Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Holy Week Breviary Used by Marie-Antoinette in Prison

Even as people continue to scrutinize old letters under a microscope, searching for the least word or phrase that would indicate a love affair between Marie-Antoinette and Count von Fersen, evidence of the Queen's fervent Catholic faith continues to surface. Recently auctioned in Paris was the Office de la Semaine Sainte en Latin et en François à l'usage de Rome et de Paris. Dédié à la Reine pour l'usage de sa Maison. Paris, Veuve Mazières et J. B. Garnier, 1728. In English, it is translated as follows: Office of Holy Week in Latin and French According to the Usage of Rome and Paris. Dedicated to the Queen for Use in Her Household. La Reine mentioned in the title was Marie Leszczynska, the grandmother of Louis XVI and Madame Elisabeth; the volume bears her coat-of-arms. The book was bequeathed to Madame Elisabeth, whose cause for beatification has been introduced, when the old Queen died. The princess brought it with her to the Tuileries when the Royal Family were taken to Paris by force in October of 1789. Madame Elisabeth left it behind when fleeing from the palace in August of 1792 but later sent a secret communication to her lady-in-waiting, Madame de Sérent, to smuggle books to her in the Temple prison, including the Holy Week Office. The Royal Family made use of the book not only during Holy Week but throughout the year, reading aloud the words of the Mass every day. According to Beauchesne's biography of Madame Elisabeth, the Queen and Madame Elisabeth were sewing and listening to the fifteen-year-old Madame Royale read to them from the Office of Holy Week, when the guards came to take away the eight year-old Louis XVII. Later, when the Queen was taken to the Conciergerie for her final ordeals, the prayer book went with her. To this day the book opens easily to certain pages, including p. 310, which has the passage:
Scarcely is he [Jesus] raised to the sight of all these people, that he is insulted, and charged on all sides with curses and reproaches. In the end, he makes one last effort to raise his eyes to Heaven: My Father, he exclaims, forgive them, I pray you, because they know not what they do.
A guard at the Temple gained possession of the book after the Queen's death, and it later came to the great nephew of Louis XVI, Henri d'Artois, the Comte de Chambord. Read more, HERE.

Louis XVII removed from his mother


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