During the French Revolution M. Guillotin invented a machine for slicing off heads quickly and painlessly. It was pretty successful -though not quite so clean-cut as some people imagine. It took a couple of chops to get through fat King Louis' neck. But the idea was 500 years after a British invention 'The Halifax Gibbet'.
The Guillotine wasn't a French invention. There was one in Halifax, West Yourkshire, from the 13th to the 17th century. The earliest recorded execution was in 1286. Convicted criminals did have one thing going for them. For hundreds of years the law stated that if a condemned person could withdraw his or her head after the blade was released and before it hit the bottom, then he or she was free. The good old British idea of a 'sporting chance'. The one condition: that person could never return.