Monday, March 11, 2013

Pets in Prison

Madame Royale in the Garden of the Temple Prison
From History Today:
The humanity with which Richard and his wife had behaved towards the queen during her first month at the Conciergerie, and the suspicion of their having collaborated in the Carnation Affair, had led to their being suspended. By the time they were reinstated in November 1793, Made Antoinette had perished on the guillotine. Given their previous acts of kindness they may well have taken pity on her pug, a breed to which she was famously attached. Whether this dog was the original Thisbee or the pet of another victim which she had adopted is impossible to gage.
The reticence of Madame Royale on the subject of her mother's dog at the Temple also applies to her own spaniel, Mignon, which her brother, the Dauphin, gave her before being finally separated from his sister on October 7th, 1793. In all probability he retained some of his earlier ambivalence towards dogs. The existence of Mignon is well documented: the eye-witness Hue, refers to 'a dog which was long the sole witness of her sorrows', and the dog features in many engravings of Madame Royale after her release on December 19th, 1795. When Mignon died in 1801, having fallen from a balcony of the Poniatowski Palace in Warsaw, Louis XVIII wrote to the poet Jacques Delille, then in England, asking for some lines to inscribe on the dog's tomb. In Malheur et Pitie, Delille incorporated an elegy to Mignon:
Be then the subject and the honour of my poems, Oh you! who consoling your royal mistress, Until your last breath proved to her your kindness, Who beguiled her misfortunes, enlivened her prison; Oh of the last farewell of a brother, unique and tragic gift ...
 If the Dauphin was wary of dogs, he was unequivocal in his liking for birds. At the Tuileries in 1792 he took care of the aviary and of the ducks in the pond, he also raised rabbits. At the Temple in 1795, in response to the boy's entreaties, one of the towers was transformed into a pigeonry and his gaoler, Simon, had a birdcage built in one of the window-recesses, even removing a plank from the hoarded-up casement-window 'in order to provide the birds with light'. Bills for supplying 'bird-seed for the little Capet's pigeons' are still in evidence. The Commune baulked, how- ever, when presented with a demand for 300 livres from a clock-maker, Bourdier, whom Simon had commissioned to repair a very beautiful bird- cage which he had found in the furniture-repository of the Prince de Conti, the former proprietor of the Temple. Simon had undertaken to pay this sum out of his own pocket but, by the time the work was completed, he too had been guillotined. (Read entire post.)

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