Thursday, March 27, 2008

Birthday of Louis XVII

On March 27, 1785, Easter Sunday, Louis-Charles, Duc de Normandie, later Louis XVII, was born. Here is an excerpt of a poem by the great Victor Hugo in honor of the little son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. After being dragged from his mother's arms at the age of eight, he was mistreated in the Temple prison. The child was beaten, given strong drink, and generally corrupted in order to force him to testify against the queen and his aunt Madame Elisabeth. The French title of the poem, Capet, éveille-toi! or "Capet, wake up!" recalls how the little king was repeatedly awaken in the course of the night and prevented from a decent sleep, as an additional method of torture. He died at the age of ten in 1795, covered with sores, diseased, mute and alone.
What if thy wasted arms are bleeding yet,
And wounded with the fetter's cruel trace.
No earthly diadem has ever set
A stain upon thy face.
"Child, life and hope were with thee at thy birth;
But life soon bowed thy tender form to earth,
And hope forsook thee in thy hour of need.
Come, for thy Saviour had his pains divine;
Come, for his brow was crowned with thorns like thine;
His sceptre was a reed."

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