The last people to be executed by guillotine in Britain were the Marquis of Argyll in 1661 and his son the Earl of Argyll in 1685.
The use of the guillotine in France began with a proposal submitted on 10 October 1789 by Dr Joseph Guillotin in an Assembly debate about the Penal Code. This included a recommendation that death, by means of decapitation, without the accompaniment of torture, should become the sole and standard form of capital punishment in France.
The first guillotine execution in France was in 1792. The last public guillotining was in June 1939, and the last use of all was for the execution of convicted murderer Hamida Djandoubi on 10 September 1977.
One of the more gruesome incidents associated with the guillotine occurred in 1905 when Dr Beaurieux experimented with the head of Henri Languille, who was guillotined at 5.30am on 28 June.
'Chance served me well for the observation, which I wished to make,' Beaurieux reported, describing how 'the head fell on the severed surface of the neck and I did not therefore have to take it up in my hands. I was not obliged even to touch it in order to set it upright.'
After waiting for the spasmodic twitching to cease, the doctor loudly and clearly called out Languille's name. He reports that the eyelids lifted and 'Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves.'
When they had settled shut again, he repeated the name, with the same effect. A third call, however, elicited no movement. 'I have just recounted to you with rigorous exactness what I was able to observe. The whole thing had lasted twenty-five to thirty seconds.'