|mail: Bill Thayer||
p252 We could not persuade ourselves that my mother was dead, though we heard her sentence cried about by the newsmen. A hope, so natural to the unfortunate, induced us to believe that she had been saved.a
We could not think that all the world would abandon us. Besides, I do not know what may have happened out of doors, nor whether I myself shall ever be set at liberty, although they flatter me with hopes that I shall be released.
There were moments, however, at which, in spite of our reliance on foreign powers, we felt the liveliest alarm for my mother, when we heard the fury of the unhappy populace against the whole family. I remained for eighteen months in this cruel suspense.
We learnt, by the cries of the newsmen, the death of the Duke of Orleans; it was the only piece of news that reached us during p253the whole winter;78 but the searches were soon renewed, and we were treated with increased rigour. My aunt, who had had, since the Revolution, an issue in her arm, found the greatest difficulty in procuring the necessary dressings for it: they were for a long while absolutely prohibited; but at last one of the municipal officers remonstrated on the cruelty of such conduct, and procured her the proper ointment. They also prevented our making a kind of herb-tea, which my aunt wished me to take every morning, on account of my health. Being no longer allowed fish on fast-days, we asked for eggs, or something else, which we could eat, without violating our religious scruples. These were refused to us, on the ground that equality admitted of no difference of days, that weeks had been abolished, that decades had been substituted in their room, and that Fridays p254and Sundays no longer existed; and they gave us an almanac of this new fashion, but we would not look into it.
One fast-day, that my aunt asked for something to eat, consistent with her religious opinions, they said to her, "But, Citizen, do you not know what is going on in the world? None but fools believe in that stuff, now-a‑days." She never made a second request.
The officers still continued their visits of search, particularly in the month of November, when we were ordered to be searched three times a day. One of their searches lasted from four o'clock in the evening to half-past eight. The four officers who made it were quite intoxicated. It is impossible to give any idea of their language, their insults, their curses, during these four hours. They carried away even the most trifling articles, such as hats, court-cards, because they are called Kings and Queens, and books which happened to have coats of arms in them. p255They, however, left us our religious books, after ridiculing them in every term of filth and blasphemy which they could devise.
Simon accused us of forging assignats, and of having corresponded with my father during his trial; these charges he made in the name of my poor little brother, whom he forced to sign these falsehoods.79 My aunt had taught me the game of tric-trac to divert me, and the noise we made in playing was represented by Simon as coining; we, however, played tric-trac during the winter, which, in spite of the visits and searches of our inquisitors, passed away quietly enough. They gave us fire-wood, which they had at first refused us.
[1794.] — On the 19th of January we heard a great noise in my brother's apartment, and we guessed he was going to be removed from the Temple: we were convinced p256of this, when, looking through the keyhole, we saw several parcels carried away. On the subsequent days we heard the doors open, and the sound of footsteps in the room: satisfied, therefore, that my brother was gone, we believed that some person of importance had been placed in his apartment. But it was Simon who was gone: obliged to choose between the situations of municipal officer and guardian of my brother, he had preferred the former, and they had had the cruelty to leave the poor child absolutely alone.
Unheard-of and unexampled barbarity! to leave an unhappy and sickly infant, of eight years old, in a great room, locked and bolted in, with no other resource than a broken bell, which he never rang, so greatly did he dread the people whom its sound would have brought to him: he preferred wanting any thing, and every thing, to calling for his persecutors. His bed had not been stirred for six months, and he had not strength to make it himself — it was alive with bugs, and vermin still more disgusting. His p257linen and his person were covered with them. For more than a year he had had no change of shirt or stockings; every kind of filth was allowed to accumulate about him, and in his room; and, during that period, nothing of that kind had been removed. His window, which was locked as well as grated, was never opened; and the infectious smell of this horrid room was so dreadful, that no one could bear it for a moment. He might, indeed, have washed himself, for he had a pitcher of water, and have kept himself somewhat more clean than he did; but, overwhelmed by the ill-treatment he had received, he had not resolution to do so, and his illness began to deprive him of even the necessary strength. He never asked for any thing, so great was his dread of Simon and his other keepers. He passed his days without any kind of occupation. They did not even allow him light in the evening. This situation affected his mind as well as his body, and it p258it is not surprising that he should have fallen into a frightful atrophy. The length of time which he resisted this persecution proves how good his constitution must have originally been.
