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Christopher Lee Witnessed The Last Public Execution By Guillotine

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Christopher Lee Witnessed The Last Public Execution By Guillotine

Sir Christopher Lee witnessed the last public execution carried out by guillotine as just one of the many parts of his incredible life.

On 17 June 1939, convicted serial killer Eugen Weidmann was publicly executed by guillotine in Versailles, France after murdering and robbing six people.

When police tried to arrest Weidmann, he opened fire on them and was only apprehended after wounded officers wrestled him to the ground and knocked him unconscious with a hammer.

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Three months after his trial he was beheaded outside the Saint-Pierre prison in Versailles, but 'hysterical behaviour' by spectators led to France banning public executions.

One of the people in the crowd who witnessed the last public execution by guillotine was a then 17-year-old Christopher Lee, who was stopping briefly in Paris on his way to the French Riviera.

In his 93 years in this world, Sir Christopher Lee lived a life most could only dream of. Credit: Alamy
In his 93 years in this world, Sir Christopher Lee lived a life most could only dream of. Credit: Alamy

In his autobiography, he described a 'powerful wave of howling and shrieking' that greeted Weidmann’s appearance on the street but admitted he couldn't actually watch the execution.

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"I turned my head, but I heard," he told a documentary in 1998.

It is just one of the many fascinating episodes in the life of an incredible man who would go on to be a war hero, icon of cinema and heavy metal artist.

This was not Lee's first brush with history, having met two of Rasputin's assassins during his childhood, while his mother married the uncle of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.

He would go on to have plenty more, as just a few months later the Second World War broke out and Lee volunteered to join the Finnish army in the Winter War, their fight against the Soviet Union's invasion.

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However, by his own admission Lee could shoot but not ski and said he probably wouldn't have survived had he been sent to the frontlines.

Many of the British volunteers were kept away from the frontlines of the war and Lee spent two weeks on guard duty before returning home.

Two years later, he joined Britain's war effort against the Nazi's, signing up with the Royal Air Force before applying to join RAF Intelligence.

The actor once told Peter Jackson he knew what a man getting stabbed in the back sounded like while filming Lord of the Rings. Credit: Alamy
The actor once told Peter Jackson he knew what a man getting stabbed in the back sounded like while filming Lord of the Rings. Credit: Alamy
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The actor claimed that during the war he was occasionally attached to special forces units and hunted down Nazis, which surprisingly helped him during filming for Lord of the Rings.

They were shooting the death scene of Lee's character, the evil wizard Saruman, as he is stabbed in the back by Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) when director Peter Jackson tried to give him some instructions on how to behave.

Lee's response was to ask Jackson: "Have you any idea what kind of noise happens when somebody’s stabbed in the back? Because I do."

Apparently it's less of a loud scream and more of a quiet gasp as the breath is forced out of the victim's body.

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After the war, Lee launched into an acting career which made him an icon of cinema from his early work in horror movies to later roles in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

He also produced albums of heavy metal music and might have been part of the inspiration for James Bond, because when you're living such a legendary life why not?

Lee sadly passed away at the age of 93 in 2015.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Celebrity, Crime, Lord of the Rings

Joe Harker
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