as Charles Henri and his mother entered the 
procureur's office they met two men who had been 
talking with the magistrate. They retired hurriedly, 
and the voice of the procureur was heard saying to a 
police officer : 

* See these fellows to their lodgings, and if they 
are not off in two hours, arrest them and take them to 
the Chatelet.' 

The two men seemed embarrassed as they passed 
near Marthe Dubut ; but the latter looked at them 
steadfastly, saying to her son : 

' My child, these are ungrateful relatives of yours ; 
they came here to deprive you of your father's in- 
heritance. They have had an unfavourable reception, 
it seems. When you see them again after my death do 
not forget the ill-will they bear you.' 

These two men, father and son, were, in fact, 
connected with us by the eternal union of executioners' 



ADVENT OF CHARLES HENRI SANSON. 185 

families between each other. They were provincial 
executioners ; and, hearing of my great-grandfather's 
condition, they had come to Paris to secure his 
situation, 'i hey had been foolish enough \o offer the 
procureur a large sum of money if he would favour 
them. Their attempt at corruption failed, and they 
retired in dudgeon, but glad to be let off so easily. 

I will not quote the name of these disappointed 
competitors, as they were connected with my family, 
and out of deference to their descendants, who still bear 
that name. The same thing occurred to me during my 
seven years of service. When it was known that I had 
but little wish to retain an office which I hated, and 
which I could hand down to no son, all kinds of 
machinations were devised to obtain my dismissal or to 
make sure of my inheritance. Were not such details 
below the reader's notice, I could tell a curious story on 
the matter, on the ambition of those who wished to 
take charge of our grim functions. But let us leave this 
unpleasant subject, and return to Charles Henri Sanson, 
who replaced his father during four-and-twenty years be- 
fore he took his official title. Marthe Dubut died shortly 
afterwards, proudly conscious of having educated a 
numerous posterity for the government of the scaffold. 
Her death wrought a considerable change in the habits 
of the house ; Charles Jean-Baptiste retired to the 
country with his wife, and Charles Henri virtually be- 
came the head of the family. His tenure of office was 
far longer than that of any other of our race. We have 
seen him commencing his career in the monstrous tortures 



186 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

inflicted on Damiens as a punishment for an at- 
tempted regicide ; we shall soon find him committing a 
legal regicide. We have seen him executing Lally and 
La Barre, the victims of intrigue and fanaticism ; we 
shall see him slaying thousands of victims during the 
Terror. It appears to nre impossible to find in any 
country and under any legislation a more complete 
incarnation of the executioner than my grandfather, 
especially during the Revolution. As a minister of 
popular reprisals, as the instrument of revenge which 
had accumulated during ages against the excesses of 
monarchy, he became the principal member of the 
State. Royalty, the Gironde, the Montagne successively 
perished by his hands. 

The latter part of the reign of Louis XV. was not 
bloody ; Lally and La Barre were the last victims of 
State and religion ; and the Court did not blend cruelty 
with vice : I only find in my grandfather's notes the 
names of common criminals of La Tournelle. The only 
circumstance worthy of notice regarding these cases 
was, that all these criminals appealed to Parliament 
against sentences passed by inferior jurisdictions, and 
that these appeals usually led to the infliction of severer 
penalties. Seldom did inferior courts inflict the punish- 
ment of the wheel ; the gibbet was the instrument of death 
they generally resorted to. Now when the Parliament 
quashed their decisions it was only to substitute the 
wheel for the gibbet. In a list of obscure crimes I 
find a case which is worth mentioning. A horse-dealer, 
named Chabert, had an only son, who was to take his 



ADVENT OF CHARLES HENRI SANSON. 187 

father's business after his death. The young man, how- 
ever, was a debauchee ; and not only did he spend his 
time in idleness or pleasure, but he impatiently waited 
for the time when by his father's death he would take 
possession of a small fortune. Amongst his ordinary 
boon companions was one Cellier, who became his confi- 
dant and accomplice in the horrible design young Chabert 
was meditating. Cellier was perverse and weak, and he 
was easily persuaded by Chabert to murder the father 
of the latter. They fixed the day and hour. Chabert 
gave Cellier a long knife which he had sharpened himself; 
and as Chabert the elder was returning home between 
eight and nine o'clock at night, Cellier struck him twice 
with this weapon. A struggle took place between the 
murderer and his victim ; the son came to the assist- 
ance of his accomplice, and both managed to escape. 
As to Chabert the elder, he fell and died on the spot. 

This audacious crime had been committed near the 
Palais de Justice. The judges of the Bailliage took imme- 
diate steps for the capture of the assassins. Chabert and 
Cellier were easily discovered and arrested, and on De- 
cember 12, 1774, they were both sentenced to die on the 
wheel. The Parliament confirmed the sentence on the 
same day, and handed over the culprits to the criminal 
lieutenant for its immediate execution. 

The rapidity with which the whole affair was brought 
to a culmination shows how abhorred by public con- 
science were such crimes as Chabert's. Parricide at 
the time was very rarely committed. I do not think 
Charles Henri Sanson had been called upon before 



i88 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

this to inflict certain portions of the sentences, such as 
the amputation of the hand and the burning of the body. 
Executions were less frequent than one might think 
during our professional experience. The punishments 
which my grandfather had to see to were chiefly flogging 
and marking, usually inflicted on thieves and forgerers. 
Our modern laws, in France at least, have abolished 
such corporal punishments. Marking and the pillory 
disappeared one after the other, although they were still 
in force in my time. Mutilation, which always preceded 
the execution of parricides, has fallen into disuse. 
Cremation of corpses and scattering the ashes to the 
wind nowadays would only disgrace justice. Only the 
scaffold, on which simple and rapid death is inflicted, 
remains ; and — may I be allowed to say so } — I am con- 
vinced that its days are numbered. 



1 89 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE NECKLACE AFFAIR. 

This affair is so well known that to give a detailed 
account of it is, I think, useless. I will therefore limit 
myself to a brief summary of the facts which caused the 
arrest of the Cardinal de Rohan, M. de Cagliostro, 
M. Retaux de Villette, and Mdlle. Oliva, and brought 
Madame Jeanne de Valois in contact with the execu- 
tioner. 

One day Madame de Boulainvilliers, wife of the 
Provost of Paris, met in a village in Burgundy a little 
girl, who held out her hand, saying: 'My beautiful lady, 
for the love of God, give something to the descendant of 
the former Kings of France.' 

These words surprised Mdme. de Boulainvilliers ; she 
asked the child to explain her singular way of begging. 
The curate of the village, who was passing by, told 
madame that the child said the truth, and that she was the 
lineal descendant of Henri de Saint-Remy, bastard of 
Henry II. and of Nicole de Savigny. 

Madame de Boulainvilliers also heard that the child 
was an orphan, and that she lived on public charity. 
She took her to Paris ; her genealogy was examined, 



190 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

and it was discovered that the little Jeanne de Valois, 
her brother, and her sister were really scions of the old 
royal stock. A petition was presented to the Queen 
and to M. de MaurepaS by the Duke de Brancas- 
Ceriste. Pensions were granted to the three children. 
The boy entered the navy ; he became a lieutenant, and 
died under the name of Baron de Saint-Remy de Valois. 

In 1780 Jeanne de Valois married a member of 
Monsieur's private guard, Comte de la Motte. This 
officer was poor ; his wife's portion consisted of a small 
pension ; and this was insufficient for the ambition of 
La Motte and his wife. MadamQ de la Motte was 
considered to be a very beautiful woman ; she was 
witty and attractive, and expressed herself with elegance 
and facility. She became acquainted with the Cardinal 
de Rohan, who lent her money and protected her. It 
is difficult to say whether the prelate's generosity was 
quite disinterested ; but there is reason to believe that 
it was not, especially as he lent Madame de la Motte, 
without any plausible reason, a sum amounting to one 
hundred and twenty thousand livres, previous to the neck- 
lace affair. Howbeit Madame de la Motte enjoyed the 
intimacy of the fastidious prelate, and discovered his secret 
aspirations. She found out that his desire was to have 
over the Queen, who, it was said, exercised a sovereign 
domination over her husband, the same influence as 
Cardinal Mazarin had had with Anne d'Autriche. She 
flattered his hobby, and used it as the basis of her future 
fortunes. 

The almost stupid simplicity through which M. de 



THE NECKLACE AFFAIR. 191 

Rohan fell a victim to the snare of this wily woman will 
afford an idea of the prelate's intellectual calibre. Mdme. 
de la Motte persuaded the Cardinal that she was on terms 
of intimacy with the Queen ; that, conscious as she was of 
the Cardinal's eminent qualities, she had so often spoken 
of him to her Majesty that the Cardinal was on his way to 
favour; that Marie Antoinette authorised him to send her 
the justification of his supposed blunders during his em- 
bassy in Austria ; that she further wished to have with 
M.de Rohan a correspondence which was to remain secret 
until she could openly manifest her preference for him ; 
that Madame de la Motte was to be the bearer of this 
correspondence, the result of which must infallibly lead 
the Cardinal to the highest favour and influence. 

Was Madame de la Motte at all connected with the 
Queen } Most historians deny the fact. Anyhow her 
invention was successful. The Cardinal believed her and 
was quite enthusiastic ; he richly rewarded her for the 
forged letters which she gave him as coming from the 
Queen ; and Madame de la Motte was doubtless encour- 
aged by his simplicity. 

A magnificent necklace had been ordered by Louis 
' XV. of MM. Boemer and Bossange, the crown jewellers. 
It was made for Madame du Barry. The King died 
before it was finished ; his favourite mistress was 
exiled by the new monarch, and the beautiful jewel 
remained in the hands of the makers. They offered it to 
the Queen ; but the price, which amounted to 1,800,000 
livres, was thought too high. Madame de la Motte saw 
the necklace. The jewellers told her they were much 



192 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

embarrassed by the Queen's refusal to purchase it ; 
they were impeded in their trade by such a consider- 
able outlay of money, and they offered to make a rich 
present to whoever could find a buyer. The Countess 
thought that the Queen would be only too glad to get 
the necklace if she had not to pay for it ; and she inferred 
that Marie Antoinette could not but feel very grateful 
to the person who would get it for her. Her husband, 
M. de la Motte, entered into the plot. They obtained the 
support of the Comte de Cagliostro, who exercised 
a powerful influence over M. de Rohan ; and at length 
Madame de la Motte persuaded the Cardinal that the 
Queen wished to purchase the necklace with her own 
money ; that, as a token of good feeling towards the 
Cardinal, she requested him to buy the jewel in her name ; 
and that she would send him a receipt written and signed 
with her own hand. This document was handed to M. 
de Rohan by Madame de la Motte ; it was dated from 
Trianon, and signed * Marie Antoinette de France.' How 
the Cardinal could fail to discover the forgery when he 
saw this signature, it is difficult to say. The Queen, like 
all the princesses who had preceded her on the throne, 
signed her Christian name only, and the words *de 
France,' due to the imagination of the forger (Retaux 
de Villette) were a sufficient indication of the origin of 
the document. 

But he had no suspicion ; and really believing that he 
was acting in accordance with the wishes of his sovereign, 
and thinking that the highest favour would be accorded 
to him for his intervention, he sent for the jewellers, and 



THE NECKLACE AFFAIR. 193 

showed them the Queen's receipt. They accepted the 
arrangements he proposed, and on February i the casket 
was handed to Madame de la Motte at Versailles ; and 
it was remitted by her, in the Cardinal's presence, to a so- 
called valet-de-chambre of the royal household, who was 
no other than the forger, Retaux de Villette. This bold 
fraud was brought to a conclusion by the departure 
for England of M. de la Motte with the rich booty. 

After thus gaining possession of the necklace, 
Madame de la Motte was not satisfied ; she hoped to 
compromise the Queen and the Cardinal still more. She 
therefore set to work again. Retaux de Villette wrote 
other letters, by which the Queen informed M. de Rohan 
that, being unable to give him public marks of her esteem, 
she wished to see him between eleven and midnight in 
the shrubs of Versailles. Madame de la Motte had met a 
girl of the name of Oliva, whose resemblance to 
Marie Antoinette had struck her, and who acted the 
part of the Queen. The meeting took place in the Baths 
of Apollo. Mdlle. Oliva's performance was admirable ; 
she gave a rose to the Cardinal, who was choking with 
emotion, and then sent him away in a state of high 
exultation. 

But the date fixed for the payment of the first instal- 
ment of the price of the necklace was drawing near, 
and the jewellers were somewhat uneasy. They tried 
i to ascertain whether the necklace was in the Queen's 
I possession ; but they could not obtain an audience, and 
Ithey soon discovered that they were the victims of a 
I robbery. In their indignation they made known the 
' VOL. I. O 



194 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

whole affair ; and it was reported to M. de Breteuil, 
minister of the King's household. M. de Breteuil was 
the Cardinal's personal enemy, and he eagerly seized the 
opportunity of manifesting his dislike. He had a secret 
conversation with the Queen ; informed her of the 
rumours that were being circulated concerning herself, 
the Cardinal, and Madame de la Motte ; and besought 
her to tell him if she had any reason to fear a public 
investigation. 

The Queen answered that she had no apprehension 
whatever, and that the sooner the mystery was explained 
the better. On August 15 the Cardinal, as great almoner, 
was to officiate in the chapel. He was about to assume 
his religious robes when an usher came to inform him 
that the King wished to speak to him. 

Louis XVI., Marie Antoinette, and M. de Breteuil 
were together when the Cardinal appeared in the royal 
presence. The King spoke to him in a strongly irritated 
tone : 

* Sir, you have, I believe, bought diamonds at 
Boemer's } * 

' I have, your Majesty,' answered De Rohan. 

' Where are they } ' 

M. de Rohan hesitated. * I thought, Sire,' said he, 
at length, ' that these diamonds were in the possession of 
the Queen.' 

' Who directed you to send them to the Queen .? ' 

' A lady named Madame la Comtesse de la Motte 
Valois. She gave me a letter from the Queen, whos< 
orders I thought I obeyed by purchasing the diamonds^ 



THE NECKLACE AFFAIR, 



195 



The Queen here interrupted him. ' How could you 
believe, sir,' she exclaimed, * that after looking upon you 
with disfavour for more than eight years I could select 
you for such a piece of business, and through the inter- 
vention of such a woman ? ' 

* I now perceive,' answered the Cardinal, ' that I have 
been cruelly deceived. My wish to please your Majesty 
led me astray. I will pay for the necklace .... I am 
the victim of a fraud of which before this I had no sus- 
picion. I am extremely sorry.' 

He produced his pocket-book, and selected the 
Queen's receipt. The King looked at it : ' Why,' he 
said, 'this is neither the Queen's handwriting nor her 
signature. How could you, a prince of the house of 
Rohan, and the great almoner of France, believe 
that the Queen signed " Marie Antoinette de France } " 
Everybody knows that queens only sign their Christian 
names.' 

The Cardinal was getting more and more disconcerted. 
He was obliged to lean against a table. The King saw 
this, and told him to go into an adjoining room, where he 
could write his justification. M. de Rohan obeyed, and re- 
appeared a quarter of an hour after, with a paper which he 
j handed to Louis. At the door he found M. de Jouffroy, 
j lieutenant of the guards, who arrested him, and handed 
I him over to M. d'Agoult, who took him to the Bastille. 
I Madame de la Motte was arrested on the following day. 
i She denied having in any way participated in the theft 
I of the necklace, and she charged M. de Cagliostro with 
I the crime, alleging that he persuaded the Cardinal to buy 

o 2 



196 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the necklace. Cagliostro and his wife were arrested. 
Madame de la Motte hoped, no doubt, to escape by in- 
sinuating that the Cardinal as well as Cagliostro was 
responsible for the necklace; but, unfortunately for 
her. Mademoiselle Oliva was arrested in Brussels, and 
her revelations threw some light on the mystery. Some 
time after, Retaux de Villette was taken, and he was 
confronted with M. de la Motte. In the night of the 
29th all the accused were transferred from the Bastille 
to the Conciergerie, and on September 5 letters patent 
of the King sent the case before the Parliament. 

These letters were couched in: strong and bitter 
terms, and brought against the Cardinal a terrible 
charge. The affair, which was now publiclv known, pro- 
duced deep sensation. The nobility and the clergy were 
equally interested in the issue of the trial, the two prin- 
cipal parties being the Queen and a prince of the 
Church. The trial was commenced on December 22. 
Madame de la Motte, who was dressed with great care 
and elegance, was brought in ; her face was undisturbed, 
and she answered all the questions put to her by the presi- 
dent with the utmost coolness and presence of mind. The 
Cardinal appeared after her. The members of the bench 
showed him much regard, and it was easy to perceive 
that, perhaps through a spirit of opposition to the Court 
of Versailles, they were favourable to him. 