During the winter, the keepers, in addressing my aunt and me, always thee'd and thou'd us (nous tutoya). We despised their usual persecutions, but this last degree of gross familiarity80 brought blushes in our face.
My aunt kept Lent strictly. She never breakfasted, but dined on a cup of milk-coffee (it was her breakfast, which she saved); and, for supper, she ate only dry bread. She, however, desired me to eat what was brought me, because my age did not require that I should fast; but, as for herself, nothing could be more exemplary than her way of p259life. Though they had done all they could to deprive her of the means of obeying the dictates of her conscience in these particulars, she had not, on that account, neglected any of the duties of religion.
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, p260and 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?
p261 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 p262the 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.
Marie Philippineº Elizabeth-Helene,83 sister of Louis XVI, died on the 10th May, 1794, at the age of thirty years. She had been, during all her life, a model of virtue. From the age of fifteen, she had dedicated herself to piety, and the means of her salvation. Since 1790, when I was in a situation to appreciate her merits, I saw in her nothing but the love p263of God and the horror of sin — religion, gentleness, meekness, modesty — and a devoted attachment to her family; she sacrificed her life for them, for nothing could persuade her to leave the King and Queen. She was, in short, a Princess worthy of the blood to which she belonged. I never can be sufficiently grateful for her goodness to me, which ended only with her life. She looked upon me as her child, and I honoured and loved her as a second mother. I was thought to have been very like her in countenance, and I feel conscious that I have something of her character. Would to God I might imitate her virtues, and hope that I may hereafter deserve to meet her, as well as my dear parents, in the bosom of our Creator, where I cannot doubt that they enjoy the reward of their virtuous lives and meritorious deaths!
It is impossible to imagine my distress at finding myself separated from my aunt. I p264did not know what had become of her, and could not learn. I passed the night in great anxiety, but, though very uneasy, I was far from believing that her death was so near. Sometimes I tried to persuade myself that they would only banish her from France, but, when I considered the manner in which she had been carried off, all my fears revived.
Next day I inquired what had become of her. The officers repeated, "that she was gone to take the air." I repeated my desire, "that since I was to be separated from my aunt, I should be allowed to rejoin my mother." They said they would speak about it. They then brought me the key of a press, in which my aunt had kept her linen. I wished to send her some, as she had gone without any. They answered, that they could not permit it. To all my entreaties to see my mother, or hear of my aunt, these p265men always answered, that they would speak about it.
At last, seeing that all these endeavours were fruitless, and recollecting that my aunt had told me, if ever I should be left alone, it was my duty to ask for a female attendant, I did so, in obedience to her advice; but reluctantly, for I was sure either of being refused, or of getting some wicked woman. In fact, the municipal officers answered this request by telling me that I did not want a woman, and by redoubling their severity towards me. They even took away my knife, which had been before returned to me. This they did after the following examination:
Come, young citizen, tell us, have you a great many knives?
No, gentlemen, only two.
Have you none in your dressing-case?
Neither knives nor scissors?
p266 Another time, having found the stove warm, they deprived me of a tinder-box.
May one ask what you wanted of a fire?
To bathe my feet in hot water.
How did you light the fire?
With a tinder-box and flint.
Who gave them to you?
I do not know.
Meanwhile we shall take them away; it is for your good, lest you fall asleep near the fire and burn yourself. Have you any thing else?
Similar scenes were renewed every day, but I only spoke, even to those who brought me my meals, when they put direct questions to me.
One day there came a man who, I believe, was Robespierre. The officers showed him great respect. His visit was a secret, even to the people in the tower, who did not know who he was, or, at least, would not tell me: p267he stared insolently at me, cast his eyes on my books, and, after joining the municipal officers in a search, retired.84
The guards were often drunk; but they generally left my brother and me quiet in our respective apartments until the 9th Thermidor. My brother still pined in solitude and filth. His keepers never went near him but to give him his meals. They had no compassion for this unhappy child. There was one of the guards, whose gentle manners encouraged me to recommend my brother to his attention: this man ventured to complain of the severity with which the boy was treated, but he was dismissed next day.
