This Was The Last Time A Guillotine Was Used In France

Executions are a grim subject, and the execution methods that various countries have employed have been many and terrifying. Few of them, howevet, have been as darkly iconic as the guillotine. Though it's probably most famous for its copious use during the French Revolution, Tony Long of Wired tells us it actually started out as a kingly act of mercy of sorts. Similar devices had already been around for centuries before King Louis XVI of France adapted the guillotine as a "humane" execution method. Unfortunately for him, the tables were soon turned when he and his queen, Marie Antoinette, as well as many others, found out first hand (and head) precisely how the contraption worked. 

Of course, that's all ancient history. The dark reign of the guillotine came and went, and surely, after people stopped wearing powdered wigs, the world started preferring other execution methods that weren't so blatantly screaming "Off with their heads." Or did it? Turns out, there's a very specific time when the guillotine was used for the last time — and chances are, it'll surprise you. Hold on to your heads, because today we look into the last time a guillotine was used in France. 

Somehow, the last guillotine execution was in 1977

September 10, 1977 seems like way too close to today for a guillotine execution, but that was indeed the date France executed its last prisoner with the decapitation device. To put the date in proper context, Kristen Howard of Mental Floss notes that Star Wars premiered in the country the very next day.

The unlucky participant was Hamida Djandoubi, who had been sentenced to death for torturing and murdering his girlfriend. His motivation for this cruel crime was that he didn't like the fact that she had contacted the authorities because he'd attempted to force her into selling herself. So, yeah, Djandoubi was not particularly nice, and neither was his end. After his appeal was denied, he was taken to the guillotine at 4:40 a.m. on the day of his execution, and France's chief executioner Marcel Chevalier did the deed. A doctor attending the event later testified that Djandoubi was responsive up to 30 seconds after his head was severed from the body.

The guillotine had already been under fire as an execution method, and the news of Djandoubi's half-minute added fuel to the flames. Ultimately, his death wasn't just the last guillotine execution in the country — it was the last execution, period. Come 1981, France abolished the death penalty.