On December 29 the procureur-general read out his 
conclusions ; they were extremely hostile to the Cardinal. 
The procureur demanded such humiliating admissions , 
as M. de Rohan could not have made, and which must 



THE NECKLACE AFFAIR. 197 

jiave left him in prison for the remainder of his Hfe. These 
conclusions met with strong disapprobation on the part 
of the bench. Sentence was pronounced on the 31st. 
The court condemned La Motte, ifi contimiaciam, to 
hard labour for life ; Jeanne de Saint-Remy Valois, wife 
of La Motte, to amende honorable, and afterwards to be 
whipped, and marked on both shoulders with the letter V, 
and also to imprisonment for life ; Retaux de Villette to 
banishment for Hfe. Mademoiselle Oliva was acquitted ; 
so was M. de Cagliostro. As to the Cardinal, he was 
cleared of all charges. This judgment was received with 
a kind of enthusiasm. Public opinion considered it, in 
5ome sort, as a victory. The judges were cheered, writes 
De Besenval, and so warmly received by the people that 
they made their way through the crowd with difficulty. 

Madame de la Motte had been left in ignorance of 
the penalties pronounced against her. As the holidays 
of the Parliament began on the day of judgment, the exe- 
cution of the sentence was deferred. It was only six months 
later that it was communicated to the accused. On 
June 21 M. de Fleury, the procureur, sent for the exe- 
cutioner and informed him that Madame de la Motte had 
shown great violence of temper during her incarceration, 
and that it was to be feared that she would resist. He 
requested him to arrange the execution of the sentence 
so as to avoid scandal. A magistrate, who was present, 
suggested that Madame de la Motte should be gagged, 
like M. de Lally ; but Charles Henri Sanson objected, re- 
minding him that the compassion which had been evinced 
for the old general would be more widely felt and ex- 



198 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

pressed if a woman were subjected to the same violence. 
It was eventually decided that the execution should take 
place in the court of the Conciergerie. Charles Hem 
Sanson asked the procureur to entrust to him the man- 
agement of this unpleasant affair, in which judgment was 
far more necessary than strength. 

He began by obtaining information concerning 
Madame de la Motte's habits, and he heard from th( 
gaoler that she was on very friendly terms with his wife, 
who attended her in the prison. Following the instruc- 
tions of the executioner, this woman entered the prisoner's 
room, and told her that she was wanted outside. 
Madame de la Motte was in bed ; she turned her face 
towards the wall, and said that she was sleepy and coulc 
not rise so early. The gaoler's wife then told her that 
it was her counsel who wished to speak with her. Thii 
effectually roused Madame de la Motte, who jumped oul 
of bed, and lost no time in dressing. As she waj 
leaving the room, one of my grandfather's assistants 
who was behind the door, seized her arm and thrust 
under his ; another assistant did the same on the othei 
side ; but Madame de la Motte, displaying such strengt 
as could hardly have been expected from a woman, shool 
away their grasp and retreated towards the door. Charles 
Henri, however, had come forward and was standing 
against it. Madame de la Motte stopped, and lookec 
at him with glistening eyes. ^She was,' writes m; 
grandfather, * rather small in stature, but extremeh 
well made. Her countenance was sufficiently pleasan 
to conceal for a time the irregularity of her features 



THE NECKLACE AFFAIR. 199 

her expressive physiognomy was full of charm, and it 
was only after minute examination that one discovered 
that her nose was very sharp, that her expressive mouth 
was large, and that her eyes were somewhat small. 
What was remarkable in her was the thickness and length 
of her hair, and also the whiteness of her skin, and the 
smallness of her hands and feet. She wore a silk deshabille^ 
striped brown and white, and covered with small nose- 
gays of roses. Her head-dress was an embroidered cap.' 
While she was eyeing Charles Henri as if about to leap 
at him, the other assistants and four police officers sur- 
rounded her. She perceived that resistance was useless, 
and, speaking to my grandfather, who had taken off his 
hat : ' What do you want with me } ' she said. 

' We wish you to listen to your judgment, madame,' 
answered the executioner. 

Madame de la Motte shuddered ; she clenched her 
hands, looked down, and then raising her head : ' Very 
well,' she said. The two assistants, who had at first tried 
to secure her, came forward ; but she motioned them 
away, and advanced before them. 

When the procession reached the hall where a 
parliamentary committee was sitting, the clerk read out 
the judgment. At the very first words which proclaimed 
her guilt, the strongest emotion appeared on Madame de 
la Motte's face. Her eyes rolled in their sockets ; she 
bit her lips, and the hitherto pretty face now seemed to 
be the mask of a fury. Charles Henri foresaw a storm 
and approached her : and it was well that he did so, for 
as the clerk came to the penalties, the unhappy woman's 



200 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

rage burst out with extraordinary violence. She fell 
backwards so suddenly that her head must have been frac- 
tured on the stones had not my grandfather caught her 
in his arms. It was impossible to finish the reading of the 
sentence. Madame de la Motte's strength increased as 
the consciousness of her fate flashed through her mind ; 
and a protracted struggle ensued between her and the 
assistants who attempted to pinion her. She was at 
length carried down to the court. The scaflbld was erected 
opposite the gate, which had been left open. But it was 
six o'clock in the morning, and only a limited number of 
persons were looking on. She was stretched on the plat- 
form, and received twelve stripes. She never ceased 
shrieking while the punishment was being inflicted. 
She invoked vengeance on the head of Cardinal de 
Rohan ; and she added that it was her own fault that 
she had suffered the disgrace which had been inflicted 
on her, since, had she said but one word, she would have 
been hanged instead of having been flogged. 

The second part of the sentence had no doubt es- 
caped her, for when she was seated on the platform she 
remained motionless, as if completely subdued and 
powerless. Charles Henri Sanson thought the moment 
was w^ell chosen for the completion of the penalty. Her 
dress had been torn, and her shoulder was bare ; he 
took an iron from the grate and applied it to her skin. 
Madame de la Motte uttered a wild shriek, and, writhing 
in the grasp of one of the assistants who were holding 
her, she bit his hand with such fury that she took a 
piece of flesh ofl". She struggled again, and it was with 



THE NECKLACE AFFAIR. 201 

the greatest difficulty that the iron could be applied to 
the other shoulder. 

Justice was now satisfied. Madame de la Motte was 
put in a fly and taken to the Salpdtriere. As she was 
alighting she tried to rush under the wheels, and a few- 
moments afterwards she thrust the sheet of her bed into 
her throat in a frenzied attempt to choke herself. Her im- 
prisonment lasted ten months. She escaped, some said, 
through the connivance of the Government, in fear of the 
revelations which M. de la Motte threatened to make un- 
less his wife were released. Others asserted that Madame 
de la Motte's husband bribed a sister of charity, who 
assisted her in making her escape. A sentry who was 
under her window gave her a man's dress, by means of 
which she left the Salpetriere and reached England. 
She joined her husband in London, where she died in 
179T. 



202 MEMOIRS 01^ THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE AUTO-DA-FK OF VERSAILLES. 

It was in 1788 that the last instance of a sentence of 
breaking on thewheel occurred. The following were the 
circumstances : 

In the Rue de Satory at Versailles lived an elderly 
smith of the name of Mathurin Louschart. This man 
was the type of artisans of former days : he was full of 
prejudices and antipathies, and a lover of tradition. 
Fully persuaded of the superiority of his profession over 
any other, he would not have exchanged his leather 
apron for a magistrate's robes or an abbe's cassock. He 
abhorred new ideas ; the Montmorencies, the Rohans of 
the time had not the supreme contempt which he pro- 
fessed for equality, saying that even if a donkey's ears 
were ever so much shortened, it was impossible to make 
a horse of it. However, excepting his eccentric ways and 
odd ideas, Mathurin Louschart, or rather Master Mat- 
hurin, as he was called in the neighbourhood, was a good 
man, who was always true to his word, was scrupulously 
honest, and often showed much kindness and charity 
to his poorer brethren. He had a son named Jean, a fine 
and handsome young man, whom he loved dearly. It 
was difficult to say of which Master Mathurin was prouder 



THE AUJO-DA-FE OF VERSAILLES, 203 

— his superior capacity as a smith, or of his child. He 
sent him to school and gave him the best education money 
could procure. But while he was glad to see his son 
brought up as a gentleman, he was so enamoured with 
his own calling that he prevailed on Jean to adopt it. 

The young man yielded to his father's wishes with 
some regret ; but, although he attended to his pro- 
fessional duties with tolerable industry, he nevertheless 
went on reading ; and he took more interest in Jean- 
Jacques Rousseau than in shoeing horses. The father 
did not oppose this, although the difference of education 
and ideas which existed between them became a cause 
of serious quarrel between father and son. Revolution 
was brewing, and Jean Louschart supported the new 
ideas which filled the masses with extreme enthusiasm. 
Jean had the greatest respect for Voltaire, Rousseau, 
Montesquieu, and Diderot, while Master Mathurin re- 
garded them as creatures of hell. One day at dinner 
the young man, carried away by his enthusiasm, extolled 
the merits of these philosophers. Master Mathurin, who 
hitherto had never suspected that his son was a free- 
thinker, was at first astounded at his audacity ; but his 
stupefaction was soon succeeded by anger. A dispute fol- 
lowed, and Jean was peremptorily ordered to hold his 
tongue. The young man who, although respectful, was 
passionate and headstrong, disobeyed the injunction, and 
retorted that his father had a novel way of settling a dis- 
cussion. This of course did not mend matters ; and at 
length Master Mathurin showed his son the door. It was 
in vain that Jean expressed his regret and readiness 



204 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

to apologise ; the old smith would listen to no excuse, 
and turned him out. 

Shortly before this a widow slightly related to Master 
Mathurin had come to live in his house together with her 
daughter. Madame Verdier — such was the new-comer's 
name — had taken a dislike to Jean ; and, although the 
young man felt no great affection for her, he was smitten 
by the charms of Helen Verdier, her daughter, and his 
affection was returned. No doubt father and son might 
have made it up, and Jean was anxious for a reconcilia- 
tion — for more reasons than one ; but Madame Verdier 
interfered and incited Master Mathurin to discard Jean 
for ever. She even went further ; her influence with 
him was so great that she persuaded him to become 
Jean's rival by suing for Helen's hand. The poor girl was 
ordered by her mother to forget Jean and prepare to 
marry Master Mathurin. 

Jean had easily found work in Versailles ; he was 
employed by a man who afterwards became a notorious 
member of the Convention, Lecointre. He took his 
master's advice ; and, as it was evident that Mathurin 
wished to marry out of spite against his son, the latter de- 
termined to elope with his sweetheart. Jean punctually 
repaired to his father's house on the night appointed for 
his flight with Helen ; he waited outside for some time, 
but Helen did not appear. He was getting uneasy 
when from the house issued shrieks which he imme- 
diately recognised as Helen's. He broke the door open 
without a moment of hesitation, and beheld Madame 
Verdier, who, having, no doubt, discovered the projected 



THE AUTO-DA-F^ OF VERSAILLES. 205 

elopement, was unmercifully beating her daughter, while 
Master Mathurin Avas grimly looking on. 

The sight was too much for Jean ; he rushed forward 
to protect his sweetheart ; but his father stopped him,, 
and, with the utmost violence, upbraided him for what 
he styled his infamous conduct. Madame Verdier now 
came forward also, and goaded the old smith to such a 
climax of fury that he spat in his son's face. Jean had 
suffered in silence ; but this last insult was too much 
for his temper, and he retorted with words of extreme 
bitterness. At this Mathurin's rage knew no bounds ; 
he seized a crowbar and aimed a terrific blow at Jean. 
The passage in which this scene was taking place was so 
narrow that the bar struck against the wall as if came 
down, and Jean was able to leap aside. Helen, who 
was gazing with terror at the awful contest, cried to Jean 
to fly. The young man followed her advice, and made for 
the door while his father was raising his crowbar for the 
second time ; but the woman Verdier had anticipated 
him and was resolutely standing against it. Mathurin 
struck a second blow, and again missed his aim . As he 
was raising the crowbar for the third time, Jean rushed 
past him, and tried to enter the workshop, whence he in- 
tended to jump through the window into the street ; but 
the door of the workshop was also locked, and his father 
was giving chase ; as he tried to break it open, a heavy 
mass of iron whizzed just above his head, and struck one 
of the panels, which it shattered to pieces. Old Lous- 
chart had laid down his crowbar, and had hurled his 
heavy hammer. He now came up and grappled with 



!2o6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Jean, who now felt that he could only save his life by 
mastering him. He seized his father's arm, as it was 
poising the hammer over his head for the fourth time, 
and tried to wrench the weapon from his grasp. The 
old man, however, was yet possessed of great physical 
strength ; but his son was young and muscular, and he 
succeeded in overthrowing him. He disarmed him, tore 
himself away from his grasp, rose to his feet, and took to 
flight. As he was crossing the threshold, hardly know- 
ing what he was about, he threw behind him the heavy 
hammer, and rushed out. So rapid was his flight that 
he did not hear a cry in the workshop after he had flung 
back the hammer. Master Mathurin had just risen from 
the ground ; the heavy mass of iron struck him above 
the right eyebrow and fractured his skull. 

Madame Verdier came to the old smith's assistance ; 
but he was quite dead. The neighbours, roused by 
Helen's cries, entered the house. They were told by 
Madame Verdier that Jean had murdered his father. 
Mathurin was liked, in spite of his defects ; and great 
indignation prevailed. The news soon spread through- 
out Versailles, and was a subject of general conversa- 
tion from the palace to the workshop. The crime of 
parricide occurred so rarely that the death of Mathurin 
excited deep emotion ; and the King himself ordered 
M. de Lamoignon to proceed against the culprit without 
a moment's delay. 

Madame Verdier's evidence wa*s taken ; she swore 
that she had seen Jean aim the deadly blow. As to 
Helen, the tragic events of the night had so bewildered 



THE AUT0-DA-F£: of VERSAILLES. 207 

her, that no importance was attached to her evidence. 
Jean was arrested at Sevres, and led back to Versailles, 
amidst vociferous groans and hisses from the crowd. 
When he was taken, he expressed the most unfeigned 
surprise ; those who took him to prison informed him of 
the death of his father, and of the presumptions which 
led the public and the judicial authorities to believe that 
he was the murderer. The news filled him with such 
grief that he at first seemed to forget that he was charged 
with an awful deed. When he fully understood that he 
was taken for the assassin of the man whose death he so 
deeply lamented, he vehemently protested. He was 
taken to his father's house, and when he saw the old 
man's corpse, he rushed forward and passionately kissed 
the pale face. Madame Verdier's evidence was, how- 
ever, so precise that the magistrate who accompanied 
him took his grief for a display of sheer hypocrisy. He 
questioned Jean, and as the latter was asserting that he 
had merely protected himself, and had not raised a finger 
against the old smith, the magistrate pointed to the 
wound and then to the hammer. Jean seemed suddenly 
to remember that he had thrown the hammer back into 
the house as he was running away. He understood 
what had taken ^place, but saw that it would be im- 
possible for him to convince his judges of his innocence. 
He stated the truth to the magistrates, adding that he 
would not defend himself, and that as he had, although 
unwittingly, caused the death of the man from whom he 
had received life, he would suffer without a murmur. 
The trial took place at the Chatelet. But, mean- 



2o8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

while, public feeling had greatly altered as the facts of 
the case transpired. Jean had many friends too, and 
they strived to show not only that he was not guilty, but 
that he had been the patient victim of the whims and 
acrimonious temper of old Mathurin. They succeeded 
so well that public sympathy, in Versailles, was 
thoroughly aroused in the prisoner's interest, and Jean's 
trial assumed the importance of a political affair. As he 
had announced, Jean did not defend himself ; he would 
not even discuss or contradict Madame Verdier's evi- 
dence ; and the court sentenced him to die on the wheel. 
The prisoner, however, was not condemned to amende 
honorable, which included the amputation of the hand ; 
and the judges added a retenticm to their sentence by 
which Jean Louschart was to be secretly strangled 
before his limbs were crushed. 