For myself I asked nothing but what was p268indispensable, and even this was often harshly refused; but I, at least, could keep myself clean. I had soap and water, and carefully swept out my room every day. I had no light; but in the long days I did not feel much this privation. They would not give me any more books; but I had some religious works and some travels, which I had read over and over. I also had my knitting, which tired me very much.85
Such was our state when the 9th86 Thermidor arrived: I heard the drums beating to arms, the tocsin ringing, and grew very uneasy. The officers who were in the Temple never stirred out. When my dinner was brought, I was afraid to ask what the matter p269was; but on the 10th Thermidor, at six o'clock in the morning, I heard a frightful noise in the Temple. The guards were calling to arms, the drums were rolling, and doors opening and shutting with violence. All this tumult was, it seems, occasioned by a visit of some members of the National Assembly (the Convention), who came to see that all was quiet. I heard the doors of my brother's room open; I then jumped out of bed, and was already dressed by the time the deputies came to my room. There were Barras,87 and several others: they were in p270their official dress, which surprised me, not being accustomed to see them so fine. Barras spoke to me, called me by my name, and was surprised to find me up. They soon went away; and I heard them haranguing the guards under the windows, and exhorting them to be faithful to the National Convention. There were great shouts of Vive la République!º Vive la Convention! The guard was doubled, and the three municipal officers, who were in the Temple, remained there eight days. In the evening of the third day, about half-past nine, as I was lying in bed, because I had no light, but not able to sleep from anxiety as to what was going on, they knocked at my door, to show me to Laurent, the commissioner appointed by the Convention for the custody of my brother and myself. I got up: they made me a long visit, showing Laurent every thing about the apartment, and then retired.
p271 Next morning, at ten o'clock, Laurent88 came into my room, and inquired politely whether I wanted any thing. He visited me three times a day, but always with civility, and, in addressing me, he did not thee-and‑thou (tutoyer) me. He never searched the drawers, nor other pieces of furniture.
At the end of three days, the Convention sent a deputation to ascertain the situation of my brother. The members89 were struck with pity at the state in which they found him, and directed that he should be better treated. Laurent got him a clean bed out of my room, the old one being filled with bugs and vermin: he made him bathe himself, and cleansed him from the filth with which he was covered. However, they still left him alone.
I soon asked Laurent about what gave me the liveliest concern, the fate of my mother p272and aunt, of whose deaths I was still ignorant. I also asked to be permitted to rejoin my mother. He replied, with an air of concern, that my inquiries should not be addressed to him.
Next day came some men in scarfs,90 to whom I repeated the same question, and they gave me the same answer. They added, that they did not see why I should wish to be released, as I seemed to be very comfortable. "It is dreadful," I replied, "to be separated for more than a year from one's mother, without even hearing what has become p273of her, or of my aunt." "You are not ill?" No, sir, but the cruellest illness is that of the heart." "I tell you again, that we can do nothing for you; but I advise you to be patient, and submit to the justice and goodness of the French people." I had nothing more to say.
I was exposed,91 next morning, by the explosion which took place at the plain of Grenelle, which terrified me greatly.
During all this time, my brother still remained alone. Laurent visited him thrice a day, but he was afraid to show him all the attention he wished, for he was closely watched. He took, however, more care of me, and I had every reason to be satisfied with him during the whole time of his attendance. He frequently inquired whether I wanted any thing, and begged me to ask for what I might wish for, and to ring my p274bell when I wanted any thing. He gave me back the tinder-box, and allowed me candles.
At the end of October, at one o'clock in the morning, there was a knocking at my door: I was asleep, but I rose immediately and opened the door, trembling with fear. Two men of the committee appeared attended by Laurent; they looked at me, but retired without speaking.92
In the beginning of November, certain civil commissioners came. They were men chosen, one from each section, to pass twenty-four hours in the Temple, to ascertain the existence of my brother. Another commissioner also, called Gomier,93 came to assist Laurent. He took extraordinary care of my p275brother. For a great while, this poor child had had no light. He was dying of fright. Gomier obtained leave to give him a candle at night-fall; he even used to pass several hours with him, to amuse him. Gomier soon saw that his wrists and knees were swelled; he was afraid the joints were about to grow callous. He mentioned it to the committee, and asked permission to take him to exercise in the garden. At first, he only removed him to the little parlour, which delighted the child, who was fond of a change of place. He soon felt the attentions of Gomier, and became fond of him: the poor boy had been unaccustomed to kindness. There is no example of such studied barbarity to a child.
