Sunday, January 27, 2013

Infernal Machine

Giuseppe Fieschi's Infernal Machine - a multibarrel gun used to attempt to kill King Louis Philippe
The Infernale Machine (or what's left of it) - a multibarrel gun. There is something to be said for proper aiming.
On July 28, 1835, the Corsican Giuseppe Fieschi tried to assassinate the French King Louis-Philippe I using his "Machine Infernale" a set of 25 barrels as a single gun. He killed 18 (including former Prime Minister Édouard Mortier) and wounded more but the king was virtually unharmed (as was his sons).  Of course, in an age before antibiotics even a minor wound had the potential to be fatal. Fieschi was wounded by his machine, captured, nursed back to health, tried and executed for attempted regicide.

partial portrait of Giuseppe Fieschi from the head up because the French had cut his head off.
Portrait of Giuseppe Fieschi (after his execution by guillotine – which can be seen in the upper right)

Since it was to be fired from a third story window down towards the boulevard, the rear was elevated about 8 inches higher than the front. The ends of the muskets rested in notches to keep them steady. Some of the notches were a half-inch higher than one another to alter the aim from one barrel to another. With the barrels parallel and loaded with "grape shot" (3-4 slugs, 13-14 buck shot, and then 3-4 more slugs; making a total of about 19 to 22 projectiles per barrel) the intended spread for this fusillade was about 25 feet wide by 10 feet high (or so says An Historical and Biographical Sketch of Fieschi by A. Bouveiron, 1835). If the barrels had been slightly converging instead of mostly parallel then it may have been more effective. Or if his goal was to kill as many people as possible then having them diverge more (like a duckfoot gun) may have been more effective.

Giuseppe Fieschi's Infernal Machine used to attempt to kill King Louis Philippe
note the wave like, roughly hewn support under the barrels to adjust the elevation.

Four of the barrels failed to fire, two other barrels exploded in the room injuring Fieschi, two exploded outwards, and one had not been made with a touch hole for ignition so it had been left unloaded. Four of the barrels were stamped with the mark "rebut" (waste) and 3 of those so marked were among those that exploded.

Explosion De La Machine Infernale
Explosion De La Machine Infernale, woodcut engraving by Jean-Baptiste Thiebault and Jacques Prosper Hubert, 1835

With a total of 7 failures, only 18 barrels and approximately 342 to 396 projectiles attacked the king.  There was no pivot or swivel so once positioned the aim could not be refined. The French military used a similar design called jeu d'orgue d'artillerie (organ playing artillery) except it had fewer barrels, a more fanned out design and was on a pivot to be aimable.

diagram of Giuseppe Fieschi's Infernal Machine and his attempt to kill French King Louis Philippe
diagram showing Fieschi and his infernal machine
Title (translation follows in italics) : L'assassin Fieschi, (dit Gerard) agé de 42 ans, né en Corse; et sa Mécanique infernale. Paris le 28 Juillet 1835. (The assassin Fieschi (called Gerard) aged 42 years, born in Corsica;  and the Infernal Machine. Paris July 28, 1835.)

Judicateur (Judicator)
 A. Chambre dans le maison no 30 boulvard du temple, ou Feischi pointe sa machine de 25 canons à fusil. (A. Room in the house No. 30 Temple Boulevard or Feischi points his machine of 25 muskets.)
B. Louis-Philippe 1 avec son état major. (B. Louis-Philippe 1 with his staff.)
C. Bataillons passés en recue. (C. Battalions in review.)
D. Le marchand de vin. (D. The wine merchant.)
E. Population Parisienne. (E. Parisian population.)
F. Jardin turc (ambulance improvisée) (F. Turkish Garden (improvised ambulance))
G. Café et balcon du dit jardine. (G. Café and balcony of the mentioned garden.)

The text on the right seems to say basically the same thing but in Dutch.
A. Kamer van het huis, boulvard du Temple No. 50; waar Fieschi deszelfs helsch-wektuig van 25 geweerloopen stelt
B. Lodewÿk-Philippus 1 met deszelfs staf
C. Revu-troepen
D. Huis en uitstek van den wÿnkooper
E. Volksmenigte
F. Turkschen tuin (provisioneel hospitaal)
G. Coffyhuis en balkon van dien tuin.

Louis Philippe I, the last King of France*, is interesting if only that in post-revolution France (post-1789 and post-July revolutions  – but not post-1848 revolution) he wore not a crown, a gown and foppish tights but his military uniform.
Portrait of French King Louis Philippe by Franz Xaver Winterhalter looking a lot less gay than some other French Kings.
French King Louis Philippe looking 70% less gaudy, effeminate and matronly than his predecessor Charles X.
* Louis Philippe was the "last King of France" in the sense that France hasn't had any Kings since, but since Louis XVI in 1791 the title used was "the King of the French" to link the king to the people as opposed to the land.

Honoré Daumier's 1831 caricature of King Louis Philippe turning into a pear is also noteworthy.

Honoré Daumier's 1831 caricature of King Louis Philippe turning into a pear. Early sequential art. Daumier transformé la figure du roi dans une poire
King Louis Philippe turning into a pear.

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