Now public opinion, in Versailles, had already settled 
that Jean was innocent, and the news of his forthcom- 
ing execution caused general excitement. The exe- 
cution was appointed to take place on August 3. On 
the morning of the 2nd, Charles Henri Sanson sent from 
Paris two carts containing the instruments of torture, 
and beams and boards for the erection of the scaffold. 
He himself went to Versailles in the afternoon. The 
emotion caused by Jean Louschart's impending fate was 
limited to Versailles; and my grandfather was so 
thoroughly convinced that he had to deal with a vulgar 
criminal that he was greatly surprised when he found 
the whole town in a fever. The Place Saint-Louis was 
covered with so great a multitude that the assistants and 



THE AUTO-DA-FE OF VERSAILLES. 209 

carpenters could hardly go on with their work. No 
hostility was manifested, however ; the crowd was noisy, 
but its mood was gay ; the name of Jean was scarcely 
pronounced ; and the workmen who were erecting the 
platform were merely jeered. One of the carpenters 
having, however, struck an urchin who was throwing 
stones at him, cries of * Death ! ' were uttered ; in an 
instant all the mocking faces became dark and threaten- 
ing ; the assistants and carpenters were attacked, and 
their lives were in great danger. But a body of a hun- 
dred men, who could easily be identified as smiths by 
their athletic proportions and brawny faces, interfered, 
and partly by strength, partly by persuasion, they in- 
duced the crowd to retreat. 

My grandfather had not bestowed much attention on 
this popular demonstration, but he became more attentive 
when the interference of the smiths took place. He felt 
convinced that the crowd was obeying a by-word, and 
that if it had retreated it' was merely because it pre- 
ferred to wait for a more favourable time for action. 
He directed his assistants to finish the erection of the 
scaffold as quickly as possible, and returned to Paris, 
where he lost no time in acquainting the proper autho- 
rities with his apprehensions. 

Political emotion had already given rise to many 

)rms in the provinces. Normandy, Bretagne, Beam had 
ii:5en on behalf of their parliaments, attacked in their 
(privileges. Dauphine had taken a decisive step ; after a 
long series of riots, the representatives of the three 
orders, nobility, clergy, and tiers-^tat, had assembled, 

VOL. I. P 



2IO MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

and proclaimed their provincial independence. Paris, 
however, had heard with indifference of the arrest of 
two members of the Parliament d'Espremenil and 
Monsabert ; and the authorities had no idea that a 
struggle between the Government and the people could 
take place in the very town inhabited by the King 
and his Court, so that only a few soldiers were sent to 
Versailles. 

The multitude which had thronged the Place Saint- 
Louis retired during the night ; only a few young men 
remaining to watch what took place around the scaffold. 
It was rumoured that Helen Verdier had thrown herself 
at the Queen's feet, imploring the reprieve of the culprit, 
and that Marie Antoinette had prevailed on the King 
to grant it. The news had doubtless led to the disper- 
sion of the crowd. 

Charles Henri Sanson made the most of the circum- 
stance. He caused a strong paling to be erected around 
the scaffold ; and, on their side, the executive magis- 
trates took upon themselves to advance the hour of exe- 
cution. 

It was two o'clock in the morning when my grand- 
father left the Place Saint-Louis for the prison, and he 
remarked that the men who were still in the plac 
dispersed in different directions as he went away. Jes 
Louschart was stretched on his pallet when he enters 
his cell. The doomed man rose and calmly surveye 
him. The clerk of the parliament read aloud the sei 
tence, to which he listened with much attention, 
then murmured a few words, among which only thos 



THE AUTO-DA-FE OF VERSAILLES. 211 

of ' Poor father ! ' were heard, and he added in a loud 
voice : 

' In two hours I shall justify myself before him.' 

On being told that it was time to depart for the 
scaffold, he turned to the executioner, saying, ' You can 
be in no greater hurry than I am, sir.' 

At half-past four o'clock the cart moved in the 
direction of the Place Saint-Louis. The executive magis- 
trates were in hopes that, owing to the retentumy ever>^- 
thing could be finished before the population awoke. 
But they soon perceived their mistake. The streets were 
swarming with people. The whole of the population 
was astir. Deafening clamours burst from the crowd as 
the cart appeared, and it was with the greatest difficulty 
that it made its way. The prisoner did not even seem 
to suspect that all this movement was caused by the 
sympathy people felt for him. At the corner of the 
Rue de Satory a piercing cry was heard, and a girl was 
seen waving her handkerchief. Jean Louschart looked 
up, and rising to his feet, he tried to smile, and ex- 
claimed, * Farewell, Helen, farewell ! ' At that moment 
a smith of high stature and herculean proportions, who 
was walking near the cart, cried in a thundering voice : 

'It is ail revoir you should say, Jean. Are good 
fellows like you to be broken on the wheel ? * 

A horseman drove him back, but applause and cheers 
came from every quarter. It was obvious, by the pale 
faces of the clerk, the policemen, and the soldiers who 
surrounded the cart, that the agents of the law were any- 
thing but confident. The scaffold, however, was reached 

p 2 



212- MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 

without accident. The crowd was thickly packed on the 
Place Saint-Louis. As the cart stopped Jean Louschart 
addressed a question to the priest who was sitting near 
him, and my grandfather heard the latter answer, * To 
save you.' ' No, father,' said the doomed man in a 
feverish voice and with some impatience ; ^ if I am inno- 
cent of the intention of committing the crime, my hands 
are nevertheless stained with blood. I must die, and I 
wish to die. — Be quick, sir,' he added, turning to my 
grandfather. 

' Sir,' answered Charles Henri, pointing to the in- 
furiated masses that were already breaking through the 
paling, * if there is a man here who is in danger of death 
it is not you.' 

, Hardly were the words out of his mouth than a 
tempest of groans and screams burst forth. The paling 
was broken and trodden under foot, and hundreds of men 
rushed on the scaffold. The smith who had already 
spoken to Louschart was among the foremost. He 
seized the prisoner in his muscular arms, cut his bonds, 
and prepared to carry him off in triumph. An extra- 
ordinary scene now took place ; Jean Louschart 
struggled violently against his saviours, turned towards 
the executioner and begged for death with the earnest- 
ness usually displayed by other culprits in asking for 
mercy. But his friends surrounded him, and at lengtl 
succeeded in carrying him away. 

My grandfather's position was perilous in the ex^ 
treme. Separated from his assistants, alone amidst 
crowd that knew him but too well, he really thought that 



THE AUTO-DA-FE OF VERSAILLES, 213 

his last hour was at hand. His countenance probably 
betrayed his thoughts, for the tall smith came up to 
him, and seized his arm : ' Fear nothing. Chariot,^ ' he 
cried; ' we don^ tjwant to harm you, but' your tools. 
Henceforth, Chariot, you must kill your customers with- 
out making them suffer.' And speaking to the crowd : 
* Let him pass, and take care he is not hurt.' 

This harangue calmed the crowd, and my grand- 
father was allowed to withdraw. In less time than it 
takes to write this account the scaffold and all its acces- 
sories were broken into pieces, which were thrown on the 
pile prepared for the burning of the prisoner's body ; 
and the terrible wheel was placed on the summit as a 
kind of crown. Fire was set to the heap, and men and 
women, holding each other by the hand, formed an 
immense ring and danced around the crackling pile until 
it was reduced to ashes. 

' This name, popularly given to Charles Henri Sanson, has been re- 
tained and is still familiarly given to the executioner. 



214 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XX. 

MARIE ANNE JUGIER, MY GRANDMOTHER.. 

In the preceding chapter I have shown the last appear- 
ance of the wheel as an instrument of death. The 
origin of this punishment is not certain ; but it is 
generally believed that the fable of Ixion suggested it; 
and there can be no doubt that if, later, it was so con- 
spicuous among the penalties of Christian societies, it 
was because it was a substitute for crucifixion, which 
could not have been retained without fear of committing 
sacrilege. 

I have already given instances of the singular liking 
shown by parliaments for this punishment. It is easy 
to imagine how often it was resorted to when it is re- 
membered that the old criminal legislation of France 
inflicted it in one hundred and fifteen kinds of crimes. 
Francis I. and his minister Cardinal Duprat were re- 
sponsible for this excess of barbarity. An edict issued 
under the reign of Francis made of the wheel the special 
punishment of highwaymen and burglars^ the gibbet 
being reserved for murderers. Human life, at the time, 
was, it appeared, less sacred than property, since attempts 
on the former were less severely punished than raids 



MARIE ANNE JUGIER. 215 

on the latter. This anomaly could not long continue ; 
under subsequent reigns, thieves, assassins, parricides 
were broken on the wheel with additional or mitigated 
inflictions, according to the nature of the crime. The 
gibbet became a secondary punishment, and almost fell 
into disuse in comparison with its flourishing period 
under the superintendence of our famous predecessor 
Tristan I'Hermite. 

From 1770 to 1780 I find in my grandfather's notes 
that culprits broken on the wheel were far more numerous 
than those who perished by the noose. In 1769, on 
January 18, Etienne Charles and Francois Legros, sen- 
tenced for murder; on the 21st, Andre-Etienne Petit, 
for common theft ; on April 2jy Francois Boussin, for 
theft and murder ; on August 22, Jean Brouage, for 
stealing linen ; on September 22, Jean Lemoine, for 
murder ; in 1771, on August 19, Francois Alain, for 
murder ; in 1772, on January 16, Louis Frangois Daux, 
for murder ; on the 29th, Frangois Abraham Lecerf, for 
theft ; on August 4, Joseph Savel, for theft ; on Decem- 
ber 7, Marie Picard, her son Pierre, aged seventeen, and 
a man named Nicolas Rose, for robbing and murdering 
one Michel More; in 1775, on January 14, Edme 
Brochart, for theft and murder; on May 16, Charlotte 
Beuton, for murder ; on September 27, Paul Darel, for 
theft; in 1777, on July 11, J. B. Campagnard, for 
murder ; in 1778, on July 21, Jacques Neuiller, for theft; 
on September 2, Mathurin Barsagoult, for the same 
crime. 

I have only quoted a few examples ; otherwise I 



2i6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

could fill half a volume with the names of culprits who , 
were broken. The wheel always excited the disgust of] 
the public at large, and all the petitions of the deputies 
to the States-General in 1789 asked for its abolition. 

Before entering into the period of the Revolution, 
I may be allowed to say a few words respecting my 
grandmother, and her management of our house. The 
death of Marthe Dubut and the departure of Jean- 
Baptiste Sanson had brought into it an atmosphere of 
loneliness. Charles Henri Sanson soon felt this and 
' thought of marrying. He had retained certain elegant 
habits and was passionately fond of shooting ; and his 
frequent absence from home, and his consequent in- 
ability to see to the management of his household affairs, 
made him especially eager to find a wife as soon as 
possible. 

The environs of Montmartre were then cultivated 
by market gardeners. Charles Sanson often traversed 
these parts in his excursions. He became acquainted 
with one of the gardeners, who had a numerous family. 
His eldest daughter, Marie Anne Jugier, was, in every 
respect, an excellent person. My grandfather had often 
admired her, and he sued for her hand, although she was 
thirty-two years of age — six years older than himself. 
His suit was accepted, and on January 20, 1765, the 
wedding took place in the church of Saint-Pierre Mont- 
martre. 

Although my grandmother was, as I have just ob- 
served, older than my grandfather by six years, she 
survived him more than twelve years. I knew her 



MARIE ANNE JUGIER. 217 

we][l,_and it is to her that I was indebted for many 
details which enabled me to complete her husband's 
"notes on a memorable period of French history. 

"Charles Henri Sanson had every reason to be satis- 
fied with the choice he had made. His excellent wife 
managed his household with great skill and judgment, 
and won every heart by her "gentle disposition and kindly 
manner. Hardly a year had elapsed since her marriage 
when Jean-Baptiste Sanson returned, on the occasion of 
the execution of Lally Tollendal. Some time after- 
wards the old man lost his wife, Madeleine Tronson ; he 
left his farm of Brie-Comte-Robert and came back to 
the old house in Paris. He Hngered for several years, 
and during the course of his gradual decline Marie 
Anne Jugier constantly attended him. Her devotion 
to the patient was unceasing. Jean-Baptiste expired in 
August 1778, and it was his daughter-in-law who closed his 
eyes. My grandfather was superintending an execution 
on the Place du Chdtelet at the moment of the old man's 
death. He only heard of the sad news on his return. 

The Abbe Gomart opened Jean-Baptiste's will. The 
deceased expressed a wish to be buried with his father 
in the Saint-Laurent church. An old sexton showed 
me when I was a boy the stones which cover the graves 

I of my two ancestors. Jean-Baptiste's property was 

j equally divided between his sons, who, as it has been 
said before, were very numerous. Charles Henri 

\ Sanson was therefore compelled to sell the mansion of 
the Faubourg Poissonniere, and the money was shared 

I between the heirs. My grandfather bought a house in 



2i8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the Rue Neuve Saint-Jean (now the Rue du Chateau 
d'Eau), and settled there with his family. His fortune 
was, of course, considerably smaller than his father's, 
but he nevertheless lived comfortably enough on his 
income and private means from 1778 to 1789. 

THE SAFE-CONDUCT. 

Before they met on the scaffold, my grandfather 
was twice in presence of Louis XVI. These two 
meetings occurred at the beginning of the year 1789. 
The impoverished state of the funds had for a consider- 
able time prevented the payment of the sums due to 
Charles Henri Sanson ; and as he had hitherto lived in 
somewhat expensive style, he found himself in serious 
pecuniary difficulties. In a petition which he sent to the 
King, he explained his embarrassed position, and he was 
summoned to Versailles a few days afterwards. Louis 
received him in his private apartments. The interview 
was short, but my grandfather remembered every detail 
of it. The King was standing near a window which 
opened on the park. Charles Henri, intimidated by the 
prestige of royalty, dared advance no further than the 
threshold, so that the few words they spoke were 
exchanged at some distance. Louis wore a lilac coat 
embroidered with gold, short breeches and pumps ; the 
blue and red ribbons of the order of Saint-Louis hung 
across his white satin waistcoat. A lace collar and frill 
was partly covered by a loose cravat, which showed the 
prominent muscles of the neck. The King was of strong 



MARIE ANNE JUGIER. 219 

but common build. His hair was powdered and curled, 
and was tied with a ribbon at the back of the neck. 

' You have sent in a claim for the sums that are due 
to you,' said he, without turning round or looking at my 
grandfather. * I have ordered that your accounts be 
examined and settled without delay ; but the State is 
poor for the present, and your claim is for 1 36,000 livres, 
I believe t * 

' I thank your Majesty with as much gratitude as 
respect,' answered Charles Henri Sanson ; * but I 
beseech your Majesty to remember that my debts have 
so considerably increased that my creditors will not wait 
any longer, and that they threaten my liberty.' 

At these words the King turned round and cast a 
rapid glance at my grandfather. * Wait a moment,' said 
he; * I must see to this directly.' 

He rang a bell which was within his reach. An 
officer appeared. 

* Monsieur de Villedeuil,' said the King, * fetch me a 
safe-conduct, and direct it to the names I will tell 
you.' 

The paper was procured, and the King, who had an 
excellent memory, dictated the names of my grandfather 
which he had seen on the petition. This curious safe- 
conduct, which I still possess, is couched in the following 
terms: 

* By order of the Kmg. 

* His Majesty, being desirous of giving M. Charles 
Henri Sanson the means of attending to his occupations. 



220 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

has given him a safe-conduct for a space of three months, 
during which his Majesty orders his creditors to take no 
proceedings against him ; to all solicitors, police officers, or 
others not to arrest or molest him in any way ; to all 
gaolers of prisons not to receive him ; and if, in spite of 
the said prohibition, he be imprisoned, his Majesty orders 
that he be immediately set free. His Majesty also orders 
that the present safe-conduct be only available after it has 
been registered at the office of the Gardes du Commerce. 
' Delivered at Versailles on the nineteenth of April, 
seventeen hundred and eighty-nine. 

* Louis. 
^ Laurent de VilledeidV 

The King signed the document and handed it to my 
grandfather, who took it and respectfully bent his knee. 
His liberty was protected by the man whose life he was 
soon to take. 

As he retired, the Queen and Madame Elisabeth 
were announced, and swept past him. He was thus in 
presence on the same day of the three royal persons 
who subsequently fell under his knife. 



221 



CHAPTER XXL 

ACTION AGAINST THE PRESS. 

