One has to be careful what you read before bedtime. I was reading that magnificent book – Catherine the Great – Portrait of a Woman, written by Robert K Massie when late at night I came to the chapter on the French Revolution which had an enormous effect all over Europe and even so far as Russia – especially the beheading of Louis V1 and Marie Antoinette (which had a great effect on Catherine).
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Then Massie discusses the guillotine which was supposedly a more humane manner of execution because this sudden ‘chop’ is a quick death BUT there are those who believe the brain does not die immediately and that awareness still lasts for a while. He mentions the case of a doctor that did an experiment where he called the persons’ name and saw the eyes focus and the fludder of the eyelids for a moment. And apparently there were more cases of this kind. *shudder*
NOT BEDTIME READING! BEWARE
From its first use, there has been debate as to whether the guillotine always provided a swift death as Guillotin had hoped. With previous methods of execution intended to be painful, there was little concern about the suffering inflicted. As the guillotine was invented specifically to be humane, however, the issue was seriously considered. The blade cuts quickly enough so that there is relatively little impact on the brain case, and perhaps less likelihood of immediate unconsciousness than with a more violent decapitation, or long-drop hanging.
Audiences to guillotinings told numerous stories of blinking eyelids, speaking, moving eyes, movement of the mouth, even an expression of “unequivocal indignation” on the face of the decapitated Charlotte Corday when her cheek was slapped
Read Here if you dare!
Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: Once upon a time, there was a minor German princess named Sophia. In 1744, at the age of 14, she was taken by her ambitious mother–removed from her family, her religion, and her country–to a foreign land with a single goal: marry a prince and bear him an heir. Once in Russia, she changed her name, learned the language, and went on to become the world’s richest and most powerful woman, ruler of its then-largest empire. She is remembered as Catherine the Great.
There may be no better author than Robert K. Massie to take on the daunting task of documenting this most rare of human lives. Massie, a former president of the Authors Guild, is a seasoned biographer of the 400-year Romanov dynasty, most notably with Peter the Great: His Life and World, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 and remains one of the most arresting biographies I’ve even encountered.
In his page-turning chronicle of Catherine II, Massie (now 82) compiles the most complete and compelling narrative to date of this singular woman. Married to an incompetent man-child who was unwilling or unable to help her fulfill her primary role–giving birth to a son–she ultimately grew to become a trailblazer among monarchs: friend of philosophical giants, incomparable patron of the arts, prosecutor of multiple wars, pioneer of public health, maker of kings, and prodigious serial lover.
Indeed, her accomplishments and shortcomings as an autocrat and a woman make for a remarkable saga, but that’s not to say that just any author could do justice to Catherine’s lasting legacy. (Many have tried.) Massie situates Catherine’s early life and three-decade reign as empress amidst the tumult of the European Enlightenment, enriching his own narrative with telling excerpts of her letters and rich discussions of her political environment and personal motivations.
Put simply, Massie is just the man to take this endlessly fascinating life and craft an utterly memorable book. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman is a towering accomplishment, one of the year’s best books in any genre. –Jason Kirk