Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Death of Madame Elisabeth of France

In her Memoirs, translated by John Wilson Croker, Madame Royale describes the last days of her aunt, Madame Elisabeth, guillotined on May 10, 1794. After Madame Elisabeth was taken away, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte was alone. Elisabeth, the sister of Louis XVI, was thirty years old when she was killed.
My aunt kept Lent strictly. She never breakfasted, but dined on a cup of milk-coffee (it was her breakfast, which she saved); and, for supper, she ate only dry bread. She, however, desired me to eat what was brought me, because my age did not require that I should fast; but, as for herself, nothing could be more exemplary than her way of life. Though they had done all they could to deprive her of the means of obeying the dictates of her conscience in these particulars, she had not, on that account, neglected any of the duties of religion.

In the beginning of spring we were refused candles, and we were obliged to go to bed as soon as it grew dark.

Until the 9th of May nothing extraordinary happened. On that day, at the moment we were going to bed, the outside bolts of the doors were drawn, and a knocking was heard. My aunt begged of them to wait till she had put on her gown; but you answered that they could not wait, and knocked so violently, that they were near bursting open the door. When she was dressed, she opened the door, and they immediately said to her, "Citizen, come down." — "And my niece?" — "We shall take care of her afterwards." She embraced me; and, in order to calm my agitation, promised to return. "No, citizen," said they, "you shall not return:— take your bonnet, and come along." They overwhelmed her with the grossest abuse. She bore it all patiently, and embraced me again, exhorting me to have confidence in Heaven, to follow the principles of religion in which I had been educated, and never to forget the last commands of my father and mother. She then left me.

Down stairs they detained her a considerable time in searching her (though they found nothing), and in writing an account of their proceedings. At length, after a thousand insults, she was put into a hackney-coach, with the crier of the revolutionary court, and taken to the Conciergerie, where she passed the night. The next morning they asked her these questions.—

"What is your name?"

"Elizabeth, of France."

"Where were you on the 10th of August?"

"In the palace of the Thuilleries, with my brother."

"What have you done with your jewels?"

" I know nothing about them; besides, these questions are wholly useless. You are determined on my death. I have offered to Heaven the sacrifice of my life; and I am ready to die — happy at the prospect of rejoining in a better world those whom I loved upon earth."

They condemned her to death.81 She asked to be placed in the same room with the other persons who were to die with her. She exhorted them, with a presence of mind, an elevation of soul, and religious enthusiasm, which fortified all their minds. In the cart she preserved the same firmness, and encouraged and supported the women who accompanied her. At the scaffold they had the barbarity to reserve her for the last. All the women, in leaving the cart, begged to embrace her.82 She kissed them, and, with her usual benignity, said some words of comfort to each. Her strength never abandoned her, and she died with all the resignation of the purest piety. Her soul was separated from her body, and ascended to receive its reward from the merciful Being, whose worthy servant she had been.



lara77 said...

I know we should forgive our enemies but everytime I read about the murder of HRH Princess Elizabeth of France and the thousands of other innocents who would perish under the guillotine my anger boils over at the barbarity of the French revolution and all who espouse it.EVERYTIME there is a republic in France innocents are murdered.

La Poetessa said...

I just read this blog and I am filled with overwhelming sadness for her and all those who perished during that barbaric time. I will never in my life understand how this was carried out other than that is was derived from an evil that I cannot comprehend which exists in this world even now. I admire her and the others, especially Marie Antoinette as well for being so very brave during this time. I find it hard to breath when I think of their last moments on Earth and how horrific and terrifying it must have been for them with only the ugliness and evil of the human spirit all around them who rejoiced in their demise. Somehow they rose above this and found the strength from above to ascend with such dignity. And lastly I am filled with such disgust, it angers me so very much and to this day I look upon this time in history and compare it to other acts of barbarianism and ask above how these monsters could be part of the human race.
My prayers are with Princess Elizabeth, Marie Antoinette and all who were taken in that deplorable manner. And to you Lara77, I totally concur.

Unknown said...

I firmly believe that in times of great suffering , the true mettle or character of a person shines through. I believe that in both these ladies you see who they truly were and not how their enemies have unjustly portrayed them. I believe they are at peace - however, the monsters will still be monsters and dwell where such beings belong.

elena maria vidal said...

I agree, Francis.