Towards the end of the same year (1789) the 
question of penal reform was raised in the great 
National Assembly. In the month of October Doctor 
Guillotin, deputy of the ticrs-etat of Paris, presented a 
law by which capital punishment was to be inflicted in a 
uniform manner, without distinction of classes ; and this 
new mode of punishment was decapitation, considered 
as the safest and most humane. This motion, which 
at first was adjourned, was presented again by Doctor 
Guillotin, and discussed on December i. The first 
part of the proposed law was adopted with enthu- 
siasm ; but it went otherwise with decapitation, of which 
the definite sanction Avas put off for two years, because 
of the experiments made in view of finding the best 
means of inflicting it. I shall refer hereafter to this 
search, and relate how it ended by the selection of the 
instrument of execution now in use. 

At length the Assembly completed the grand work 
which it had commenced, by the declaration of the rights 
of man ; and this was for my grandfather an opportunity 
for a manifestation which I cannot pass without notice. 



222 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

The reader doubtless remembers his defence in the extra- 
ordinary action brought against him by the Marchioness 
de X after their supper at a country inn. This de- 
fence showed that my grandfather possessed an apprecia- 
tion of his office which habit and domestic education alone 
could explain. Cruel tests eventually modified these 
ideas ; but, it must be admitted, Charles Henri Sanson 
was convinced of the legitimacy of his functions and of 
the injustice of the prejudice which cast discredit upon 
them. He therefore sought with characteristic energy and 
obstinacy all that could contribute to his rehabilitation. 

The great movement of 1789, which removed so 
many injustices, appeared to him an auspicious time for 
the vindication of his rights ; and just as, in 1776, he 
had taken advantage of the action brought against him 
by the Marchioness to claim the privilege of hereditary 
nobility, as first officer of a sovereign court, in the same 
way, when the National Assembly appointed the privi- 
leges of the citizens who were to enjoy political rights, 
he lost no time in asking for himself and his colleagues 
the title of active citizen. 

In its sitting of December 24, 1789, the National 
Assembly passed a decree which, as far as civic capacity 
was concerned, principally aimed at the religious 
question, for it particularly stipulated, in favour of non- 
Catholics, for their right of election and also admission 
to all civil or military offices. The last article alone was 
broad ; it set forth that no opposition could be allowed 
against the eligibility of any citizen unless the motive 
of exclusion were mentioned in constitutional decrees. 



ACTION AGAINST THE PRESS. 223 

This was a de facto recognition of my grandfather's pre- 
tensions, for no constitutional decree deprived him of civil 
rights. We shall see in another chapter that my father 
was not satisfied and sought a more definite recognition 
of his claims. 

But I have yet to relate a curious affair which took 
place a few days after the sitting of the Assembly I have 
just mentioned. My grandfather had let part of his 
house. Among his tenants was a man of the name of 
Roze, a printer, who published various writings on 
the questions of the time. Public excitement was run- 
ning high. Roze belonged to the moderate party, 
who went no further than a constitutional monarchy, 
gradual reforms, and a progressive movement accom- 
plished without violence. This was enough to expose 
him to the attacks of the demagogues. Rozd, who was 
very caustic, answered these onslaughts ; and a polemic 
ensued which attracted general attention to the reac- 
tionary printer. A general cry of anger was raised 
against him in the press ; but, curiously enough, the 
papers affected to speak of my grandfather as the owner 
of the printing establishment, and said little of Roze. 
They doubtless wished, by such unfair aspersions, to 
discredit the claims he had shortly before advanced 
before the National Assembly. I cannot do better to 
explain the plot, for it was nothing less, than give a few 
extracts from the papers of the day. 

* Revolutions of Paris,' by Prudhomme. No. 22, p. 27 : 

* It has just been discovered that the aristocrats have 
private presses. And where do you think they have es- 



224 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

tablished them ? At Sanson's — in the executioner's house. 
The district delegates of the Capucins of the Chaussee 
d'AntIn have visited the premises and found the presses 
working for the aristocracy. You may judge, citizens, 
by the connection which exists between the aristocrats 
and honest M. Sanson of the advantage they would derive 
from his talents if they were the strongest.' 

The presses had not been discovered in my grand- 
father's house, but in an adjoining building, belonging 
to the premises. 

' Courrier de Paris,' by M. Gorsas, citizen of Paris : 

*A great deal was said concerning the execu- 
tioner of Paris in the last sittings of the National 
Assembly. While his eligibility was being discussed, 
he was seeking the means of becoming eligible. He had 
in his house the presses used to print all the abominable 
libels circulated in the provinces, to incite to rebellion 
and murder. It was in the ugly and dark Rue Saint- 
Jean, in the disgusting house of the executioner, that 
meetings of aristocrats took place ; it was from this 
impure source that came all the incendiary writings 
circulated under the seal of the National Assembly. 
Who were the authors of these writings ? We know 
not ; but we repeat, they were circulated under the seal 
of the National Assembly. 

* The presses have been taken away, and the honoured 
executioner has been arrested ; he is now in the Prison 
de la Force. It is said, however, that he will get 
out of the scrape ; he has powerful friends, v.ho will 
prove that his arrest was a crime, with as much 



ACTION AGAINST THE PRESS. 225 

eloquence as they proved to the Assembly that he is 
eligible.' 

The ' Spy of Paris and of the Provinces,' or ' Most 
Secret News of the Day,' printed by Guillaume, junior : 

* The executioner was interrogated yesterday. His 
answers are anything but satisfactory with regard to the 
serious conspiracy which was being arranged in his house. 
It was there that were held nocturnal meetings presided 
over by aristocrats, who were not ashamed to associate 
with the man who, sooner or later, must be com- 
pelled by his profession to wreak vengeance on their heads 
for the misfortunes they are preparing for the nation. It 
was in Sanson's house that were printed all the libels 
intended to incite the people to rebellion. This aristo- 
cratic agent maintains that his premises being too large, 
he had let a part of them ; the aristocratic landlord 
did not know his tenants. The second answer is not so 
good as the first. Let us not lose courage ; we shall 
hear of something more in a few days.' 

'Assemblee Nationale,' sixty-first sitting, by M. de 
Beaulieu : 

' It was in the executioner's house that were the 
presses that printed the atrocious libels circulated against 
the Assemblee. Secret meetings were also held, it is said, 
in this singular place of rendezvous. 

' The executioner has been arrested and taken to the 
Chatelet ; and this is his interrogatory, such as it has 
been forwarded to us : 

' Question : " But why did you thus act, especially in 
the present circumstances i* — Because I wished to give the 
VOL. I. Q 






226 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

money earned with the presses to the poor. — Q. : Your 
generosities could not possibly have been greatly in- 
creased through any money derivable from the sale of 
the prints ? — I never thought of making profit out of 
it. — Q. : But you were aware that was being done in 
your house against the public weal i* — Not knowing what 
my tenants were about, I think I have compromised 
myself in no way. — Q. : Why did several persons run 
away when you were arrested } — I suppose they were the 
masters of those who were working. — Q. : Did you know 
them } — No. — Q. : You could not let your premises with- 
out knowing the names of your tenants." ' 

The ' Courrier de Paris,' or the ' Publiciste Francais,' 
a political paper, free and impartial, with this motto, 
* Nee Icedere nee adidaril published by Descentis and a 
number of literary men, at the establishment of Madame 
Herissaut : 

No. 77 : ' We hitherto distrusted the report that 
the conspirators assembled in the executioner's house, 
but we this moment hear that M. Sanson has been 
arrested and taken to the Chatelet, together with thirty 
persons concerned in the conspiracy.' 

No. 8 1 : ' W> are assured that in several provincial 
towns a number of aristocrats, following the example 
of their accomplices of Paris, have chosen the execu- 
tioner's abode as the place in which to meet together. . . . 
It is even said that some of the executioners who thus 
lent their houses have been arrested, together with some 
of the men who conspired with them, and are being 
brought to Paris.' 




ACTION AGAINST THE PRESS. 227 

' Revolutions of France and Brabant,' by Camille 
Desmoullns, pp. 306 and 307 : 

'The great wits of the "green faction" have just 
pubh'shed the prospectus of a lyric journal, in which 
they propose to turn into vaudevilles the decrees of the 
Assembly, &c. It is asserted that the journal in question 
is to be the amusing record of the songs sung some 
time ago by the aristocrats around the executioner's 
table. Either out of spite against the " Lanterne " and 
M. Guillotin, or because so many visits flattered him, 
M. Sanson fed his company very well.' 

This last diatribe was the most dangerous of all, 
because it was based on a semblance of truth. It 
was, in fact, true that my grandfather, according to the 
traditional custom of our family, entertained many 
people at supper ; but such gatherings had nothing to 
do with politics, and the aristocrats would not have 
honoured us with their presence. If Roze had occa- 
sionally been invited, it was because he was our tenant. 
As to the so-called vaudevilles composed by the latter, 
Roze did not write them against the Assembly, but in 
mockery of the violent measures which extreme parties 
were already proposing. Moreover Roze was not the 
i only man who used light poetry to turn public affairs 
and public men into ridicule. Doctor Guillotin's motion 
on the unity of capital punishments was laughed at in 
more than one song composed in his honour. 

My grandfather could not, of course, allow such 
direct attacks to pass unchallenged. He therefore 

Q2 



22$ MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

resolved to refer all the libellous articles written against 
him to the police tribunal of the Hotel- de-Ville. 

More fortunate than in 1776, he found an advocate 
who undertook to support his case. This advocate was 
a worthy man named Maton de la Varenne. He 
espoused the executioner's interests with much kindness, 
and henceforth he was a friend of the family. The case 
was called on January 16, 1790, but it was put off until 
the 27th of the same month. 

All the delinquents appeared, with the exception of 
Gorsas. My grandfather had no difficulty in showing 
that he had never been arrested, and that the presses 
belonged to his tenant M. Roze ; and M. Maton de la 
Varenne proved that the writings of the latter contained 
nothing treasonable, since those which had been seized 
were returned to him on the following day with an 
authorisation to continue his publications. It may be 
interesting to the reader to see a few extracts of M. 
Maton's speech, which my grandfather caused to be 
printed at the time, and of which I have several copies 
in my possession. It is a curious sample of the some- 
what emphatic eloquence of the time. These quotations, 
in any case, are better than my poor prose. 

The following is the exordium of the plea : 

* Gentlemen, — If the advocate, as the interpreter of 
the laws, were not passionless as the laws themselves ; ifij 
prej udices, the monstrous offspring of misled imagination,' 
could disarm his courage ; if he only assisted men of j 
rank ; if he made any exception in the choice of his 
clients, you would not see me now before you, supporting! 



ACTION AGAINST THE PRESS. 229 

the plea of the executioner. But, gentlemen, what 
particularly honours our office is the protection which 
we accord to the weak, to the oppressed, to the widow 
and the orphan. Any consideration that could prevent 
us from doing our duty would be a crime. Un- 
precedented defamation, atrocious calumny, infamous 
libels — such are the weapons which a few audacious 
journalists have not been ashamed to use against the 
honest citizen on whose behalf I now appeal to your 
sense of justice. 

' In the course of your sitting of the i6th of the 
present month, we had the honour to read to you 
the different libels by which my client is represented as 
one of the leaders of a body of aristocrats, and of 
infamous conspiracies tending to prevent the happy 
regeneration which is now in course of accomplishment. 
You have seen how his house was designated as the 
infamous refuge wherein the enemies of the nation assem- 
bled in order to plot against the country. You have had 
copies of interrogatories which never took place, and of 
the confessions he was falsely reported to have made. 
No doubt, gentlemen, you were filled with indignation 
when you perceived how malice could lead astray a 
number of writers whose talent might be useful to 
their fellow-countrymen if they used it to point out their 
privileges and rights, to enlighten the masses, to instruct 
kings and depositaries of authority. Be good enough to 
listen again to the reading of these licentious pamphlets ; 
you will see that defamation and calumny could not 
go further, and you will feel how necessary it is to 



230 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

promptly repress utterances which endanger the individual 
safety of my client/ (Here M. Maton de la Varenne read 
the articles, and resumed.) ' I ask you, gentlemen, and I 
ask MM. Prudhomme, Gorsas, De Beaulieu, Descentis, 
and Desmoulins, whether libel can pour out its poison with 
greater fury. When one reads such atrocities, one's blood 
kindles. Has not, after this, my client the right to 
demand redress ? To question such a right, gentle- 
men, would be an impeachment of your sense of justice. 
" Calumny," says M. Dareau in his " Treatise on Insult," 
" is a poison so dangerous to society that it should never 
pass unpunished." The vilest crime is contained in 
calumny. An author celebrated for his talents and 
numerous misfortunes says that " defamation is to the 
mind what poisoning is to the body." " It is," he con- 
tinues, " a kind of attack from which it is in some degree 
impossible to protect oneself. It is a thousand times 
easier to credit an assertion which destroys the honour 
of a citizen than to introduce a deadly substance into his 
body. The penalty should therefore be measured out 
by the difficulty which is found in protecting oneself 
There are no antidotes against calumny, whereas the 
effects of poison may be met." Further, the same author 
expresses himself in these terms : " All that is not contra- 
dicted is accepted as true. The most revolting slander 
soon acquires the force of truth ; a cry is soon raised 
which pronounces the condemnation of the unfortunate 
victim." The consequence of what I have just said, 
gentlemen, is that the law cannot be too severe against 
calumniators and libellers . Of all injuries that can be 



ACTION AGAINST THE PRESS. 231 

inflicted upon a citizen, calumny is assuredly the most 
atrocious, since it springs from low and corrupt motives ; 
and slander has before this met with condign punish- 
ment. Written, printed, and circulated defamation is far 
more deserving of punishment/ 

Here the orator reviewed all the authorities in his 
favour, and recalled the Draconian edicts of 1626 and 1686, 
so rigorously carried out in the case of the unfortunate 
Larcher, and which provided that ' all those who circulated 
libels were subject to the penalty of death.' M. Maton de 
la Varenne came to the more recent laws on libel, and 
finished with the following words : 

* The writings whereof my client complains are of a 
nature to destroy his honour. They have produced, 
and produce still, deep effects in the provinces and in 
Paris. Some say that, feeling that he could not show 
his innocence, he blew his brains out in prison, and 
others that he is soon to be hanged, and that his body 
is to be cut in several pieces, and nailed to the gates 
of the town ; others, again, that he has been reprieved in 
consequence of the important information he has given 
concerning the enemies of the Revolution. He therefore 
has a clear right to an apology and to damages. 

' You have heard, gentlemen, the chief reasons I 
have to urge in the present case. It is that of the 
public ; it relates to the individuality of the citizen I 
now defend and to his family. What I demand on his 
behalf are the rights of man. You are too equitable not 
to compensate him for the injury he has received. 
However favourable your decision may be to him, it 



232 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

cannot entirely dispel the prejudice which the calumnies 
I have spoken of have raised against him. If my 
client could repeat to you the sentiments he has ex- 
pressed before me, if I were allowed to make here his 
profession of faith, to describe his patriotism, he would 
tell you, gentlemen, as he told me : *' What have I done 
to those who insult me without justice or pity in the 
writings to which I am compelled to call your attention ? 
What proof can they furnish of the atrocious imputa- 
tions which they print against me ? What interest have 
they in defaming an honest citizen, who is sufficiently 
unhappy at having to discharge functions against which 
his sentiments revolt ? My dear citizens," my client 
would add, " is it just at the time when the country is 
coming to new life, when the odious prejudice which 
weighed upon me is passing away, when the nation is 
restoring to me my rights as man and citizen, that I 
could betray you ? Far from taking part in plots, and 
participating in attempts, of which the mere idea fills 
me with horror, I call down shame and execration upon 
the perverse men who try to overthrow the superb 
edifice raised by the fathers of the country." ' 

All the defendants, with the exception of Gorsas, 
offered to retract their allegations. MM. Prudhomme, 
De Beaulieu, Descends, and Camille Desmoulins were 
condemned to insert an apology in the earliest issue 
of their papers, and they were warned to be more pru- 
dent in the future. As to Gorsas, he was sentenced to 
a fine of one hundred livres. He appealed against the 
sentence, and this was an occasion for M. Maton de la 



ACTION AGAINST THE PRESS. 233 

* 
Varenne to make another speech, which I can quote in 

extenso : 

' Gentlemen, — The equitable judgment you passed 
upon M. Gorsas led me to believe that he would rest 
satisfied, and thus make amends for an act which fully 
deserved your severity. It appears that our opinion of 
him was too favourable. M. Gorsas now appeals against 
your sentence. Does he, then, imagine that he can 
quietly libel honest men because he thinks they cannot 
defend themselves } Does he not know that all tribu- 
nals are open to all people without distinction, and that 
the authors of libels meet there with the punishment pro- 
vided for the enemies of the public welfare } You have 
seen, gentlemen, in a paper called the " Courrier de Paris 
dans les Provinces," that M. Gorsas charges my client 
with having the presses " in which are printed all the 
abominable libels circulated in the provinces to excite to 
rebellion and murder." You have seen also that M. 
Gorsas announced the arrest and imprisonment of the 
citizen I defend. After circulating throughout Europe 
calumnies of such a nature against a man who is well 
known for his patriotism, M. Gorsas has the audacity to 
complain of the just sentence passed by you. By hoping 
to escape the punishment he so richly deserves, he insults 
your principles, your wisdom, and the law represented 
by you. 

