May 21st, 2012 Headsman
On this date in 1484, the onetime royal barber turned noble scoundrel was hanged at the terrifying Montfaucon gibbet.
The scheming Olivier le Daim (English Wikipedia page | French), who ought to be patron saint of networking, got himself a gig as the sovereign’s coiffeur and glad-handed his way from straight razors all the way to the aristocracy. A presumably smooth-shaved Louis XI created him comte de Meulant.
Louis was an inveterate schemer known as the “Universal Spider”, and Olivier — excuse me, the comte — from his sprawling fortified manor proved an eager confederate. As Louis had a gift for infuriating the realm’s noble houses, he liked to elevate commoners into his entourage, men like our “Meulant” and Cardinal Balue whose loyalty could be relied upon since they owed their positions to the crown.
“That terrible Figaro whom Providence, the great maker of dramas, mingled so artistically in the long and bloody comedy of the reign of Louis XI,” Victor Hugo wrote of our man in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. “This barber of the king had three names. At court he was politely called Olivier le Daim (the Deer); among the people Olivier the Devil. His real name was Olivier le Mauvais.” [Meaning “the bad”, as with “Charles le Mauvais”, the king Charles the Bad — a real bastard.]
In the great tradition of commoners handpicked for royal favor “the Devil” attracted plenty of resentment displaced from the king himself.
And if, according to everyone else, Oliver the Bad was a swaggering, nasty villain, he still remained loyal to Louis all the way to the latter’s deathbed. Louis recommended him to his successors’ favor, but once the Spider King was gone the put-upon lords of the realm vented their blueblooded spleens upon Olivier. (A servant of Olivier’s named Daniel also suffered the same fate.)
It’s not clear to me that history records the exact charge furnishing the pretext for his execution this date — this suggests abuse of his power to order executions — but it does certainly bequeath us this epitaph:
Cii gist le Diable
Baptisé le Dain
Also on this date
- 2013: Five beheaded and crucified in Jizan
- 1940: Cayetano Redondo, former mayor of Madrid
- 1894: Six anarchists in Barcelona
- 1997: Bruce Edwin Callins, in the machinery of death
- 1894: Emile Henry, because there are no innocent bourgeois
- 1425: Parisina Malatesta and Ugo d'Este, for incest