On the 19th of December, the Committee of Public Safety94 came to the Temple, p276in consequence of his illness. The members also visited me, but did not speak.
The winter passed quietly enough: the keepers were civil, and even lighted my fire for me; they allowed me as much fire-wood as I wanted, which pleased me greatly. They also gave me such books as I wished for. Laurent had already procured me several. My greatest misfortune now was, that I could hear no tidings of my mother and aunt. I did not even venture to ask after my uncles or my great aunt, but I thought constantly of them all.
During the winter, my brother had some attacks of fever. He could not be kept away from the fire. Laurent and Gomier used to coax him up to the leads to take the air, but he was hardly there when he complained of not being able to walk, and wished to go down again: he grew worse, and his knees swelled greatly.
Laurent was now removed: but a worthy p277man of the name of Loine took his place, and, with Gomier, attended the child. In the beginning of spring they persuaded me to go up to the leads, which I did.
The illness of my brother grew worse every day; his strength diminished; his mind even was affected by the severity he had suffered so long. The Committee of Public Safety sent Dessault, a physician, to attend him: he promised to cure him, though he admitted the disease was very dangerous. Dessault died,95 and M. Dumangin and Pelletan, a surgeon, were appointed to succeed him. They had from the beginning no hope; they gave him, however, some medicines, which he swallowed with great difficulty. He fortunately did p278not suffer much. It was rather a wasting away than positive pain. He had several alarming crises. The fever increased, his strength diminished, and he expired without pain.
Thus died, on the 9th of June, 1795, at three o'clock in the afternoon, Louis XVII, ten years and two months old.b Even his keepers wept for him, so much had his amiable qualities endeared him to them. He had had great talents, but confinement and the horrors of which he hasº been the victim had greatly altered him, and even if he had lived, it is to be feared that his mental power would have been impaired. I do not believe that he was poisoned, as some have said and still say. That must be false, from the evidence of the medical people, who opened the body and found no traces of poison; the drugs too which were administered to him in his last illness were analysed and found good. The only poison that shortened his days was filth, made p279more fatal by horrible treatment, by harshness and cruelty, of which there is no example.96
Such was the life and death of my beloved friends, during their confinement in the Temple and the other prisons.
Written in the tower of the Temple.97
78 Here in the first edition followed the words, "It gave us a ray of hope."
80 None but lovers or the most intimate relatives used this form of expression; and, such is the effect of habit, this mode of address from a stranger to a lady seemed an absolute indecency. This explains the blushes of the Princesses.
Thayer's Note: On balance, as an explanation of the blushing, this is more or less accurate; but tu (= thou) is also used, even now sometimes, but in the 18c very commonly, to express the social inferiority of the person spoken to: it is, for example, the form that was used by the royal family to speak to their servants. Now I'm no rabid revolutionary — especially after transcribing these Memoirs — but the Princesses were only getting their own coin back.
81 Fury, fanaticism, fear, may have actuated the Jacobins in the murder of the King and Queen; but what, except wanton cruelty and thirst of blood, could have driven them to destroy a female who was not only innocent and inoffensive, but really one of the most virtuous of human beings, against whom neither private slander nor political passion had ever breathed a complaint?
82 There were executed at the same time with her Mesdames de Lamoignon, Crussol, Montmorin, and six other females; and M. M. de Lomenie (three in number), Montmorin, junior, and eleven other men.
83 It is observable that the Revolutionary Tribunal did not take the trouble even to ascertain her names: she was condemned as Anne Elizabeth Capet.
84 The first edition suppressed Madame's account of this mysterious visit; it seems to give colour to a report which was spread that Robespierre had the audacity to raise his thoughts to the hand of the young Princess. It was probably a dislike to preserve any trace of this surprising insolence that induced the first editor to omit this passage.