' Not only has M. Gorsas circulated false accusations 
against my client ; he has also dared, since your sentence, 
to call him a bribed vagabond, and to express astonish- 
ment at an executioner being able to find advocates to 



234 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

defend his cause. Does he, then, wish us to describe his 
private Hfe ? But, gentlemen, Sanson is too indulgent to 
follow such a course. Let Gorsas think of what he has 
done. Let him fear the moment when I may be compelled 
to make public certain acts of his. Let M. Gorsas know 
that one has no right to appear before a court of justice 
when one leads a doubtful life and professes anti- 
patriotic sentiments. As to the astonishment expressed 
by him at our having undertaken to defend M. Sanson, 
we have only to answer that all men are born equal in 
rights ; that we regard as the noblest task that of de- 
fending the oppressed, whoever they may be, against 
the oppressor ; and that we care little for what calumny 
and vengeance may be devised against us for doing 
our duty. 

' In one of your preceding sittings we deplored the 
dangerous consequences of liberty of the press. How 
is it, gentlemen, that we are already obliged to regret a 
boon which removes the limits assigned by an odious 
despotism to human knowledge } Why has the finest 
prerogative of a free people become an instrument of 
calumny in the hands of a few men } Let M. Gorsas 
devote his talents to the defence, and not to the impeach- 
ment, of honourable men ; let him enlighten opinions 
and principles, and we shall be the first to admire him. 
But, gentlemen, it is time that the scandal to which he 
has given rise in and out of town should be stopped ; 
it is time for you to punish a fearful libel. My cHent 
trusts that you will confirm your first decision. I there- 
fore persist in my conclusions.' 



ACTION AGAINST THE PRESS. 



235 



The judgment was, in fact, confirmed ; but Gorsas, 
who had obtained some mitigation of his sentence by 
promising an immediate apology, behaved in the most 
disgraceful manner. In a preceding issue he had 
already made some poor jokes on the action in which 
he had thought fit not to appear. Under the heading of 
' Anecdote,' he wrote : 

'Yesterday a very singular case came before the 
Commune ; it was a dispute between Sanson, bourreau of 
the town of Paris, and a number of literary men. We 
are told that one of the principal points of the action is 
that Sanson objects to the appellation of bourreau^ 
because it is said in several decisions of the council 
that he is to be termed executioner of criminal sentences. 
The executioner demanded, among other things, that the 
word botcrreait should be left out of the Dictionary of 
the Academy. 

* There never was a better occasion for the application 
of the words : Camifex ! quoqiie, nisi caniificis nomine, hi 
appellandus ? 

' We are also assured that the executioner's counsel 
said that a bourreau could only throw light on his case 
with the lantern of the Rue de la Vannerie.' 

It will be remarked that Gorsas did not inform his 
readers that he was one of the journalists he mentions, 
and that he deceived them as to the object of the action 
brought by my grandfather. But this was not all. Two 
days after his second condemnation, he made an ironical 
and malicious insinuation, in spite of his promises. 



236 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Speaking of the unhappy affairs of the Marquis de 
Favras, which had just been brought to light, he said : 

' The hearing of the witnesses on behalf of the ac- 
cused is still continued, and it is believed that the public 
prosecutor will be let off for his conclusions, M. le Mar- 
quis de Favras for a good fright, and " my co-citizen," 
Sanson, bonrreau of Paris, for his hopes.' 

If I have related at some length this dispute with 
the press, it is because much importance was attached to 
its result in my family, and I may add, in our corpora- 
tion. Two of the writers who libelled my grandfather, 
Gorsas and Camille Desmoulins,soon afterwards met their 
former victim on the scaffold. Whether they remem- 
bered this dispute with my grandfather, and were again 
disposed to say, Carnifex ! quo que ^ nisi carnificis noinine, 
tu appellandus ? I cannot say ; but Gorsas was mistaken 
when, in the last paragraph I have quoted, he alluded to 
the unfortunate Favras. It is his execution which I now 
have to describe. 



237 



CHAPTER XXII.- 

THE MARQUIS DE FAVRAS. 

Three great trials engrossed the public mind in 1790. 
They were those of Augeard, the farmer-general, charged 
with furnishing the Court with the funds with which the 
troops of the Champ de Mars had been bribed ; of 
the Baron de Besenval, colonel-general of the Swiss 
Guards, who commanded at the Champ de Mars ; and, 
lastly, of the Marquis de Favras, charged with having 
attempted to introduce into Paris a number of armed 
soldiers, with the object of getting rid of the chiefs 0/ 
the principal administrations, of stealing the seals of 
the State, and of taking away the King and the royal 
family to Peronne. 

MM. Augeard and De Besenval were acquitted ; 
and this circumstance, which excited much irritation, 
rendered the position of the Marquis de Favras ex- 
tremely perilous. 

Thomas Mahy, Marquis de Favras, was born at Blois 
in 1745. He had two brothers, the Baron Mahy de 
Cormer^ and M. de Chitenay. He entered the mus- 
keteers in 1760, took part in the campaign of 1761, and 
became lieutenant of the Swiss Guards of Monsieur, 



238 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

brother of the King. He married m 1774, gave up his 
commission, and went to Vienna, where he obtained the 
recognition of his wife as the only and legitimate 
daughter of the prince of Anhalt-Schaunburg. Being 
of a very adventurous spirit, he went to Holland, and 
commanded a legion during the insurrection against 
the Statholder in 1787. 

In 1789 he was a man of forty-five years of age, 
an excellent type of the accomplished gentilhomme, and 
full of enthusiasm and yearning for hazardous enter- 
prises. After witnessing the revolutionary scene that 
took place at Versailles, he devised a plan for the libera- 
tion of the King ; and he sought to carry it out with more 
zeal than prudence. If his plan was such as the spy 
Bertrand de Molleville reports in his memoirs, it was 
altogether impracticable. The main object of this plan 
was to assemble an army of 30,000 royalists, who were 
to be enrolled secretly. Such an enterprise demanded a 
great deal of money, and the greatest discretion. M. 
de Favras took much trouble to procure the funds, and 
communicated his plan to many persons, who, in 
return, bestowed on him more praise than money. Very 
soon, however, three recruits who were in his pay. Morel, 
Turcati, and Marquies, denounced him, and in the night 
of December 25 the Marquis de Favras was arrested at 
his residence in the Place Royale, by order of the 
National Assembly. 

On the following day an unknown hand denounced a 
far higher personage than the Marquis de Favras as the 
leader of the conspiracy. An anonymous paper was cir- 



f 

THE MARQUIS DE FAVRAS. 239 

culated in Paris in which Monsieur, brother of the King, 
was mentioned as being the soul of the plot. This 
created such a sensation that the Comte de Provence 
deemed it prudent to contradict the report publicly. He 
appeared before the Commune and delivered a speech ' 
which was received with enthusiasm ; but he could not 
and did not exonerate the Marquis de Favras, who was 
arraigned and took his trial on February 18, 1790. 

As the prisoner was brought forward a few groans 
were uttered by the public ; and, from the demeanour 
of the magistrates and the disposition of the public, M. 
de Favras no doubt foresaw that he was doomed. He 
nevertheless retained his presence of mind, and defended 
himself with much spirit. There can be no doubt that 
the Marquis did conspire, like most noblemen of the 
time ; but proofs against him were utterly wanting, and 
the accused easily showed that sentence could not be 
passed upon him without a flagrant breach of justice. 
The judges, however, were in fear of their lives, and the 
indulgence they had shown to Besenval and Augeard 
was the cause of the pitiless treatment they inflicted 
upon Favras. 

On February 29 the Chatelet passed sentence. The 
Marquis de Favras was condemned to be hanged, after 
j amende honorable before the portico of Notre Dame. 
I He betrayed no emotion ; and when the president of the 
! court told him that his sole hope was in the assistance 
i of religion, he answered, ' Pardon me, sir ; I have also 
Ithe consolation which I find in my conscience.' 

From the beginning of the sitting the Chatelet was 



240 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

surrounded by an angry crowd which loudly called for the 
death of Favras. While the sentence was being read to the 
accused the executioner was directed to erect a gibbet on 
the Place de Greve. Favras therefore left the court only 
to be taken straight to the scaffold, and no one seemed 
conscious of the terrible precedent which was thus being 
estabhshed. So much hurry took place that as he was 
about to enter the cart my grandfather remembered that 
he had not executed the full prescription of the sentence, 
and he told M. de Favras that he must undress. The 
latter did not answer ; but when his hands were untied, 
he helped the assistants to take off his clothes, and ap- 
peared in the cart in his shirt, and with naked feet. 

Loud cries burst from the crowd. * A rope around 
his neck ! ' was the universal demand. The prisoner 
made a sign to Charles Henri Sanson to obey, and did not 
even shudder when he felt the contact of the hemp which 
was to deprive him of life. He held a taper in his right 
hand. The cortege moved forward with the greatest 
difficulty through the dense masses. When it reached 
the parvis of Notre Dame the Marquis was made to kneel 
and pronounce the formula of amende honorable. M. 
de Favras took the paper from the hands of the clerk, 
and, after reading it in a loud and distinct voice, he 
added : 

' Ready to appear before God, I forgive those who 
have accused me. I die innocent. The people clamour 
for my death. Since a victim is needed, it is better that 
I should die, instead of some other innocent man whose 
courage might fail him in the face of undeserved death. 



THE MARQUIS DE FAVRAS. 241 

1 am about to suffer for crimes which I have not com- 
mitted.' 

When he returned to the cart his face was slightly . 
pale, but he retained his fortitude to the last. In 
reaching the Place de Greve M. de Favras asked leave 
to write his will at the Hotel-de-Ville. This document 
was published a few days after his death. It denounced 
no one, but one of the phrases contained an awful accu- 
sation against a person described by historians as the 
Comte de Provence. The time had now come for the 
performance of the last act of the tragedy. It was 
dark, and, as the Greve was imperfectly lighted, 
lanterns had been provided on the scaffold. M. do 
Favras advanced with a firm step. The extraordinary 
courage he displayed touched some among the howliiig" 
mob ; but his enemies were in overwhelming numbers, 
and as he approached the ladder a man cried out ; 

* Allons, saute Marquis ! ' 

M. de Favras took no notice of this supreme taunt ; 
he ascended the ladder, and when he was high enough 
to be heard by the crowd, he said, raising his voice : 

* Citizens, I die innocent. Pray for me ! ' 

He repeated these words at every step, and when he 
reached the top of the ladder, looking up to the execu- 
tioner's assistant, who was sitting astride on the arm of 
the gibbet, * And you, do your duty,' he added. 

These were his last words. They had scarcely passed 
his lips when his body was swinging in the air. 



VOL. I. 



242 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

A PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. 

I NOW return to the vindication of the rights of citizen 
carried before the National Assembly by my grand- 
father. His petition was discussed, as I said before, in 
the sitting of December 23, 1789. The decision 
which was then given was, in my own estimation, 
quite satisfactory. But my grandfather was of a 
different opinion. It may be interesting to relate what 
took place in this first sitting before I allude to 
Charles Henri Sanson's attempt to obtain a national 
recognition of his rights. 

Among the members who espoused the cause of 
the executioner was M. de Clermont-Tonnerre, who 
expressed himself in the following terms : 

* Certain professions are bad or good. If they are 
bad, the country should suppress them ; if they are 
good, they should be considered so. Among these 
professions there are two which I do not like to mention 
in a breath ; but in the eyes of legislators, nothing but 
good and evil should be separated. I speak of public 
executioners and actors. 

*I wish to say concerning the first of these two 



PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. 243 

professions that we have merely to react against preju- 
dice. When a soldier is condemned to death, the hand 
which strikes him is not infamous. All that is ordered 
by the law is just. It orders the death of a criminal ; 
the executioner obeys the law. It is absurd that the 
law should say to him, " Do this ; and if you do it, you 
shall be covered with infamy." ' 

The Abbe Maury dissented from this view. 

' The exclusion of executioners of justice is not 
founded on a prejudice,' he exclaimed. ' Every honest 
man shudders at the sight of the one who murders his 
fellow-creatures in cold blood. It is said that the law 
requires this action ; but does the law order a man to 
be an executioner } ' 

A pale, sharp-featured orator ascended the tribune, 
and pronounced the following words : 

^ It can never be said in this Assembly that a neces- 
sary function of the law can be branded by the law. 
Such a law must be changed.' 

The last speaker was Maximilien Robespierre. It is 
worth noting that neither of the two supporters of the 
executioner dared to defend him without accusing the 
law. The law and the office are, in fact, linked to each 
other, and it is impossible to denounce the one without 
branding the other. If the views of Robespierre and 
Clermont-Tonnerre had been adopted by the Assembly, 
it is probable that the bloody scenes of the Revolution 
would have been averted by the abolition of capital 
punishment. It is also curious to observe that this great 
question was brought before the National Assembly. 



244 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

By a strange contrast which shows how sudden are the 
fluctuations of the human mind, the abolition of capital 
punishment had no more ardent advocates than Marat 
and Robespierre. 

Charles Henri Sanson now presented a formal 
memorial to the Assembly ; and it was through the 
medium of his former counsel, M. Maton de la Varenne, 
that he urged his plea, in the name of his brother Louis 
Cyr Charlemagne Sanson, executioner of the Prevote de 
r Hotel, as well as on behalf of his provincial confreres. 
This memorial I cannot pass without quotation, inas- 
much as it is altogether forgotten and obsolete. I do 
not share the opinions therein expressed, but it may 
give an idea of the view taken of their profession by 
former executioners : 

' This is not a judicial memorial, but the grievance 
of a number of men branded with infamy, and who only 
live to suffer the humiliations, the shame, and the 
opprobrium deserved by crime only ; this is the com- 
plaint of men, unhappily indispensable, who came to 
lament, before the fathers of the country, over the 
injustice of their co-citizens, and to claim the undeniable 
rights which nature and law had bestowed upon them ; it 
is also a respectful remonstrance to the august Assembly 
of representatives of the nation, and a request for the 
proper interpretation of the decree of December 24 
last. 

' The question is not, as has been said by an obscure 
pamphleteer whose object it is to calumniate the mem- 
bers of the National Assembly, their decrees, and the 



PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. 245 

public, whether the executioners of criminal sentences 
shall sit beside the mayors, or shall have the rank of 
lieutenant-general of the national guard in the different 
towns of the kingdom. What should be ascertained is, 
whether the executioners are eligible, if they have the 
right to sit in assemblies ; in short, if they are to enjoy 
the privileges of citizens. The question is not doubtful, 
except to weak men whose judgment is influenced by 
prejudice. 

* Executioners are officially nominated to their func- 
tions ; they hold their office from the hands of the 
king ; their commissions, like those of officers, are only 
to be obtained on a favourable account of the candidates 
being presented and approved of. 

' A few persons childishly believe that the commission 
of executioner is thrown at the candidate's feet ; that it 
is gratuitously delivered ; and that the executioner elect 
takes the oath on his knees. Hence they infer that 
his profession is infamous. 

* No one will attempt to deny that this opinion springs 
from a popular mistake, when it is the fact that the exe- 
cutioner receives his commission from hand to hand ; that 
the cost of purchase is considerable (the commission of 
executioner in Paris costs six thousand and forty-eight 
livres) ; that he takes the oath standing, like any other 
official ; and that he is appointed on the advice of the 
public prosecutor. 

* There is assuredly no difference between other com- 
missions and that of the executioner so far as formalities 
of reception are concerned. The prejudice of which he 



246 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

is a victim has been strengthened by dint of time, and 
he is regarded with contempt when it is too late for him 
to adopt another profession. 

' Among the IsraeHtes the plaintiff always carried 
out the judgment given in his favour. If a murderer 
was to be put to death, the family of the victim, 
young men chosen by the prince, and even the people 
vied for the honour of accomplishing the mission of 
executioner, because the avenger of a crime was re- 
garded as a benefactor of society. 

