Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Death of Louis XVI

January 21, Saint Agnes day, is the dies natalis of the Roi-Martyr, when two hundred and sixteen years ago, Louis XVI was taken from the Temple prison to be guillotined. The previous night he had said farewell to his family, and their reaction was so hysterical that he decided not to see them again in the morning, for fear of faltering in his own courage. His fifteen year old daughter fainted. He rode to his death in a coach accompanied by the Irish priest, Abbé Edgeworth de Firmont, who had been Madame Elisabeth's confessor and who had refused the oath to the government. Together they recited the seven penitential psalms.

Arriving at the scaffold, the executioner tried to bind Louis' hands behind his back but he resisted, not wanting to be treated like a criminal who might try to run away. Abbé Edgeworth, fearing the king might be struck, convinced him to submit to the indignity by saying that it was one more way in which he resembled his Master. Louis raised his eyes to the sky as if seeing beyond this world and then with hands bound he ascended the scaffold unassisted. The drummers drowned out his last words to his people.

Some observers later reported that Abbé Edgeworth cried out,"Ascend to heaven, son of St Louis!" although the priest said he did not remember, being overwhelmed. Many ran forward with handkerchiefs to dip in the king's blood, as the executioner raised the head aloft, making obscene gestures. Some of the handkerchiefs were later preserved as holy relics.

The king's last words were:

“I die innocent of all the crimes imputed to me. I pardon the authors of my death, and pray God that the blood you are about to shed will never fall upon France.”

The forgiveness of Louis XVI.

His widow.

The Vow of Louis XVI.

Memoirs of Abbé Edgeworth

Attempt to Canonize Louis XVI. Share


Passages to the Past said...

Great post. I just have to say that I adore your blog and love coming here every day!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Amy! You have great blog, too.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful...I love that depiction. I think you may like the one on my lastest post as well, which is similar. I thank you for your reponse to my blog by the way...I just am getting around to logging on I plan to post seriously.

So do you think Louis XVI could technically be a martyr? I know he died as a martyr for monarchy, and very nobly, but would that count as a martyr for the Faith?

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Mr. Wainscott.

There have been many in the Church, including some popes, who have believed that the king can be considered a martyr of the Faith. Louis XVI, after first trying to compromise with the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790) afterwards rejected it, since it denied the papal supremacy. The next spring, the King refused to make his Easter duty at a Mass celebrated by a Constitutional priest. He sought to go to Saint Cloud and have a private Mass celebrated by a non-juring priest, but was prevented from leaving the Tuileries. In June of 1791, the royal family escaped from the Tuileries but were captured and brought back to Paris in great ignominy. In the fall of 1791 Louis XVI vetoed laws which persecuted priests faithful to the Holy See. This drew great criticism from the Assembly. In June 1792, the King again vetoed a law which proposed to send faithful priests to prison camps in Guiana. The day following the veto, the palace was attacked and the royal family came very close to death. Louis XVI personally faced the mob and placated their wrath. In August 1792, the palace was attacked again, and the royal family were imprisoned in the Temple. Louis XVI's stands on ecclesiastical matters led to his downfall and ultimately to his death.

Lucy said...

Louis XVI abided by his unwavering faith until the very end. And, he never wanted his death avenged. I t always makes me sad when I imagine him speaking to his family the eve of this tragedy.
Thanks Elena.

May said...

A very sad anniversary. Thank you for this moving post.

May said...

(I tried to post this earlier but I don't think it got through because Blogger shut down)

I think that a Catholic monarch, killed for what he represents, qualifies as a martyr for the Faith. After all, the revolution was aimed against not only monarchy, but Catholic monarchy.

lara77 said...

The execution of this good and innocent King opened the floodgates to violence, death, wars and destruction for France and much of Europe. Did not Michelet call King Louis's murder the death knell of France? The King's murder and the continuing chaos of French history proved how superior the Anglo Saxon nations were in reforming their institutions peacefully in contrast to French barbarism. DeGaulle once said France could be great if it were not for the French. A bit harsh indictment but I am sure the general too disagreed with the verdict on King Louis XVI. May His Most Christian Majesty rest in peace on this anniversary of this very sad day.