Today in 1793, Louis XVI was executed under orders of the National Convention.
“I remained alone in the chamber, overwhealmed with sorrow, and almost without sense of feeling. The drums and trumpets proclaimed His Majesty’s departure from the Tower…An hour after, discharges of artillery, and cries of Vive la Nation! Vive la Republique! were heard…The best of Kings was no more!”
-Jean-Baptiste Clery, A Journal of the Occurrences at the Temple (1793)
“The hangman addressed himself to his office. But he had been disconcerted by what the Duke had said. The first blow inflicted only a slight wound. The Duke struggled, rose from the block, and looked reproachfully at the executioner. The head sank down once more. The stroke was repeated again and again; but still the neck was not severed, and the body continued to move. Yells of rage and horror rose from the crowd. Ketch flung down the axe with a curse. `I cannot do it,’ he said; `my heart fails me.’ `Take up the axe, man,’ cried the sheriff. ‘Fling him over the rails,’ roared the mob. At length the axe was taken up. Two more blows extinguished the last remains of life; but a knife was used to separate the head from the shoulders. The crowd was wrought up to such an ecstasy of rage that the executioner was in danger of being torn in pieces, and was conveyed away under a strong guard.”
The execution of the Duke of Monmouth (1685), in Lord Macaulay’s History of England (1849-1861)
”[…he] looked those who were to execute him in the face; and thinking they stood at too great a distance, spake to them to come nearer; to which one of them said, “I’ll warrent you, sir, we’ll hit you:” to which he answered smiling, “friends, I have been nearer you when you have missed me.[…] Now do you worst.”
Edward Hyde on Sir George Lisel’s execution (1610-1648), The History of the Rebellion (1702-04)