' To this custom, which cannot be styled barbarous 
without doing wrong to the humane and equitable 
people who retained it, another succeeded, which proves 
that the Ancients saw no dishonour in the act of putting 
a criminal to death. The judges themselves carried out 
their own sentences. The custom also was to allow 
accusers to carry out sentences passed on the accused. 
If this custom was abolished in the prosperous days of 
the Roman republic, it was because the executioner, 
impelled by feelings of revenge, abused his privilege. 

' In Germany, before the creation of the office of exe- 
cutioner, the duty devolved on the youngest magistrate 
on the bench. In a few towns of the empire where 
this custom was not adopted, the last comer, the most 
recently married inhabitant, discharged the functions of 
executioner. These customs are transmitted to us by 
Adrian Beyer, of Frankfort, who informs us that in 
Germany the office of e:j^ecutioner of criminal justice 
is highly prized, that the emoluments are considerable, 
and that the holder is invested with titles. 



PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. 247 

' Even in France the functions of executioner have 
not at all times been regarded as degrading for whoever 
discharges them. Denisart, in his " Memento of Juris- 
prudence — V. Executioner," mentions an account fur- 
nished by the Land Administration in 141 7, in which it 
is stated that forty-five sous parisis were paid to Etienne 
Lebre, styled master of the high justice of the King our 
sire. 

* Let it not be imagined, however, that the execu- 
tioners who indite the present petition wish to be con- 
sidered as the equals of magistrates and as influential 
officials. They have no such pretension. But there is a 
vast difference between honouring the profession and 
discrediting it. 

* What would society become, of what use would be 
judges, if an active and legitimate power did not carry 
out the judgments given in satisfaction of the outrages 
against citizens protected by the law } If the punish- 
ment of the culprit is a disgrace for him who inflicts it, 
the magistrates who have passed sentence, the clerk who 
has written the judgment, the public prosecutor, and the 
criminal lieutenant must also have their share of the 
disgrace. But these officers do not incur disgrace ; far 
from this, they consider themselves honoured by their 
functions. Why, then, should the man who is the last 
participator in the infliction of punishment, who hates 
the crime he punishes, be disgraced by the discharge 
o^ functions that are the complement of those of a; 
judge } 

* A ruffian sets fire to a citizen's house, dips his hands 



248 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

in his neighbour's or his father's blood, or conspires 
against his country ; you are informed of his crimes, you 
demand his death, you go to see him die, and yet you 
will not recognise as a citizen, and you persist in con- 
sidering as infamous, the official who inflicts upon the 
miscreant a punishment which you have called for ! . . . 
Frenchmen, be just and logical ! Confess that crime must 
remain unpunished, or that an executioner is needed to 
punish it. Confess that neither the magistrate nor the 
executioner, but the culprit alone, is guilty of violating 
the laws of nature ; that without this just and legitimate 
crusade against crime society must be continually 
molested. Confess also that it has been unjust to 
extend shame attached to crime to the officer who 
punishes it. 

* By what singular misapprehension, also, is the execu- 
tioner of criminal judgments discredited, while in a 
regiment soldiers who inflict capital punishment are in 
no wise disgraced for so doing t Is not the case 
identical on both sides t Is not a culprit punished in 
both cases t It is a strange contradiction indeed to 
contest the citizenship of a man who carries out the 
sentences of civil tribunals, and to recognise as citizens 
those who carry out capital sentences passed by a council 
of war ! 

* Not only is it against the spirit of the law and reason 
to consider executioners as deserving of public execration ; 
they cannot be denied the quahty of citizen without also 
denying the least contestable social rights. Execu- 
tioners pay, as the other subjects of the King, all public 



PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. 249 

and local taxes ; they furnish the holy bread in their 
parishes, and they are registered as members of the 
national guard. Why should they be deprived of the 
advantages enjoyed by other citizens, since they are 
compelled to bear their share of the public expenditure ? 
Fatal power of prejudice among a great, humane, and 
generous nation ! 

' The consequence of all that has just been stated for 
the information of the Assembly, is that it is unjust to 
contest the civil rights of the executioners ; that they 
have a right to attend the meetings of citizens, and that 
they are eligible for situations such as they may be 
thought fit to hold. It only remains for us to see 
whether the decree of December 24, 1789, has admitted 
our claims and clearly decided that executioners are 
citizens. 

* The first thought that occurs to prejudiced people 
after reading this decree is that it does not mention the 
case of executioners ; that the settlement of the question 
raised as to the claims of their profession is avoided ; 
that they remain under the stigma of prejudice ; that 
the task of carrying out criminal judgments is regarded 
as infamous ; and lastly, that after enacting that no other 
reasons for exclusion are maintainable against the eligi- 
bility of any citizen than those resulting from the con- 
stitutional decrees, the quality of citizens is not frankly 
conceded to executioners. As a consequence it is 
I imagined that executioners are unfit for election and 
! cannot occupy civil or military posts. This opinion, 
I although it may perhaps be contrary to the spirit of the 



250 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

law, is not devoid of reason ; for, in order to fix irrevocably 
the fate of a number of men unjustly visited with public 
reprobation, the National Assembly might have decreed 
the eligibility of every Frenchman or naturalised French- 
man. This manner of expressing the spirit of the decree 
could not but have given full satisfaction to the exe- 
cutioners. 

' A constitutional law should be clear and precise ; it 
should be couched in clear language, and should only 
admit of one interpretation. The executioners are con- 
vinced that it was not the intention of the Assembly to 
deprive them of their rights as citizens. If they now ask 
for a definite interpretation of the law, it is because they 
are constantly told, throughout the kingdom, " that the 
National Assembly, when it decided on the advantages to 
be conceded to citizens, never intended to include them." 

' It may be possible that executioners will not be ap- 
pointed to public duties immediately after the interpret- 
ation they ask for ; but it will at least remain decreed 
that they are citizens ; they will be enabled to enter 
assemblies ; the prejudice by which they are considered 
infamous will disappear by efflux of time, and society 
will no longer be deprived of their co-operation and 
patriotism, and of the example of their virtues. 

* The petition of the executioners will doubtless 
appear ridiculous and preposterous to those who are 
governed by public opinion, and who cannot discard old 
customs and prejudices ; but when the nation is recovering 
its freedom, when all privileges are being destroyed, when 
equity is becoming supreme, prejudices should be de- 



PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. 251 

iiounced. They cannot be just, since they are in contra- 
diction to the law ; and why should the office of execu- 
tioner be considered infamous by public opinion since 
the law does not regard it as such? Let men reform 
their customs ; let them learn to think for themselves ; 
and then the profession which has at all times wounded 
their sensibilities and appeared to them contrary to 
humanity will no longer seem to them to be degrading. 

' How many, in a class of men now calumniated by the 
cowards who attack them because they think they are 
without friends — how many among these men have 
deserved the esteem and respect of their fellow-citizens ! 
Not a few old men of the town of Rennes can still re- 
member the virtue and kindness of Jacques Ganier, who 
died some thirty years ago, after discharging the 
functions of executioner during many years. He gave 
to the poor all that was not strictly necessary to himself. 
His death was to them a public calamity, and for a long 
time his grave was visited by grateful friends. The 
numerous services rendered by other executioners are well 
known. They gave, and give still, gratuitous assistance 
to citizens of all ranks, and their knowledge of chirur- 
gery, medicine, and botany has been of invaluable use. 
Would it be just to exclude from society men who are 
often its benefactors } 

* We now have to protest against the denomination of 
bourreatt which is frequently given to executioners.^ A 

' The origin of the word bourreau, by which the executioner of high justice 
is frequently designated, is found in 1260. The name originated from a 
clerk named Borel, who obtained the fief of Bellemcombre on condition that 



252 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

decree of the Parliament of Rouen, dated November i6, 
1 68 1, is couched in the following terms : 

' " Persons are forbidden to call executioners bourreau, 
under penalty of a fine of fifty livres, twenty-five of 
which shall belong to the King, and the remainder to the 
executioner thus described." 

'A decision given by the Parliament of Paris, in 
1767, in favour of Joseph Doublot, executioner of Blois, 
forbids all persons to call the said Doublot bourreau, 
under penalty of a fine of 100 livres. 

' Another decision of the Parliament of Rouen enacts 
the same penalty in favour of Ferey and Jouenne, exe- 
cutioners of Rouen, and adds that the latter shall be 
allowed, together with their families, to enter places of 
recreation and amusement. 

' These decisions were confirmed by the King in 1787. 
The Assembly should follow the example. 

' Having demonstrated the legitimacy of their pro- 
fession and the injustice of the denomination under 
which they are commonly designated, the executioners 
ask the representatives of the nation : i. To add the 
following clause to the third part of their decree of 
December 24, 1 789 : " Decrees also that no other reasons 

he should hang the thieves of the district. But as he was a priest, and as 
the Church ' mentioned in its prayers that it did not like blood, ' he paid a 
layman to discharge his functions. The King furnished him with provisions 
throughout the year in consequence of his function, which he was supposed 
to discharge himself. It became the custom to call Richard Borel le Borel, 
and to describe as Boreaux all those who put criminals to death. The 
orthography of the name was altered and became bourreau or bourreaux. 
The denomination was not then intended as an insult, but it bore a con- 
temptuous signification in the i6th century. — Note of the Memorial. 



PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. 253 

of exclusion than those contained in constitutional de- 
crees can be used against the eligibility of any French- 
man," unless the Assembly should prefer to declare that 
it considers executioners as citizens ; 2. To order the 
enforcement of the foregoing decisions regarding the use 
of the word botirreaii ; and to add such penalties as the 
Assembly may think proper. By so doing the Legis- 
lature will restore to society a number of men who have 
never been unworthy of public consideration. 
'Signed, C. H. SANSON. 

' L. C C. Sanson. 

' Acting on behalf of all their colleagues 
throughout the kingdom. 

'Maton de la Varenne, 
Barrister! 

Strange to say, this petition found many apologists 
in the press. The * Fidele Observateur,' the * Journal 
General de la Police et des Tribunaux,' and Marat's paper, 
' L'Ami du Peuple,' took up the cause of executioners. 
The Assembly, however, did not come to a decision with 
regard to their claim. Charles Henri Sanson was fain to 
content himself with the original form of the decree, 
which, in my opinion, was sufficiently satisfactory. In 
the sitting of December 24, Robespierre had said very 
judiciously : ' I do not think a special law is necessary ; 
those who are not excluded are admitted.' Besides, the 
time was drawing near when the rehabilitation sought 
by my grandfather and his colleagues was to become a 



254 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

kind of apotheosis, and to surpass all their most sanguine 
expectations. Charles Henri Sanson was about to 
receive official congratulations, popular ovations — and, 
in fact, to become one of the essential functionaries of 
the State. 



255 



» 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE GUILLOTINE. 



Doctor Guillotin pursued with much perseverance 
the task he had undertaken to accomplish. After ob- 
taining the sanction of the Assembly for his motion 
demanding equality of punishment in cases of capital 
sentences^ he again drew attention to those of his other 
motions which had been adjourned. These were, it 
may be remembered, to the effect that crime should be 
considered as wholly personal ; that the disgrace of 
punishment should not extend to the families of cul- 
prits ; that confiscation should be abolished ; that the 
bodies of executed criminals should be delivered to their 
relations if asked for ; and, if not, that they should be 
buried without any mention on the register of the kind 
of death they had suffered. 

All these reforms were favourably regarded by the 
Assembly. But Guillotin's special object was to obtain 
the adoption of another innovation. Disgusted as he 
was at the sight of the gibbet, which exhibited a corpse 
for hours before the mob, he determined to substitute 
• for all former modes a punishment by which suffering 
! would be mitigated. He saw no better means for the 



256 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

furtherance of his object than decapitation. It had 
hitherto been reserved for a privileged class, and, in all 
respects, it was a more manly and natural way of inflict- 
ing death. But then the executioner's sword had often 
failed to accomplish its work ; the hand was apt to 
tremble, and machinery only could give a guarantee of 
unswerving precision. Guillotin's purpose was, then, to 
discover the best decapitating machine ; and although 
the search he undertook was novel work for a man who 
had hitherto endeavoured to save life rather than to 
devise means of destroying it, he pursued it with un- 
tiring zeal. In order to gain time, he merely suggested 
the recognition of his principle in the following article : 

' In every case of capital punishment the mode of 
execution shall be the same. The criminal shall be de- 
capitated by means of a mechanical contrivance.' 

This proposal was made exactly three years before 
the ' mechanical contrivance ' received the baptism of 
royal blood. It was sent to the Committee of Seven, 
and only became law in 1791, when decapitation was 
definitively adopted ; but the process by which decapita- 
tion was to take place was not indicated. This omission 
caused much alarm to my grandfather ; for he foresaw 
that, unless mechanical means were devised, the heaviest 
responsibility would rest with him. He sent a memorial 
to the minister of justice, in which he enumerated the 
difificulties of decapitation with the sword, the necessity 
of firmness and courage not to be found in every 
culprit, and the impossibility of numerous executions, in 
consequence of the bluntness of swords frequently used. 



THE GUILLOTINE. 257 

* There can be no doubt,' he said, in his expostulation, 
'that when I shall have to deal consecutively with several 
criminals, the terror excited by the sight of blood must 
lead to deplorable consequences. The other culprits 
must lose the firmness which is absolutely needed in 
such executions.' Charles Henri Sanson ended by in- 
sisting on the urgent necessity of a machine which 
would keep the sufferer's body in a horizontal position, 
and ensure prompter and'safer operation than could be 
expected of hand-work. 

This was precisely what Dr. Guillotin was seek- 
ing, and he visited my grandfather to ask his advice. 
But their long conversations led to no satisfactory re- 
sults. They examined in vain everything which, in the 
past and in other countries, could realise the idea of the 
machine. Three German engravings by Pontz, Alde- 
greder, and Lucus von Cranach, and an Italian picture 
dated 1555, furnished a few models, but none was 
perfect. The Italian engraving represented an in- 
strument of execution called the Mannaia, which had 
sometimes been used in Italy, particularly in Genoa, at 
the time of the execution of Giustiniani the famous con- 
spirator. The apparatus was erected upon a scaffold ; 
the axe was placed between two perpendicular slip 
boards : the culprit was kneeling, with his head on a 
block, and the executioner was holding a rope which 
prevented the axe from falling. The German en- 
gravings were almost identical with this. 

Minute information was also collected concerning 
j divers punishments inflicted in Persia, and later in 
VOL. I. S 



258 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Scotland ; but these were inferior varieties of the 
Mannaia. Decapitation by machinery had even taken 
place in France, Marshal de Montmorency having been 
executed at Toulouse, in 1631, by means of a sliding axe. 

Nothing better than this last process could be 
discovered, and it would most likely have been adopted 
had not my grandfather persistently objected that the 
attitude of the culprit was a point of great importance, 
which could not be overlooked. It was almost as diffi- 
cult, he said, for a fainting man to remain on his knees 
as to stand on his feet. Hanging him, or tying him on 
the wheel, was possible ; but it was hopeless to expect 
that he would, except in rare cases, remain motionless 
while the death-blow was being inflicted. jj 

By a fortunate chance, Charles Henri Sanson had 
become acquainted with a German engineer of the name 
of Schmidt. This man was a manufacturer of musical 
instruments ; he was very ingenious in his craft, and 
was a passionate lover of music. He had sold some in- 
struments to my grandfather ; and, as the latter himself 
played the violin, Schmidt frequently joined him in a 
duet, Charles Henri playing the violin and the German 
playing the clavecin.^ One evening, after playing an 
air of Iphigenie en Aulide, Charles Henri spoke to his 
companion of his perplexity. Schmidt hesitated for a 
moment, and then traced a few rapid lines on a piece of 
paper, which he handed to my grandfather. It zvas the 
guillotine. 

Charles Henri Sanson looked at the drawing with 

^ A primitive form of the piano. 



THE GUILLOTINE. 259 

unfeigned surprise and satisfaction. Schmidt told him 
that he had long doubted whether it was proper for him 
to have anything to do with instruments which were 
designed to kill, but that, seeing his friend's perplexity, 
he could not resist the temptation of assisting him. 

It was thus that the guillotine came into the world, 
as it were, in the midst of a concert. 

