Crime & Punishment

Victor Hugo and Guernsey: Tapner's death mask

8th March 2019
‘Tu ne tueras pas.’ Pas d’exception. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ No exceptions. [Victor Hugo, 19 Feb. 1854, Marine Terrace, Jersey]. This death mask was kept by Victor Hugo in the Billiard Room in Hauteville House along with his famous drawing of Tapner, 'Le Pendu,' or 'The Hanged Man.' The Billiard Room was also home to portraits of the Hugo family, other favourite drawings, and maps of meaningful places in Hugo's life. The importance of these memoirs of Tapner to Hugo is thus obvious: they were a permanent reminder of the cruelty of man to man, and of his (for him) abject failure to save Tapner from the scaffold. In addition Hugo blamed himself for Tapner's execution, believing that his ardent intervention had actually been counter-productive - that the French government had pressed upon their British allies not to give in to Hugo's wishes, and that the British had complied. This striking photograph of the mask is by the late Guernsey photographer Carel Toms, taken in 1975, and is part of the Guernsey Photographic Archive held at the Priaulx Library.

Unvoluntary escapes, 1719

19th January 2017
Daniel Girard, Castle Porter, that is, prison warden/jailkeeper, lost his prisoner, George Pellew, who had been committed to his care by Jean Dobrée. Pellew owed Dobrée money. The Royal Court, under the auspices of the Juge-Délegué, William Le Marchant, had ruled on 8 March 1719 that Daniel Girard should not be required in any way to compensate Dobrée. Dobrée appealed to the Privy Council, who requested a report on precedents to the Royal Court. The following letter is what the Royal Court produced in reply; on reading it, the Privy Councillors confirmed the Royal Court's initial judgment and dismissed the appeal.

The trial of Jehanne Becquet, 1567

31st July 2015
The good citizens of St Martin's are asked to give evidence in this tragic case. Transcribed by Edith Carey into her notebook, Jehanne Becquet's trial for child murder, with her annotations. From Sir E MacCulloch's MSS. Livre ès Crimes I 60. Jehanne would have known that it was essential for her to show her baby to witnesses, even if it had been stillborn, but she was unable or unwilling to do so. Make your own mind up about her. Do you agree with the court's verdict?

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