“Execution of Louis XVI”, Etching, graveur: Isidore-Stanislas Helman [1743-1806?], graveur [eau-forte] Antoine-Jean Duclos [1742-1795]. Illustrateur: Charles Monnet [1732-180?] Bibliotheque Nationale de France - nota bene: the severed head being exhibited to the crowd
The world is aghast and revolted by “the savage, barbaric” beheading of two journalists and a tourist by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS or ISAL] and an Algerian jihadist group. Taking a high moral ground President Obama denounced these dastardly deeds with statements from the White House and the United Nations.
Yet America’s closest ally England has a proud and colorful tradition of beheadings, beheading being an equal opportunity employer. Between 1076 and 1697 more than 190 notables, ladies-in-waiting, earls, duchesses, barons, a couple of Queens [Ann Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scotts, and lest we forget Lady Jane Grey, the Queen For-9-Days from July 10 to 19, 1553], Secretaries of State and Lords of the Privy Seal [Thomas Cromwell] were executed for various misdeeds real and imagined at the Tower of London and elsewhere. Some were beheaded posthumously [Thomas Cromwell], which seems pointless and a bit much.
With the advent of a unified Great Britain in 1707 beheadings continued apace but the tradition was expanded by the execution of Jeremiah Brandeth in 1817 first hanged and then gratuitously beheaded while others were drawn and quartered after the beheading, overkill if you ask me.
France is the hands down winner of the Execution Olympics having beheaded by guillotine some 40,000 of its citizens, commoners and aristocrats alike, during its glorious Revolution celebrated every Bastille Day on July 14 with pomp and circumstance. I do not wish to rain on their parade by reminding them that they decapitated, in broad daylight and in public, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barry and even Antoine Lavoisier, the Father of Modern Chemistry.