Charles Henri Sanson informed Guillotin of the 
discovery. The doctor was beside himself with joy, for 
he had pursued his hobby with extraordinary vigour 
and enthusiasm. Certain biographers have erroneously 
asserted that Guillotin regretted his action in the 
matter, and doubted the reality of the service he had 
rendered to the country. Up to the last moment of his 
life Guillotin remained convinced that he had accom- 
plished a duty, and had initiated a great reform . If_ 
the people gave the name of guillotine to the new in- 
strument of execution — although, I need hardly repeat, 
the doctor was not the real inventor of it — it was simply 
"^n act of justice ; for it was owing to his efforts that 
decapitation and the machine used for its infliction were 
adopted. 

He described the new apparatus in the sitting of 
April 31, 1791. Carried away by enthusiasm, he made 
use of expressions which excited loud laughter, and al- 
most imperilled the success of his cause. He said 
that the culprit would only feel a slight freshness on the 
neck. The phrase was sufficiently ingenious ; but when 
he added, * With this machine I chop yonr head off in 
a twiftklingy and you do not suffer ^ the Assembly gave 

s 2 



26o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

way to irrepressible laughter. Howbeit, the legislators 
determined to abide by their first decision. A long 
correspondence took place between Guillotin, M. 
Roederer, procureur-general of the Commune, and my 
grandfather. The Assembly at length appointed Dr. 
Antoine Louis to enquire into the new mode of de- 
capitation. 

Louis was the King's physician, anc^his royal patron 
heard of the mission he had to discharge.' "^The dexterity j 
of this prince as a locksmith is- well known. He wished) 
to assist Louis, and to give his personal attention"] 
to a matter in which, he said, he was interested as aj 
sovereign. The King and his physician expressed a] 
desire to examine the plan of the machine proposed by] 
Guillotin. The latter was therefore requested by Dr. 
Louis to come to the Tuileries, and he was told to brinj 
my grandfather with him. 

They found Dr. Louis in his closet. After a fewj 
polite words had been exchanged by the two physician* 
Guillotin showed Louis the plan of the machine drawn] 
by Schmidt, to which my grandfather had added a fewj 
explanations. While Louis was examining it with great 
attention, a door was opened, and a new comer appeared] 
in the closet. Dr. Louis, who was seated, immediateb 
rose. The stranger looked coldly at Dr. Guillotin, wh( 
bowed ; and abruptly addressing Louis, he said ta] 
him : 

* Well, doctor, what do you think of it t ' 

* It seems to me perfect,' answered the doctor ; ' and] 
fully justifies what M. Guillotin told me. You can] 



THE GUILLOTINE, 261 

judge for yourself.' And he handed the plan to the last 
comer, who looked at it, and then shook his head doubt- 
fully. 

' The knife has the shape of a crescent. Do you think 
a knife thus shaped would be suitable for all necks .^ 
There are some which it certainly could not cut' 

Since the speaker's entrance, Charles Henri Sanson 
had lost neither pne of his words nor one of his gestures. 
The sound of* the voice showed him that his first im- 
pression was a true one ; the King was again before him ; 
but, by the plain costume he wore, it was easy to see 
that he wished to remain incognito. Charles Henri 
was struck by his remark, and looking at the King's 
neck, he saw that its proportions were just those 
which justified the royal remark. The King again 
spoke, and he asked in a low voice, ' Is this the maji ?' 

Doctor Louis answered in the afiirmative. 

' Ask him what he thinks of the matter.' 

* You heard this gentleman's observation,' said Louis ; 
* what is your opinion with regard to the shape of the 
knife.?' 

* The gentleman is quite right,' answered my grand- 
father ; ' the knife is not what it should be.' 

The King smiled with an air of satisfaction, and 
taking a pen which lay on the table, he rectified the 
plan, and substituted an oblique line for the crescent. 

' I may be mistaken, after all,' he added ; * the 
two shapes should be tried when the experiments are 
made.' 

He then rose and retired, waving his hand. Such 



262 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

was the King's second interview with my grandfather. 
Their next official meeting was to take place on January 
2 1 of the following year. 

Five days after this conference, that is on March 7, 
Antoine Louis presented his report to the Assembly, in 
which he proposed the pure and simple adoption of the 
machine, such as it had been sketched by Schmidt, with 
the alternative of one or the other knife. On March 
20 the Assembly passed the report, and Dr. Louis was 
requested to superintend the construction of the first 
decapitating machine. The work was done by a car- 
penter named Guidon, who charged 5,500 francs for it. 
When the guillotine was finished my grandfather and 
two of his brothers went to the prison of Bicetre to 
make experiments on three corpses. This took place o 
April 17, 1792, in the courtyard of the prison, in the 
presence of Drs. Antoine Louis, Phillippe Pinel, and 
Cabanis. The prisoners eagerly looked on from the 
windows. 

The three corpses were decapitated, one after the 
other. The first two experiments with the oblique knife 
succeeded ; the third, with the knife shaped as a crescent, 
failed. The oblique knife was therefore adopted. 

A week afterwards my grandfather had occasion t 
test the new system on a man named Pelletin, sentence( 
to death for theft and an attempted murder. Som 
uneasiness was felt with regard to the behaviour of th 
mob at the sight of the new instrument of death, as th 
following letter, addressed by Roederer to La Fayette 
sufficiently shows : — 



A 1 



THE GUILLOTINE. 263 

* Paris, April 25, 1792. 

' Sir, — The new mode of decapitation must certainly 
attract a considerable number of spectators to the 
Greve, and it is necessary to take special measures to 
prevent any attempt to destroy the machine. I there- 
fore think it indispensable that you should order the 
gendarmes who are to attend the execution to remain 
until the machine is taken away.' 

The last episode of the history of the wheel may be 
remembered. Some such event, it was feared, might 
inaugurate the history of the instrument which some 
already called lotnson or lotdsette, from the name of 
Dr. Louis, and others gicillotiney from the name of Dr. 
Guillotin. The last name prevailed ; but no disorder 
occurred. The execution took place, and fully justified 
my grandfather's anticipations. Pelletin was carried to 
the scaffold in a fainting fit, and it would have been 
impossible to decapitate him with the sword. The 
execution was a complete success. 

It might now be interesting to enquire whether 
the guillotine is really the least cruel mode of punish- 
ment, and if, therefore, it answered the humane views of 
its inventors ; or if, as some anatomists have asserted, 
decapitation is followed by horrible, and in some way 
posthumous, sufferings. I would rather adjourn the ex- 
amination of this important question until the time when 
I can relate my personal recollections, and give the ob- 
servations I was enabled to make in the course of my 
professional career. We are now close upon portentous 
events, the relation of which must not be deferred. 



264 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAP ER XXV. 

THE TRIBUNAL OF AUGUST 17, 1792. 

The hour is now at hand when the history_ of the 
scaffold and the history of France are to be blended into 
one. -In a few days the despised headsman shall become 
the key of the vault of the social edifice which is being 
constructed. Until then he could answer to those who 
saluted him with the insulting epithet of bozirrcan, ' Why 
do you despise me if you do not despise your laws } * 
The excitement of a nation now gives him the right 
to exclaim : ' It seems as if you had made a revolution 
only to give me work ! ' 

The grandson of the Sanson of 1793 — of the £'reat 
Sanson, as he was called — might perhaps discard for a 
moment the humility which he has hitherto displayed ; 
but let the reader be reassured. In pursuing the course 
of my narrative, I shall not trouble him with my per- 
sonal opinions. I propose to be sparing of all observa- 
tions concerning politics, and to relate as briefly as 
possible the events I am about to record. I will soon 
give up the pen to Charles Henri Sanson, my grand- 
father, and quote his diary exactly as he wrote it. 
This record begins at the end of the month of May, 



THE TRIBUNAL OF AUGUST 17, 1792. 265 

some six weeks after the erection of the revolutionary 
tribunal, and is continued to the month of Venddmiaire 
of the year III. Written as it is, citrrente calamo, it is 
the most accurate diary of the scaffold which, I believe, 
can be found. 

But nine months still separate us from the day 
when Charles Henri Sanson began to work in earnest ; 
and during this lapse of time the guillotine was not 
altogether inactive. The Assembly had disappeared, 
and the King was abandoned to his own inspirations. 
On August 20, 1792, the Tuileries was invaded, and the 
King was made prisoner and incarcerated in the Temple. 
A revolutionary tribunal was instituted. This tribunal, 
although it numbered men like Fouquier-Tinville, 
used the guillotine with comparative moderation. It 
applied severe laws with severity ; but it acted with 
justice, and respected the forms of law. It had chiefly 
to deal with common malefactors. From 1771 to 1792 
the number of raids on persons and property considerably 
increased. Paper money, which was of recent creation, 
excited the cupidity of forgers. During a period of 
seven months, fifteen forgers were executed on the 
Place de Greve. On August 19, 1792, one Collot was 
condemned to death for forgery, and the guillotine 
was erected on the usual spot selected for executions. 
The Place de Greve was, as usual, well attended. As the 
cart, in which were Charles Henri Sanson and the 
culprit, drove up, a tremendous clamour greeted their 
appearance, and my grandfather distinguished a cry of 
* To the Carrousel ! ' 



266 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

The horse continued to advance ; but a man seized 
the bridle and asked the driver why he did not obey the 
popular order. Charles Henri Sanson interposed ; 
but the man declared that the will of the Commune was 
that the guillotine should henceforth be erected opposite 
the palace of the last King, and that he must immediately 
transfer his tools there. 

My grandfather replied that his duty was to carry 
out the orders which were transmitted to him, and not 
to meet the wishes of the magistrates before they were 
expressed. But the clamour became more vociferous, 
and the horse's head was turned in the direction of the 
Tuileries. Charles Henri Sanson's position was very 
perplexing. He asked, and at length obtained, leave to 
drive up to the H6tel-de-Ville to ask for instructions. 

After some hesitation the Procureur of the Commune 
authorised my grandfather to act according to the 
wishes of the mob. The scaffold was taken down and 
transferred to the Place du Carrousel ; and the cart 
repaired thither, escorted by the crowd. 

But a considerable time elapsed before the guillotine 
could be erected again ; and the culprit, who had 
hitherto been calm, began to struggle violently. As 
the carpenters had gone away, the people helped my 
grandfather to reconstruct the instrument of death. 
This reconstruction, however, progressed so slowly that 
night came on before it was finished, and my grand- 
father, apprehending desperate resistance on the part of 
the doomed man, requested some of those who worked 
around him to go to the Commune and ask for an 



THE TRIBUNAL OF AUGUST 17, 1792. 267 

adjournment of the execution. The request was re- 
ceived with jeers of anger and derision, and public 
irritation became ominously threatening. A beardless 
young man, who wore the red cap, came forward, 
shrieking that my grandfather was a traitor, and that he 
should taste of the guillotine himself unless he ' ope- 
rated ' without more ado. 

Charles Henri retorted with some warmth that he 
could not execute the culprit without special assist- 
ance. 

* Your assistants are drunk ! * exclaimed the young 
man. *■ You can find as much help as you require here. 
The blood of aristocrats cements the happiness of the 
nation, and there is not one man in the crowd who is 
not ready to lend you a hand.' 

A general cry of assent followed these words ; but 
the circle around the scaffold became wider, and it 
appeared obvious that few were prepared to stand by 
their word. My grandfather perceived this, and has- 
tened to prevent the first speaker from retreating by 
accepting his offer. 

The culprit was led to the steps of the scaffold, 
which he refused to mount, and Charles Henri was 
obliged to take him in his arms and carry him up to the 
platform. When the unfortunate man saw the dark 
outline of the machine, his resistance became more 
desperate, and he shrieked for mercy. The crowd was 
now silent. The improvised executioner did not budge, 
but he was very pale. At last, after a final struggle, 
the culprit was strapped to the plank, but his contor- 



268 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

tions were so violent that an assistant had to sit upon 
him. 

Charles Henri Sanson now told the young man that 
he could not furnish a better proof of his patriotism 
than by taking a leading part in the execution ; and he 
put in his hand the rope which communicated with 
the knife. At his bidding the young man gave a 
tug ; the knife fell, and the head rolled in the basket. 

This was not all ; it was customary to show the 
head to the multitude after decapitation, and loud cries 
reminded my grandfather of the custom. He explained 
to the young man what he was to do, at the same 
time proposing himself to do the horrible duty. But 
his substitute refused ; he took the head by the hair, 
and advanced to the edge of the scaffold ; but as he was 
raising his arm to show the bloody trophy, he staggered 
and fell back. Charles Heori Sanson came to his 
assistance, thinking that he was fainting ; but he dis- 
covered that he was dead. Violent emotion had 
brought on an apoplectic fit, which killed him instan- 
taneously. 

Such was the first execution that took place on the 
Place du Carrousel. Henceforth this place was the scene 
of every execution. 

Defence, in those stormy times, was not less violent 
than attack. Royalist writers were as bitter as their 
adversaries of the patriotic party. Two journalists, 
Suleau and Durosoy, became especially conspicuous for 
the vehemence of their writings. The former was a 
man of action as well as a writer, and he had fought on 



THE TRIBUNAL OF AUGUST 17, 1792. 269 

behalf of royalty on August 10. He was identified in 
the street by Theroigne de Mericourt, and at the insti- 
gation of that sanguinary amazon he was massacred by 
the mob. Durosoy's end was not less tragic. He was 
executed, and died with the greatest firmness. An 
officer named Collinot d'Augremont was his successor 
on the guillotine. 

On August 29 Laporte, superintendent of the civil 
list, paid for the prodigalities of his royal master. 
Laporte was a venerable old man, and his death caused 
profound emotion among those who witnessed it. On 
the 31st Sellier and Desperriers were sentenced to 
death for issuing forged assignats, and beheaded on the 
same day. 

The pillory had not followed the scaffold to the 
Place du Carrousel ; it remained on the Greve. On 
September i my grandfather had to deal with one Jean 
Julien, sentenced to twelve years* imprisonment and to 
public exposure in the pillory, who excitedly protested 
that he was innocent. Hardly was he chained to the 
pillory than he exclaimed, ' Vive le Roi! Vive la 
Reine ! ' These words produced the greatest excitement, 
and Julien would certainly have been massacred but for 
the prompt interference of the police. He was taken 
before the revoluntionary tribunal, sentenced to death, 
and executed on the following day. 

No execution took place on September 3. 

En revanche, there was a wholesale massacre, which 
it is not my business to speak of. While the massacre 
was taking place, the revolutionary tribunal was trying 



270 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Major Bachmann, a Swiss officer. The howls of the 
victims and the cries of the slaughterers could be heard, 
and frequently disturbed the audience. When the 
President passed sentence, Major Bachmann ran to join 
his friends who were being killed ; but he was held back 
and reserved for the scaffold, on which he suffered the 
next day. 

Old Cazotte, who, thanks to his daughter's devotion, 
had found mercy before the mock tribunal instituted at 
I'Abbaye, was less fortunate with the judges appointed 
by law. Cazotte was a graceful poet, whose mysticism 
sometimes verged on prophecy. One evening, in the 
Marchioness de Vaudreuil's drawing-room, he was seized 
with one of his habitual fits of sadness. When enquiries 
were made concerning his state of mind, he said that 
although he was awake he could see, as in a dream, 
things which filled him with terror ; he spoke of prisons 
and executioners' carts, and he described the instrument 
of death which was to be invented twenty years afterwards. 
He added that he could see most of those who were 
present perishing by the executioner's hand. 

A moment of silence followed this strange predic- 
tion ; it was broken by Madame de Montmorency, who 
said laughing : 

'■ You spoke of carts, my dear Monsieur Cazotte ; let 
me hope that I shall be allowed to go to the scaffold in 
my own carriage.' 

*■ Not so, Madame,' answered the visionnaire, * for it 
shall be the last privilege accorded to the King of 



THE TRIBUNAL OF AUGUST 17, 1792. 271 

France. You will be taken to the scaffold in a cart 
just like myself.' 

Cazotte's singular vision was fully realised. He was 
arrested on August 25, sentenced to death and exe- 
cuted. 

Executions were numerous up to the time of the 
King's death ; but the number was considerably greater 
afterwards. The emigrants who fought in the ranks of 
the Prussian army, and were captured on the battle-field, 
suffered on the scaffold, together with a large party of 
ordinary miscreants, whose names it is not necessary to 
mention here. 



272 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVL 

The King's death was the first signal for the struggle 
between the two factions which predominated in the 
Convention. The Gironde objected to the death of 
Louis XVL ; but the influence of the Montagne pre- 
vailed, and the monarch's appearance on the scaffold 
was the prelude to a series of wholesale executions. 
The people, too, was so infuriated that it frequently took 
the law into its own hands. Heads carried on pikes 
were often seen in the streets. Was the people, properly 
so called, wholly responsible for this cruelty.? My 
grandfather was wont to tell us that he had often re- 
cognised gaol birds among the individuals who incited 
to murder, and he had no doubt that most of the out- 
rages so frequently perpetrated were committed at the 
instigation of those rufhans. 

