Last words at the guillotine, collected by Daniel Gerould in Guillotine: Its Legend and Lore (1992):
- The Comte de Sillery, who was lame, had trouble climbing the steps. When executioner Charles-Henri Sanson told him to hurry, he said, “Can’t you wait a minute? After all, it is I who am going to die. You have plenty of time.”
- As he neared the scaffold, someone suggested to astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly that he put on a coat. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Are you afraid I might catch cold?”
- A man named Vigié sang the “Marseillaise” at the top of his lungs as he ascended the steps and continued until the blade fell.
- When an assistant moved to remove his boots, Philippe Égalité suggested, “They’ll be much easier to remove afterward.”
- The Duc de Châtelet attempted suicide by cutting his veins with a piece of broken glass and had to be carried to the tumbril. When Sanson offered to dress his wounds, he said, “Don’t bother, I will be losing the rest of it just now.”
- Journalist Jean-Louis Carra told the executioner, “It annoys me to die. I should have liked to see what follows.”
- General Baron de Biron was executed on the last day of the year. He said, “I will soon arrive in the next world — just in time to wish all my friends there a happy new year!”
- Chrétien Malesherbes asked leave to finish winding his watch before Sanson began his duties.
- When the executioner told Giuseppe Fieschi to put on his coat to keep from shivering, he said, “I shall be a lot colder when they bury me.”
- Georges Danton told the executioner, “Show my head to the people. It’s worth looking at!”
Catching sight of the statue of liberty opposite the scaffold, Madame Roland cried, “Oh, Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!”