1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Roué

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ROUÉ, a dissipated debauche. The word is French, and its original meaning was "broken on the wheel." Breaking on the wheel was a form of execution reserved in France, and some other countries, for crimes of peculiar atrocity. A roué, therefore, came by a natural process to be understood to mean a man morally worse than a pendard or gallows-bird, who only deserved hanging for common crimes. He was also a leader in wickedness, since the chief of a gang of brigands (for instance) would be broken on the wheel, while his obscure followers were merely hanged. Philip, duke of Orleans, who was regent of France from 1715 to 1723, gave the term the sense of impious and callous debauchee, which it has borne since his time, by habitually applying it to the very bad male company who amused his privacy and his leisure. The locus classicus for the origin of this use of the epithet is in the Memoirs of Saint-Simon (vol. xii. pp. 441-46, ed. Chéruel and Regnier, Paris, 1873-86).