1793 – After being found guilty of treason by the French Convention, Louis XVI of France is executed by guillotine.
The Girondins were partial to keeping the deposed king under arrest, both as a hostage and a guarantee for the future. The more radical members – mainly the Commune and Parisian deputies who would soon be known as the Mountain – argued for Louis's immediate execution. The legal background of many of the deputies made it difficult for a great number of them to accept an execution without due process of some sort, and it was voted that the deposed monarch should be tried before the National Convention, the organ that housed the representatives of the sovereign people.
On 11 December, among crowded and silent streets, the deposed king was brought from the Temple to stand before the Convention and hear his indictment, an accusation of High Treason and Crimes against the State. On 26 December, his counsel, Raymond de Sèze, delivered Louis's response to the charges, with the assistance of François Tronchet and Malesherbes.
On 15 January 1793, the Convention, composed of 721 deputies, voted out the verdict, which was a foregone conclusion – 693 voted guilty, and none voted for acquittal. The next day, a voting roll-call was carried out in order to decide upon the fate of the king, and the result was, for such a dramatic decision, uncomfortably close. 288 deputies voted against death and for some other alternative, mainly some means of imprisonment or exile. 72 deputies voted for the death penalty, but subject to a number of delaying conditions and reservations. 361 deputies voted for Louis's immediate death.
The next day, a motion to grant Louis reprieve from the death sentence was voted down; 310 deputies requested mercy, 380 voted for the execution of the death penalty. This decision would be final. On Monday, 21 January 1793, stripped of all titles and honorifics by the republican government, Citoyen Louis Capet was guillotined in front of a cheering crowd in what today is the Place de la Concorde. The executioner, Charles Henri Sanson, testified that the former King had bravely met his fate.
As Louis mounted the scaffold he appeared dignified and resigned. He attempted a speech in which he reasserted his innocence and pardoned those responsible for his death. He declared himself willing to die and prayed that the people of France would be spared a similar fate. He seemed about to say more when Antoine-Joseph Santerre, a general in the National Guard (France), cut Louis off by ordering a drum roll. The former king was then quickly beheaded.
Accounts of Louis’ beheading indicate that the blade did not sever his neck entirely the first time. There are also accounts of a blood-curdling scream issuing from Louis after the blade fell but this is unlikely as the blade severed Louis’s spine. It is agreed however that, as Louis's blood dripped to the ground, many in the crowd ran forward to dip their handkerchiefs in it.
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