Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Off With His Head!

As Carrie Johnson continues to be nicknamed ‘Carrie Antoinette,’ she could buy a Napoleonic bone model of a guillotine and shout out “Off with his head!” about her enemies instead of gyrating to Abba with her groupies in her Downing Street flat

Whilst the command “Off with his head!” or “Off with her head!” is most commonly associated with The Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Queen Margaret in Henry VI Part III, guillotines used to execute such a gruesome order were most commonly brought before the public for beheadings during the French Revolution after their introduction by Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.


This deadly piece of capital punishment apparatus undoubtedly counts Marie Antoinette – currently trending online with Carrie Johnson getting constantly compared to her – as its most famous ‘sitter’ and remarkably it remained as the official method of execution in France until the death penalty was abolished in 1981.


Reflecting the ‘Carrie Antoinette’ nickname she’s gone and got herself stuck with, now, perhaps, the beleaguered Prime Minister’s wife could purchase a 19th century Napoleonic prisoner-of-war working model of a guillotine in an auction in London this week. She could even use it as a device to play a game of “off with his head!” whilst imagining the fate of those in Westminster who’ve caused her woes and maybe, indeed, it’d provide her, Josh Grimstone and Henry Newman with alternative entertainment to gyrating to Abba and chucking wine over those very expensive Lulu Lytle sofas.


Measuring 41 centimetres by 25.5 centimetres by 20 centimetres, the carved bone five tier platform connected by steps with a working guillotine to be offered was most likely made by a French prisoner-of-war during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1793 to 1815. It truly is amazing to think that someone under such adversity was able to get this creative and that it has survived in such good condition is equally remarkable also.


Bonhams will sell the model on Tuesday 15th February at their Knightsbridge, London auction house’s ‘The Connoisseur’s Library Sale’ and have set an estimate of £6,000 to £9,000 ($8,100 to $12,200, €7,200 to €10,800 or درهم29,800, to درهم44,700). We’ll be sure to send a spy to the auction room to look out for the current Mrs Johnson.


Elsewhere previously at Christie’s in June 2013, a larger and more detailed Napoleonic prisoner-of-war bone model of a ‘Man-O-War’ ship measuring 89 centimetres by 69 centimetres sold for £40,000 ($54,200, €47,900 or درهم198,900) against an estimate of just £20,000 to £30,000 ($27,100 to $40,600, €23,900 to €35,900 or درهم99,400 to درهم149,200).



Napoleonic prisoner-of-war working bone model of a guillotine 1
During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1793 – 1815), large numbers of French prisoners were housed in open prisons throughout Britain. Their daily food ration included half a pound of beef or mutton on the bone. Subsequently, the bone became a readily available source of raw material from which a variety of objects were crafted. Other materials were also used, including wood, horn, brass, silk, straw and glass. Typically, the models were not made to scale as accurate scale plans were not available and tools were limited.
Napoleonic prisoner-of-war working bone model of a guillotine 2
The item offered comes with a model prisoner with two detachable heads, complete with polychromed and articulated figures including an officer, a drummer, four soldiers and an executioner.
Napoleonic prisoner-of-war model of a Man-O-War
The ‘Man-O-War’ bone model that sold at Christie’s featured ninety-two guns, a well-carved classical soldier figurehead, planking, deck features and a galleried transom carved with mermaids and figures. It had six long boats, was fully rigged and was enclosed within a Perspex case.
Marie Antoinette execution by guillotine
Marie Antoinette’s execution by guillotine on 16th October 1793 at 12.15pm is most certainly the most infamous example of death by that device. Her last recorded words were: “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès” or “Pardon me, sir, I did not do it on purpose.”

Alternative Names By Which Guillotines Were Known

  • The Paper Trimmer.
  • The Half-Moon.
  • The Machine.
  • The Regretful Climb.
  • The National Razor.
  • The Timers of Justice.
  • The Silence Machine.
  • The Widow.



Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.


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