Thayer's Note: For once, the editor is right; what he says was printed in the first edition was not, whatever the motive, the full text as written by the Duchesse d'Angoulême, which is here restored; as with the account of the second visit a few pages later.
85 There is a singular naiveté in the original expression; "J'avais aussi un tricot qui m'ennuyait beaucoup." It describes admirably the irksomeness of this solitary and worn-out amusement, which, though it tired her, she could not help continuing.
86 27th of July, 1794, the day of the overthrow of Robespierre.
87 Barras, of a noble family of Provence, a conventionalist, a regicide, and at last a director. He was Buonaparte's first patron; and, when the latter obtained the supreme power, became, as is natural with such worthies, his first victim. He amassed enormous wealth, and settled himself, after Buonaparte's ingratitude, in his native province, where he lived in the enjoyment of his ill-gotten riches, till the law for banishing the regicides disturbed his luxurious retirement.
88 I am sorry not to be able to give any account of Laurent.
89 This was not the deputation whose report follows this narrative.
90 One of the fopperies of the Revolution was the costume stone scarfs which the public functionaries, as they were called, wore. This absurdity is not yet quite disused: the members of the Chamber of Peers and Deputies have still a peculiar costume. It is not unusual to see some of these gentlemen in a fine embroidered coat, over their other ordinary clothes, and wearing perhaps the dirty boots in which they walk to the assembly. They should be either in full costume, or in their usual dress: the mixture is ridiculous. It is observable that the reign of equality exhibited as decided distinctions of decoration as the most feudal court.
91 The original passage is somewhat obscurely expressed, but its meaning is obvious.
Thayer's Note: The original French text, in fact, is crystal clear, and simply has Je fus éveillée: I was awakened.
92 The account of this strange visit was also suppressed in the original edition.
93 M. Hue calls him Gomin, and another account Gomain. He accompanied Madame to the frontier, when she was exchanged for the deputies who had been delivered to the Austrians by Dumouriez.
94 This was a deputation of the Committee, an account of whose visit from the pen of one of them is added to this publication.
95 It has been often stated that Dessault died after his patient, not without suspicion of poison: this is a mistake; he died before the young King. I find also, in Lemaire's History of the Revolution, that a M. Chopart was called in on Dessault's death, and that he also died suddenly; and that on his decease, Pelletan was employed.
96 Madame Royale remained in the Temple six months after the death of her brother, and left it on the 19th of December, 1795, the seventeenth anniversary of her birth. M. Hue, in his work, relates what passed on this occasion, and whatever information he could collect relative to the last months of the Princess's confinement.
97 These words were not in the first edition.
Thayer's Note: The autograph Memoir adds the date, October 14 (1795).
We did not know, my Aunt and I, that my mother had died, and although we had heard a newsman cry that they insistently wanted to bring her to trial, hope, which is so natural for the unfortunate, made us believe that they would save her.
b For over 200 years, the death of Louis XVII was a matter of speculation, but in April 2000, mitochondrial DNA analysis proved, if not altogether conclusively, that he had indeed died as reported by his sister, although the date usually given is the 8th, not the 9th of June (on what grounds, I don't know).
Dr. Pelletan abstracted the boy's heart at some point during his autopsy, and kept it for years in a jar of ethyl alcohol; it was stolen by a student of his, but he eventually recovered it, and gave it to Hyacinthe de Quelen, archbishop of Paris. In the troubles of the riots of 1830, the heart was removed from the archbishopric; the jar broke and its contents were lost in the courtyard of the building, but were recovered from a pile of sand. From there, Louis XVII's heart was the property of various people until 1895, when it was given to Duke Carlos of Madrid, a blood relative; and in 1975 it was given by the Spanish Bourbons to the Duke of Bauffremont, president of the Mémorial de France at Saint-Denis (see their page for even fuller details). The DNA was finally compared to that of a hair of Marie-Antoinette, his mother, and the DNA of several living Habsburg family members; and the heart was found to have been that of someone with the same maternal ancestor as the Queen.
On June 8, 2004, the heart of King Louis XVII was given a royal funeral in Saint-Denis; it now lies in the cenotaph built for him by his uncle King Louis XVIII. Incongruously, among the distinguished guests was the second man to set foot on the Moon, American astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
of the French
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 3 May 07