2 comments February 25th, 2012 Headsman
On this date in 1897, all Versailles turned out to witness the beheading of recidivist pedophile Henri-Osime Basset, a 23-year-old who had kidnapped and strangled to death (French link) 13-year-old Louise Millier the previous summer.
Executioner Anatole Deibler and crew arrived at 3:30 a.m. to erect the portable guillotine at the pont Colbert* for the occasion, under the eyes of a curious pre-dawn crowd restrained by dragoons; by 4:45 la sinistre machine was fully installed.
About an hour after that, the prisoner Basset was awoken from his fitful sleep — he’d been plagued by restless guillotine-themed dreams lately, for some reason — and advised that his application for presidential clemency had been denied.
Le Petit Parisien nevertheless found the prisoner in steady enough spirits for his expiatory moment. He took the bad news with equanimity, received communion, and stuck close by the comforting priest to whom he had already given his last confession. (And who helpfully steeled the doomed man’s nerves with a steady supply of rum, cigars, and Bourdeaux wine.)
In any event, the practiced French executioners did not give Basset long to stew on his fate. After the toilette to prepare him for the blade, he was out the door shortly after 6 a.m. — broad daylight by now, and the crowd swollen in anticipation of the show. The blade fell at 6:33, and the remains of the late Henri-Osime Basset were immediately deposited at the Cimetirie des Gonards.
* This is pont Colbert in Versailles, not the cool then-new steel bridge in Dieppe, which is now the last hydraulic turn bridge still in use in Europe.
Also on this date
- 1601: Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
- 1920: Albert Fournier
- 1969: The peasants of Thanh Phong (allegedly)
- 1716: Four Jacobite rebels at Liverpool
- 1922: Henri Landru, French Bluebeard
- 1536: Jacob Hutter, Anabaptist leader
- 1879: Charles Peace, Victorian cat burglar