Charles Henri Sanson was then living with his son 
(my father), who was twenty-seven years of age ; and 
his style of life was so quiet and secluded that on 
August 10 he was not even aware that the Tuileries had 
been attacked and devastated by the people. On that 
day my father went to breakfast with his uncle, Louis Cyr 



THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVL 273 

Charlemagne Sanson. I cannot do better than allow 
him to describe what occurred on the occasion. 

* After breakfast,' he writes, ' I had opened the win- 
dow to air the room. I looked out and saw a crowd in 
the street, but, as the apartment was on the fourth floor, 
I could not see distinctly what was taking place. How- 
ever, I espied a young fellow who was raising in the air 
something stuck on a pole. My aunt, who was also 
looking out, hastily retreated, exclaiming : 

* " Good heavens, it is a head ! " 

' This exclamation filled us with fear, and we felt the 
more anxious to know what had happened. But before 
we could get any information a larger crowd rushed 
down the street in pursuit of a young man, who, as we 
perceived, was a Swiss guard of the Poissonni^re 
barracks. 

' The fugitive had a good start, and was anxiously 
looking about for a means of escape. I confess that 
both myself and my uncle were rather rash ; but we 
could not resist our first impulse of compassion. I 
told my uncle that we could not allow a man to be 
massacred before our very door ; and, in spite of the 
advice of those who had breakfasted with us, we hastily 
went down and opened the door. 

' "What do you want to do with this young man .?" 
said I to some of those who gave chase. 

' " But, sir," answered one, " the Swiss guards are 
being killed." 

* " For what reason .?" 

' " Why, don't you know ?" 
VOL. I. T 



274 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

' " All I know is that this man has done you no harm, 
and that you want to murder him." 

* While we were thus parleying, the Switzer had re- 
treated behind us. Two men tried to seize him, but I 
held them back ; my uncle pushed the fugitive into the 
hall, and I was enabled to shut the door in the faces of 
the pursuers. 

' The house was situate in the Rue Beauregard, and 
communicated with a butcher's shop in the Rue de 
Clery. We escaped through these premises, and at the 
soldier's request we took him to the guard-house of the 
Bonne-Nouvelle section, which was then the Rue de 
Bourbon-Villeneuve, near the Cour des Miracles. We 
then returned home, escorted by twelve armed men, who 
easily dispersed the crowd which had gathered before 
our house. It was from our escort that we heard of the 
events which had taken place at the Tuileries on the 
same morning. 

* The day which had so tragically begun, ended with 
an amusing incident. On our return, we found one of 
our relatives, who had just come from the country to 
pass a few days in Paris. The poor man was so frightened 
that he wanted to leave Paris without delay. But when 
he tried to depart, he found that the gates of the town 
had just been closed, and that no one could leave Pari& 
without submitting to certain formalities, which increased 
our visitor's apprehensions. He gave way to the most 
ludicrous despair, tore his hair, cursed his own imprudence, 
and could only be appeased by my promising to provide 
for him a means of escape far more dangerous than 



THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVL 275 

the formalities after which he might have quietly left 
Paris. 

' I was acquainted with one of my grandfather 
Jugier's old friends, who had a garden which extended 
beyond the precincts of the town. Our timorous friend 
effected his escape by this opening, previously taking 
care to disguise himself as a gardener. 

' Up to this time neither I nor my father had 
attended very regularly the meetings of our section, and 
we had not been incorporated in the National Guard ; 
but on the following day (August 1 1) two delegates of 
the section came to invite us to attend, and we were 
compelled to obey. One of these delegates was an old 
schoolfellow of mine, who had hitherto been in ignorance 
of my origin, and I was in fear that he would discard me. 
Far from doing so, however, he strove to convince me 
that he did not share the common prejudice with regard 
to my family. 

* This first meeting of the Assembly was not marked 
by any interesting event ; but on the following day a 
deputation of twelve members, of which I was one, was 
appointed to protest against the intrusion of an indivi- 
dual who had obtained the suffrages of the inhabitants 
of the district as member of the Commune by deceiving 
them. 

* We went to the H6tel~de-Ville, where the Commune 
was sitting, and the president of our deputation, a 
barrister of the name of Jacob, handed to the secretary 
a copy of the resolution of our section, which explained 
the object of our visit. When his turn came to support 

T 2 



276 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

this resolution, he was interrupted by Chaumette, who 
said that he as well as Robespierre knew the individual 
alluded to, that they had seen him enter the carriage in 
which the King, the Queen, and the royal family had 
been taken to the Temple prison, and that this was a 
sufficient proof of patriotism. Chaumette was not 
content with impeaching us ; he also spoke of our 
section as a centre of aristocracy, and he described our 
deputation as a shameful cabal against a virtuous 
citizen. 

* While this discussion was going on I was placed in a 
dangerous predicament. Being unable to find room in 
the hall with my colleagues, I sat down near strangers, 
among whom were some of the professional slaughterers 
who were constantly in quest of victims. Chaumette 
had hardly finished when Robespierre called an usher 
and said to him : 

* *' Tell the President that I wish to speak.'* 

* At the same moment, as I did not appear to belong 
to the deputation, several sinister-looking men eyed me, 
and one of them said : 

* " What are you doing here } I suppose you are one 
of the aristocrats .'* We'll just ' do ' for you as we did 
for the Swiss soldiers." 

' These threatening words frightened me, and I con- 
fess that I could not refrain from showing it. I never- 
theless answered as firmly as I could : 

* " Citizens, you have a curious way of settling ques- 
tions. You had better learn who I am before you try 
to murder me." 



THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVI. 277 

' " Bah ! " exclaimed another man ; " we should never 
get rid of these ruffianly aristocrats if we listened to 
what they say." 

' I looked around, sadly perplexed, and was fortunate 
enough to catch the eye of the schoolfellow I have 
already spoken of He perceived my position, and, 
coming up to me, he said that I was wanted by the 
secretary of the Commune. We were allowed to go 
away ; I re-entered the hall by another door, and joined 
my colleagues, whose fate, whatever it might be, it was 
my duty to share. 

'Robespierre was speaking when I entered. He 
entirely concurred with Chaumette, so that he seemed 
to grant us our lives when we were ignominiously 
dismissed ; and we had the greatest difficulty in finding 
the staircase amidst the people who crowded to look 
at us. 

' When we emerged from the H6tel-de-Ville we could 
no longer restrain our indignation at the shameful 
manner in which we had been treated, and we resolved 
to go immediately to our section, to report upon what 
had occurred. The section was sitting when we arrived ; 
and hardly had our president described the result of our 
mission than the meeting rose en 7nasse asking for 
revenge. It was immediately agreed that the section 
should be called to arms, and every one prepared for the 
emergency. 

*We had four pieces of cannon. Our artillerymen 
brought them out, and in less than two hours over two 
thousand men were ready to attack the Commune, 



278 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

to ask for redress for the insult inflicted on the 
delegates of the section. Every man was at his post ; 
the artillery came first, and the soldiers and officers 
after ; and we were about to march forward when four 
citizens, sent by the Commune to apologise for what had 
occurred, appeared. We listened to them at first with 
some attention ; but one of the speakers having ex- 
pressed himself in somewhat haughty terms, our presi- 
dent interrupted him, and spoke severely of the treat- 
ment our deputation had received, and of the danger to 
which they had thereby been exposed. The delegates 
were silent ; they at length asked to be allowed to 
report to the Commune what they had heard and seen. 
This was agreed to ; but it was stipulated that Chau- 
mette and Robespierre should publicly retract, on the 
very next day, and in the presence of the deputation, 
the insulting assertions they had made. The delegates 
promised that it should be so, and retired. 

^ The promise was discharged on the following day. 
Our deputation returned to the H6tel-de-Ville, and, in the 
presence of nearly twelve hundred persons of all classes, 
Robespierre, Chaumette, and the President of the Com- 
mune admitted that they had been deceived with regard 
to the inhabitants of the section of the Northern Suburb ; 
that they had since ascertained that they were excellent 
patriots. A copy of the report of the sitting was at 
once delivered to us, and we peacefully returned to our 
section, which was awaiting in arms the result of this 
second expedition.' 

I have thought proper to quote the above incidents 



THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVL 279 

just as my father related them in order to show what 
the situation of Paris was when the sentence on the un- 
fortunate Louis XVL was pronounced. It would have 
been impossible to find anywhere else a more complete 
state of anarchy ; for what condition could be worse than 
that of a city in which civil war was so imminent between 
two districts armed with musket and cannon? 

When the election of officers took place, my father 
and my grandfather were elected sergeants, and my grand- 
uncle, Charlemagne Sanson, corporal. This obliged 
them to take a more active part than they might have 
wished in the political manifestations which took place 
during this strange epoch. A short time had elapsed 
since these grades had been conferred upon them when 
the Convention began to consider the fate of the royal 
prisoner of the Temple. This bloody page of our 
history has been so often expatiated upon that it needs 
no repetition. It is only the last act of the drama which 
I have to relate, and I feel the task is sufficiently heavy. ^ 

It was on December 11, 1792, that the monarch 
appeared before the Convention, then presided over by 
Barrere, whose cold and trenchant eloquence was to 
exercise a decisive influence on the final vote. Sentence 
was passed on January 17. The surprise caused by the 
result was so great that the votes were counted a second 
time ; but on the following day it was ascertained 
beyond doubt that the sentence passed upon Louis 
Capet was death. 

* The translator has suppressed here, as elsewhere, a great deal of irrele- 
vant matter. 



28o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

My grandfather heard the news on the 19th. On the 
20th he was to celebrate the twenty-ninth anniversary of 
his marriage. The celebration was a mournful ®ne. In 
the evening Charles Henri and his son went out. They 
learned that the King had asked for a delay of three 
day« to prepare himself for death, and that the petition 
had been refused ; and Charles Henri, having gone as far 
as the legislative palace, was positively assured that the 
only favour granted to the King of France was a final 
meeting with his family and the assistance of a priest of 
his religion. It was therefore certain that the execution 
had been appointed for the following day. 

My grandfather returned home in a melancholy mood. 
He found an order, which had been sent to him, to 
erect a scaffold and to expect the convict at eight o'clock 
in the morning. Other papers brought during his 
absence were letters by which he was apprised that 
measures were taken to save the King during his 
progress from the Temple to the Place de la Revolution, 
and that, if my grandfather offered the slightest resist^ 
ance, he would be killed. Other letters begged and did 
not threaten. He was asked to join the saviours of the 
victim, and to delay the execution as much as possible 
so as to give time for a number of resolute men to break 
through the ranks of the militia and carry off the 
King. 

This last means, which my grandfather regarded as 
neither impossible nor unlikely, was the only one which 
left him a ray of hope. 



THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVI. 281 

On the following day, at dawn, my grandfather and 
my father were roused by the sound of the drums which 
were calling out the section, each district having to 
furnish a battalion for the execution. My father be- 
longed to the battalion selected in our neighbourhood 
for the unpleasant duty. He was not sorry for it, 
because it enabled him to share with his father the 
perils of the day. He therefore put on his uniform and 
went out with Charles Henri Sanson, who was supported 
by Charlemagne and another of his brothers. At this 
stage, I cannot do better than let my grandfather speak 
for himself and give his own version of the events which 
followed : 

'■ The sacrifice is accomplished ! . . . I started this 
morning at seven o'clock, after embracing my poor wife, 
whom I did not expect to see again. I took a fly with 
my brothers Charlemagne and Louis Martin. The 
crowd was so large in the streets that it was close upon 
nine o'clock before we reached the Place de la Revolu- 
tion. Gros and Barre, my assistants, had erected the 
guillotine, and I was so persuaded that it would not be 
used that I hardly looked at it. My brothers were well 
armed, and so was I ; under our coats we had, besides 
our swords, daggers, four pistols, and a flask of 
powder, and our pockets were full of bullets. We 
felt sure that some attempt would be made to rescue 
the King, and we intended, if we could, to assist in 
saving his life. 

'When we reached the Place T looked about for 



L 



282 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

my son, and I discovered- him at a short distance with 
his battalion. He nodded, and seemed to encourage 
me. I listened intently for some indication as to what 
was about to occur. I rejoiced at the thought that the 
King had perhaps been rescued on the way, and that 
he was already beyond the reach of danger. As, however, 
my eyes were bent in the direction of the Madeleine, I 
suddenly espied a body of cavalry which was coming up 
at a trot, and, immediately after it, a carriage drawn by 
two horses and surrounded by a double row of horse- 
men followed. No doubt could now exist ; the victim 
was at hand. My sight became dim, and I looked at my 
son ; he also was deadly pale. 

*The carriage stopped at the foot of the scaffold. 
The King was sitting on the back seat on the right ; 
next to him was his confessor, and on the front seat two 
gendarmes. The latter came down first ; then the priest 
stepped out, and he was directly followed by the King, 
who appeared even more collected and calm than when 
I saw him at Versailles and in the Tuileries. 

* As he approached the steps of the scaffold I cast a 
last glance around. The people were silent, the drums 
were sounding, and not the slightest sign of a rescue 
being at hand was given. Charlemagne was as 
troubled as I was ; as to my brother Martin, he was 
younger and had more firmness. He advanced respect- 
fully, took off his hat, and told the King that he must 
take his coat off. 

* " There is no necessity,'* answered he ; " despatch 
me as I am now." 



THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVI. 283 

' My brother insisted, and added that it was indis- 
pensably necessary to bind his hands. 

' This last observation moved him greatly. He 
reddened, and exclaimed, "What! would you dare to 
touch me ? Here is my coat, but do not lay a finger on 
me!" 

' After saying this he took off his coat. Charlemagne 
came to Martin's assistance, and, scarcely knowing how 
to address the illustrious victim, he said in a cold tone, 
which could hardly conceal his profound emotion, " It is 
absolutely necessary. The execution cannot proceed 
otherwise." 

' In my turn I interfered, and bending to the ear of 
the priest, " Monsieur TAbbe," I said, " ask the King to 
submit. While I tie his hands we can gain time, and 
perhaps some assistance may be forthcoming." 

' The abbe looked sadly and eagerly in my face, and 
then addressing the King : " Sire," said he, " submit to 
this last sacrifice, which shall make you look more like 
our Saviour." 

* The King held out his hands, while his confessor 
was presenting a crucifix to his lips. Two assistants 
tied the hands which had wielded a sceptre. He then 
ascended the steps of the scaffold, supported by the 
worthy priest. "Are these drums going to sound for 
ever?" he said to Charlemagne. On reaching the plat- 
form, he advanced to the side where the crowd was the 
thickest, and made such an imperative sign that the 
drummers stopped for a moment. 

' " Frenchmen ! " he exclaimed, in a strong voice, 



284 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

" you see your King ready to die for you. May my 
blood cement your happiness ! I die innocent of what 
I am charged with ! " 

* He was about to continue when Santerre, who was 
at the head of his staff, ordered the drummers to beat, 
and nothing more could be heard. 

* In a moment he was bound to the weigh-plank, and 
a few seconds afterwards, while under my touch the knife 
was sliding down, he could still hear the voice of the 
priest pronouncing these words : 

* " Son of Saint-Louis, ascend to Heaven !" 

* Thus died the unfortunate prince, who might have 
been saved by a thousand well armed men ; and really 
I am at loss to understand the notice which I received 
the day before the execution, that some attempt at rescue 
was to be made. The slightest signal would have been 
sufficient to cause a diversion in his favour ; for if when 
Gros, my assistant, showed the King's head to the 
multitude some cries of triumph were uttered, the 
greater part of the crowd turned away with profound 
horror.' 

Such is the account which my grandfather left us of 
the death of Louis XVI. It is in conformity with the 
letter which he had the courage to write to the * Ther- 
mometre du Jour,' to correct some erroneous allegations 
contained in that paper. 

The narrative I have just given essentially differs 
from that of M. de Lamartine in his 'Histoire des 
Girondins ; ' but, however great may be the authority of 
the eminent historian, his account cannot, for accuracy, 



THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVI. 285 

be compared with my grandfather's. He has seen fit to 
represent Charles Henri as speaking contemptuously to 
the King, and even raising his hand to strike him. This 
is a gross fabrication, and I need not take the trouble 
to show its absurdity. 



END OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 



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