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He did not once break on the wheel,

Original French:  Il ne feut oncques rouart,

Modern French:  Il ne feut oncques rouart,


Breaking wheel

breaking wheel
Klassisches Rädern mit Rad und scharfkantigen Hölzern (Schweizer Chronik des Johannes Stumpf, Augsburg 1586)

Johannes Stumpf [1500–1577]
Schweizer Chronik

breaking wheel

The breaking wheel, also known as the Catherine wheel or simply the wheel, was a torture device used for capital punishment from Antiquity into early modern times for public execution by breaking the criminal’s bones/bludgeoning him to death.

The wheel was typically a large wooden wagon wheel with many radial spokes. The condemned were lashed to the wheel and their limbs were beaten with a club or iron cudgel, with the gaps in the wheel allowing the limbs to give way and break.

Alternatively, the condemned were spread-eagled and broken on a saltire, a cross consisting of two wooden beams nailed in an “X” shape, after which the victim’s mangled body might be displayed on the wheel.

A wheel was sometimes used for the actual bludgeoning. During the execution for parricide of Franz Seuboldt in Nuremberg on 22 September 1589, a wheel was used as a cudgel. The executioner used wooden blocks to raise Seuboldt’s limbs, then broke them by slamming a wagon wheel down onto the limb.

The survival time after being “broken” could be extensive. Accounts exist of a 14th-century murderer who lived for three days after undergoing the punishment.

Pieter Spierenburg mentions a reference in sixth century author Gregory of Tours as a possible origin for the punishment of breaking someone on the wheel. In Gregory’s time, a criminal could be placed in a deep track, and then a heavily laden wagon was driven over him.

In France, the condemned were placed on a cartwheel with their limbs stretched out along the spokes over two sturdy wooden beams. The wheel was made to revolve slowly, and a large hammer or an iron bar was then applied to the limb over the gap between the beams, breaking the bones. This process was repeated several times per limb. Sometimes it was “mercifully” ordered that the executioner should strike the condemned on the chest and abdomen, blows known as coups de grâce (French: “blows of mercy”), which caused fatal injuries. Without those, the broken man could last hours and even days, during which birds could peck at the helpless victim. Eventually, shock and dehydration caused death. In France, a special grace, the retentum, could be granted, by which the condemned was strangled after the second or third blow, or in special cases, even before the breaking began.

Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Roüart

Rourreau, non de rotare roüer; mais de raucus, entant qu’il enroüe ceux qu’il étrangle.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Œuvres de Maitre François Rabelais
Jacob Le Duchat [1658–1735], editor
Amsterdam: Henri Bordesius, 1711
Google Books

executioner

Roüart, in Rabelais. This, Cotgrave says, signifies a Marshal, or Provost-Marshal, an Officer that breaks, or sees broken, Malefactors on the Wheel. Then Roüart must come from rotare, roüer, roüe, a Wheel. But M. du Chat, in the present Sense of the Executioners strangling the Offenders in question says Roüart comes from raucus, hoarse, because he by that Action makes them hoarse.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
The Works of Francis Rabelais, M.D.
John Ozell [d. 1743], editor
London: J. Brindley, 1737

roüart

Bourreau: soit par allusion à rotare rouer, soit que cet ancien mot vienne de raucus, en tant que le Bourreau enrouë ceux qu’il prend à la gorge.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Le Rabelais moderne, ou les Œuvres de Rabelais mises à la portée de la plupart des lecteurs
François-Marie de Marsy [1714-1763], editor
Amsterdam: J.-F. Bernard, 1752
Google Books

rouart

Rourreau, non de rotare roüer; mais de raucus, entant qu’il enroüe ceux qu’il étrangle. (L.) — Ce mot signifie certainement le bourreau qui roue les condamnés à la roue: on n’a jamais dit rouer de raucus, pour étrangler, ce verbe, ainsi que roué, vient de rota, roue. Aussi Pantagruel, c’est-à-dire François Ier et Henri Ii, qui faisoient mourir les hérétiques par le supplice de la corde et de l’estrapade, ne feut oncques rouart. Ils ne rouoient pas, ils pendoient, ou plutôt ils laissoient les fanatiques exercer leur rage, leur cruauté et leur avarice, en pendant, au nom d’un Dieu crucifié et clément, tous ceux qu’ils vouloient dépouiller ou dont ils vouloient se venver. On élevoit les martyrs de leur créance au gibet, avec une poulie et une corde, pour les faire périr par la flamme et par la fumée du feu qu’on allumoit sous eux. Rabelais, qui n’osoit s’expliquer sur ce qu’il pensoit d’une telle inhumanité, dit ici que Pantagruel tenoit à la gorge ces misérables, et qu’en cet état ils se plaignoient de la manière insupportable dont il leur chauffoit le tison. Voilà bien la corde de la potence: peut-on lire rien de plus clair et même rien de plus hardi? Voyez la note 8, strophe 6, chapitre ii, livre I.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Œuvres de Rabelais (Edition Variorum)
Charles Esmangart [1736-1793], editor
Paris: Chez Dalibon, 1823
Google Books

Rouart

Fr. rouart, one who breaks men on the wheel. This is a very delicate and politic piece of exposulation against the hangings and burnings of Protestants which went on under Francis and Henry II. It was dangerous ground, and I think the effect of it increased by the almost eloquent exposition of the good uses to which hemp could be put. This passage may be compared with the sly stroke in iii 29 on the occupation of the Theologians.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Gargantua and Pantagruel
William Francis Smith [1842–1919], translator
London, 1893

rouart

Bourreau. «Rouart, dit Robert Estienne (1549), c’est à dire prevost des mareschaux, pour ce qu’il faict mettre les malfaiteurs sur la roue». (Sainéan, t. II, p. 114.)

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Oeuvres. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre
Abel Lefranc [1863-1952], editor
Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931
Archive.org

rouart

Bourreau, qui soumet au supplice de la roue.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Le Tiers Livre
Jean Céard, editor
Librarie Général Français, 1995

rouart

Bourreau: Ce serait peu flatteur de comparer Pantagruel (sortout s’il représent François Ier) à un bourreau!

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Le Tiers Livre
Pierre Michel, editor
Paris: Gallimard, 1966

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Posted 30 January 2013. Modified 9 December 2015.

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