Sunday, May 10, 2009

Death of Madame Elisabeth

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.
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.


1 comment:

May said...

This is a very noble and touching account, much to the credit of both Madame Elisabeth and Madame Royale. Princesses in the full sense of the term...