“Obviously I wouldn’t have done it, but dude, how the f*ck was I supposed to know what drawing and quartering meant?” – a panicked Robert-Francois Damiens replying to his friend Pierre, after being asked why he had tried to kill the king at the risk of so cruel a punishment.
Regicide had always been a very serious crime, and Louis XV a very petty king. And so, in the age in which our unfortunate subject lived, it had been affirmed that the penalty for killing or even attempting to kill the king would be more than a simple hanging. The French parliament had decided that anyone who threatened the king’s life would be killed by “drawing and quartering.” Though parliament did not invent the method, it revived it in a manner of sorts, as no one had committed regicide in nearly 150 years and therefore such a punishment was neither commonly practiced nor widely known throughout France. Several historians attribute the longevity of this punishment to the greater lack of knowledge, positing that the people of France would have almost assuredly opposed the disemboweling and dismemberment of their fellow countrymen. Continue reading »