Death Of Louis Xvi And Other Members Of The Royal Family

On the 21st of January, 1793, Louis XVI. was publicly beheaded in the

midst of his own metropolis, in the Place Louis Quinze, erected to the

memory of his grandfather. It is possible, for the critical eye of the

historian, to discover much weakness in the conduct of this unhappy

monarch; for he had neither the determination to fight for his rights,

nor the power of submitting with apparent indifference to circumstances

where resistance inferred danger. He submitted, indeed, but with so bad

a grace, that he only made himself suspected of cowardice, without

getting credit for voluntary concession. But yet his behaviour on many

trying occasions effectually vindicate him from the charge of timidity,

and showed that the unwillingness to shed blood, by which he was

peculiarly distinguished, arose from benevolence, not from


Upon the scaffold, he behaved with the firmness which became a noble

spirit, and the patience beseeming one who was reconciled to heaven. As

one of the few marks of sympathy with which his sufferings were

softened, the attendance of a confessor, who had not taken the

constitutional oath, was permitted to the dethroned monarch. He who

undertook the honourable but dangerous office, was a gentleman of gifted

family of Edgeworth of Edgeworthstown; and the devoted zeal with which

he rendered the last duties to Louis, had like in the issue to have

proved fatal to himself. As the instrument of death descended, the

confessor pronounced the impressive words,--"Son of Saint Louis, ascend

to heaven!"

There was a last will of Louis XVI. circulated upon good authority,

bearing this remarkable passage:--"I recommend to my son, should you

have the misfortune to become king, to recollect that his whole

faculties are due to the service of the public; that he ought to consult

the happiness of his people, by governing according to the laws,

forgetting all injuries and misfortunes, and in particular those which I

may have sustained. But while I exhort him to govern under the authority

of the laws, I cannot but add, that this will be only in his power, in

so far as he shall be endowed with authority to cause right to be

respected, and wrong punished; and that without such authority, his

situation in the government must be more hurtful than advantageous to

the state."

Not to mingle the fate of the illustrious victim of the royal family

with the general tale of the sufferers under the reign of terror, we

must here mention the deaths of the rest of that illustrious house,

which closed for a time a monarchy, that existing through three

dynasties, had given sixty-six kings to France.

It was not to be supposed, that the queen was to be long permitted to

survive her husband. She had been even more than he the object of

revolutionary detestation; nay, many were disposed to throw on Marie

Antoinette, almost exclusively, the blame of those measures which they

considered as counter-revolutionary.

The terms of her accusation were too basely depraved to be even hinted

at here. She scorned to reply to it, but appealed to all who had been

mothers, against the very possibility of the horrors which were stated

against her. The widow of a king, the sister of an emperor, was

condemned to death, dragged in an open tumbril to the place of

execution, and beheaded on the 16th October, 1793. She suffered death in

her 39th year.

The princess Elizabeth, sister of Louis, of whom it might he said, in

the words of lord Clarendon, that she resembled a chapel in a king's

palace, into which nothing but piety and morality enter, while all

around is filled with sin, idleness, and folly, did not, by the most

harmless demeanour and inoffensive character, escape the miserable fate

in which the Jacobins had determined to involve the whole family of

Louis XVI. Part of the accusation redounded to the honour of her

character. She was accused of having admitted to the apartments of the

Tuilleries some of the national guards, of the section of Filles de

Saint Thomas, and causing the wounds to be looked to which they had

received in a skirmish with the Marsellois, immediately before the 10th

of August. The princess admitted her having done so, and it was exactly

in consistence with her whole conduct. Another charge stated the

ridiculous accusation, that she had distributed bullets chewed by

herself and her attendants, to render then more fatal, to the defenders

of the castle of the Tuilleries; a ridiculous fable, of which there was

no proof whatever. She was beheaded in May, 1794, and met her death as

became the manner in which her life had been spent.

We are weary of recounting these atrocities, as others must be of

reading them. Yet it is not useless that men should see how far human

nature can be carried, in contradiction to every feeling the most

sacred, to every pleading, whether of justice or of humanity. The

Dauphin we have already described as a promising child of seven years

old, an age at which no offence could have been given, and from which no

danger could have been apprehended. Nevertheless, it was resolved to

destroy the innocent child, and by means to which ordinary murders seem

deeds of mercy.

The unhappy boy was put in charge of the most hard-hearted villain whom the

community of Paris, well acquainted where such agents were to be found, were

able to select from their band of Jacobins. This wretch, a shoemaker called

Simon, asked his employers, "what was to be done with the young wolf-whelp;

Was he to be slain?"--"No?"--"Poisoned?"--"No."--"Starved to death?"--"No."

"What then?"--"He was to be got rid of." Accordingly, by a continuance of

the most severe treatment--by beating, cold, vigils, fasts, and ill usage

of every kind, so frail a blossom was soon blighted. He died on the 8th

June, 1795.

After this last horrible crime, there was a relaxation in favour of the

daughter, and now the sole child of this unhappy house. The princess

royal, whose qualities have honoured even her birth and blood,

experienced from this period a mitigated captivity. Finally, on the

19th December, 1795, this last remaining relic of the family of Louis,

was permitted to leave her prison and her country, in exchange for La

Fayette and others, whom, on that condition, Austria delivered from

captivity. She became afterwards the wife of her cousin, the duke

d'Angouleme, eldest son of the reigning monarch of France, and obtained,

by the manner in which she conducted herself at Bourdeaux in 1815, the

highest praise for gallantry and spirit.