Crime and Criminals

Torture in 18th Century France: An Irishman’s View

Before the guillotine was proposed by Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin in October of 1789, an Irish gentleman visited Paris, France, in 1787. While in Paris, he wrote a number of letters to a friend in Ireland. He noted in the letters that Frenchmen used various methods of torture in 18th Century France. This torture was applied…

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Pierre Poulailler the 18th Century Robber

Despite being a handsome child, Pierre Poulailler acquired a reputation at birth of belonging to the devil. He demonstrated this devilish reputation when, even as a toddler, he behaved incorrigible. At the age of ten, he ran away and became a cabin-boy on a merchant ship, but his sea career did not last long. He…

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21 Facts About the Guillotine in the 1700s

Before the guillotine, there were other beheading devices. One early one used in the town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, in the sixteenth century was an alternative to beheading by axe or sword and called the Halifax Gibbet. Yet, the decapitation machine that would become the most well-known was the French guillotine, named for Dr.…

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The Four Soldiers of the La Rochelle Conspiracy

In 1821, under the Bourbon Restoration, a sergeant-major named Jean-Francois Louis Leclerc Bories was in the 45th regiment. He was also garrisoned at Paris. While there, he was initiated into the society of the Carbonari, a group of secret revolutionary societies originally founded in Italy that influenced secret societies in France.

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Madame Marie Lafarge, Murder, and Arsenic

Charles Pouch-Lafarge was a coarse and repulsive 28-year-old man. He was also not having much luck in life. He had married and his wife had died shortly thereafter. In addition, his father had purchased property in the hamlet of Le Glandier in Corrèze and it had fallen into disrepair. To make it profitable, Lafarge turned…

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Murder of the Duchess de Choiseul-Praslin

Seventeen-year-old Fanny Altarice Rosalba Sébastiani married nineteen-year-old Charles Laure Hugues Théobald, Duke de Choiseul-Praslin on 18 October 1824. The Duke was a French nobleman, politician, and leading figure under the reign of Louis Philippe I. The Duke and Duchess had been visiting in Praslin and had returned to Paris on the Corbeil railway on Tuesday…

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The Murder of Comte d’Antraigues and His Wife

Emmanuel Henri Louis Alexandre de Launay, comte d’Antraigues, was a French citizen. While living in France, d’Antraigues become involved in an incident known as the Favras Plot. When his involvement was discovered he fled to avoid execution. His mistress, a celebrated French operatic soprano named Madame de Saint-Huberty, followed him. They eventually married and lived…

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Being Broken on the Wheel in the 18th Century

In France, in the 1700s, when people were condemned to death, those convicted of certain atrocities were sometimes condemned to be broken on the wheel in a public execution. Sometimes after being broken on the wheel, blows were also given on the chest or the abdomen of the condemned person. These blows were called coups…

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Famous 19th Century French Swindler, Anthelme Collet

One of the most audacious and successful nineteenth century swindlers, or as the French say, chevaliers d’industrie, was Anthelme Collet, a man described as a rather “ill-favoured looking fellow.” Collet was born on 10 April 1785, in Belley, a commune in the Ain department in eastern France. By the time he was 35 years old,…

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Murder by the French Priest Delacollonge

The French priest Delacollonge lived in Dijon. On occasion a woman by the name of Fanny Besson visited him at his rectory. Besson who was a milliner and said to be “mild, modest, and very religious,”[1] was renting a room in Dijon from a Madame Vulot. Besson told Vulot that her “husband had fled for…

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