1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Damiens, Robert François

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DAMIENS, ROBERT FRANÇOIS (1715–1757), a Frenchman who attained notoriety by his attack on Louis XV. of France in 1757, was born in a village near Arras in 1715, and early enlisted in the army. After his discharge, he became a menial in the college of the Jesuits in Paris, and was dismissed from this as well as from other employments for misconduct, his conduct earning for him the name of Robert le Diable. During the disputes of Clement XI. with the parlement of Paris the mind of Damiens seems to have been excited by the ecclesiastical disorganization which followed the refusal of the clergy to grant the sacraments to the Jansenists and Convulsionnaires; and he appears to have thought that peace would be restored by the death of the king. He, however, asserted, perhaps with truth, that he only intended to frighten the king without wounding him severely. On the 5th of January 1757, as the king was entering his carriage, he rushed forward and stabbed him with a knife, inflicting only a slight wound. He made no attempt to escape, and was at once seized. He was condemned as a regicide, and sentenced to be torn in pieces by horses in the Place de Grève. Before being put to death he was barbarously tortured with red-hot pincers, and molten wax, lead, and boiling oil were poured into his wounds. After his death his house was razed to the ground, his brothers and sisters were ordered to change their names, and his father, wife, and daughter were banished from France.

See Pièces originales et procédures du procès fait à Robert François Damiens (Paris, 1757).