Even after his final torture, Robert Damiens' suffering did not end. After he was drawn and quartered (and this went on for some time: due to the stength of Damiens' sinews, six horses were used instead of the usual four; as Card noted, the executioners were eventually forced to "sever the sinews and hack at the joints" (Discipline and Punish 3)) the pieces of his body were burned at the stake. The eyewitness account of M. Bouton, an officer of the watch, recounts the spectacle:

"When the four limbs had been pulled away, the confessors came to speak to him; but his executioner told them that he was dead, though the truth was that I saw the man move, his lower jaw moving... as if he were talking. One of the executioners even said shortly afterwards that when they had lifted the trunk to throw it on the stake, he was stilll alive." (Damiens le regicide 214; emphasis added.)

Seem a little harsh? Bear in mind that Damiens didn't even kill the King: this was all for the attempt. As Foucault points out in Discipline and Punish, breaking any law was considered to be a direct attack on the King (due to the fact that the rule of law embodied, in a very meaningful way, the physical person of the sovereign). Hence the particularly brutal method of Damiens' execution: not only did he break the laws regarding attempted murder (thereby figuratively "assaulting" the monarch), but he tried to kill the king!!.


  • Foucault, M. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison 1978.
  • Zevaes, A. Damiens le regicide 1937.