Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Death of a Queen

On October 16, 1793, Marie-Antoinette Queen of France was guillotined in the Place de la Révolution before thousands of people. Her husband had died a similar death a few months before; her children had been taken from her, and her eight-year-old son tormented into accusing his own mother of incest. She had undergone a grueling trial in which she defended herself with panache. In her mind was the memory of how her friend Princesse de Lamballe had been torn to pieces by a mob. When she saw the garbage cart, she thought a similar fate might be hers.

Excerpt from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal
(Chapter 8: "The White Lady"):

Several, heavy footsteps echoed down the corridor of the medieval fortress. The doors opened, and Hermann entered, attired in his black suit and black plumed hat, with two other judges, and a clerk. The Queen was still kneeling by her bed. At the sound of their entrance, she slowly rose to her feet, and faced them. Rosalie perceived the transformation. Her blue eyes, still bloodshot, shown with peace and authority. She was no longer a broken woman; she was their sovereign lady. She was the Queen.

"Attention!" announced Hermann. "Widow Capet, your sentence will be read to you!"

"It is not necessary," replied the Queen. "I know fully well what my sentence is."

"You must hear it again. It is the law."

The clerk monotonously rambled off the gross slanders that had so tormented the Queen for the past two days....As he finished, the big executioner strode in.

"Put out your hands," he growled to the Queen, who stepped away from him. "Are you going to bind me?" she asked, looking horrified. The executioner grunted in assent.

"Do your duty, man," ordered Hermann. The executioner roughly grabbed the Queen's arms and lashed her hands and wrists together very tightly with cords, almost up to the elbow. She suppressed a small cry of pain. Rosalie, filled with indignation, saw the Queen's eyes flutter searchingly towards the moldy ceiling, as if pleading with some good angel to strengthen her. The executioner snatched off her little cap and with a pair of huge shears roughly destroyed the neat, braided chignon, so that the queen's hair resembled the ragged straw of a scarecrow. He replaced the cap, under which hung the frayed, uneven tendrils. Then he pushed her out of the cell, and she walked ahead of him as if on a leash.

Rosalie followed them to the entrance of the Conciergerie. Out of the arched, gothic portals could be seen the courtyard, and the vehicle in which Marie-Antoinette was to ride towards her death....it was a rickety garbage cart. How easy it would be for violent hands to reach up and drag the Queen into the street to be bludgeoned and hacked to death. Rosalie saw the Queen blanch with fright, as she, too, noticed the garbage cart. She heard the Queen beg the executioner to loosen her hands, which he did, and she ran into a corner in order to relieve herself....The executioner bound her again. She straightened her back, lifted her head, and walked towards the cart.

The defrocked cleric was hovering at her elbow.

"Have courage," Rosalie heard him say to the Queen, who looked at him fixedly in the face and replied, "It does not require courage to die; it requires courage to live."

Copyright © 2006, Elena Maria Vidal. All rights reserved worldwide.

Last letter of Marie-Antoinette.

Her last Holy Communion.

Her Sacrifice.

Her Forgiveness.



Anonymous said...

She was such a lovely, dignified, elegant and refined example of Christian witness in the face of these horrific trials. May God bless her soul.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable. What a courageous woman.