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Pride and Punishment

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  • Pride and Punishment

    In France, powerful noblemen who had misused their power and position were punished in a strange but sensible way. Their effigies were executed in public.

    The origin of hanging or beheading an effigy is not known. The first recorded case was in the 13th century, when Thomas de Marle, a nobleman was condemned to death by Louis VI.

    According to French Law, a person accused of a crime can be tried, even if he was not present in person. If he was found guilty and sentenced to death, his effigy was executed instead of him.

    The condemned person would run awayŚnever to be seen again! If he got arrested within 30 years, he would be executed again, but this time in person! This form of punishment was an important weapon in France for over 400 years.

    This was not just a formality either. People thus punished would prefer death to disgrace. They would lose all their property, position, authority and power in just one stroke! The main advantage in this system was that, there was an execution and yet no blood was shed!

    Contemporary French law allows trial in absentia. If the person is found guilty, the text of the judgment is displayed in the main square of the town, where the crime was committed.

    However the execution of the effigies has been discontinued now.

    Visalakshi Ramani