16.10.12

Martyrdom of the Queen of France

When writing or reading history the primary sources are the most valuable, because it is through the eyes of eye witnesses that the most complete image of the scene is produced. 16 October is the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Marie-Antoinette. I think after reading these memoires that she would liked to have been remembered first as a mother, then as a Queen. All the charges against her were contrived, they had to be because it was necessary that she should be murdered if the "Revolution" were to continue. Her accuser/prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville a scoundrel laid the most vile of accusations on her and not being able to convice the tribunal ended the trial (as if in reality it was one) by claiming she was guilty and there was no point therefore of continuing.

It was on the 14th of October that Marie Antoinette appeared before her judges. Dragged before the sanguinary tribunal by inexorable revolutionary vengeance, she appeared there without any chance of acquittal, for it was not to obtain her acquittal that the Jacobins had brought her before it. It was necessary, however, to make some charges. Fouquier therefore collected the rumours current among the populace ever since the arrival of the Princess in France, and, in the act of accusation, he charged her with having plundered the exchequer, first for her pleasures, and afterwards in order to transmit money to her brother, the Emperor. He insisted on the scenes of the 5th and 6th of October, and on the dinners of the Life Guards, alleging that she had at that period framed a plot, which obliged the people to go to Versailles to frustrate it. He afterwards accused her of having governed her husband, interfered in the choice of ministers, conducted the intrigues with the deputies gained by the Court, prepared the journey to Varennes, provoked the war, and transmitted to the enemy's generals all our plans of campaign. He further accused her of having prepared a new conspiracy on the 10th of August, of having on that day caused the people to be fired upon, having induced her husband to defend himself by taxing him with cowardice; lastly, of having never ceased to plot and correspond with foreigners since her captivity in the Temple, and of having there treated her young son as King. We here observe how, on the terrible day of long-deferred vengeance, when subjects at length break forth and strike such of their princes as have not deserved the blow, everything is distorted and converted into crime. We see how the profusion and fondness for pleasure, so natural to a young princess, how her attachment to her native country, her influence over her husband, her regrets, always more indiscreet in a woman than a man, nay, even her bolder courage, appeared to their inflamed or malignant imaginations.

It was necessary to produce witnesses. Lecointre, deputy of Versailles, who had seen what had passed on the 5th and 6th of October, Hebert, who had frequently visited the Temple, various clerks in the ministerial offices, and several domestic servants of the old Court were summoned.. Admiral d'Estaing, formerly commandant of the guard of Versailles; Manuel, the ex-procureur of the Commune; Latour-du-Pin, minister of war in 1789; the venerable Bailly, who, it was said, had been, with La Fayette, an accomplice in the journey to Varennes; lastly, Valaze one of the Girondists destined to the scaffold, were taken from their prisons and compelled to give evidence.

No precise fact was elicited. Some had seen the Queen in high spirits when the Life Guards testified their attachment; others had seen her vexed and dejected while being conducted to Paris, or brought back from Varennes; these had been present at splendid festivities which must have cost enormous sums; those had heard it said in the ministerial offices that the Queen was adverse to the sanction of the decrees. An ancient waiting-woman of the Queen had heard the Duc de Coigny say, in 1788, that the Emperor had already received two hundred millions from France to make war upon the Turks.

The cynical Hebert, being brought before the unfortunate Queen, dared at length to prefer the charges wrung from the young Prince. He said that Charles Capet had given Simon an account of the journey to Varennes, and mentioned La Fayette and Bailly as having cooperated in it. He then added that this boy was addicted to odious and very premature vices for his age; that he had been surprised by Simon, who, on questioning him, learned that he derived from his mother the vices in which he indulged. Hebert said that it was no doubt the intention of Marie Antoinette, by weakening thus, early the physical constitution of her son, to secure to herself the means of ruling him in case he should ever ascend the throne. The rumours which had been whispered for twenty years by a malicious Court had given the people a most unfavourable opinion of the morals of the Queen. That audience, however, though wholly Jacobin, was disgusted at the accusations of Hebert.
Note: These vices which Mdme Campan glosses over were of the most odious type, so odious that even today one must receive special permission to read the transcripts. dB



He nevertheless persisted in supporting them.[Hebert did not long survive her in whose sufferings he had taken such an infamous part. He was executed on 26th March, 1794.]

The unhappy mother made no reply. Urged a new to explain herself, she said, with extraordinary emotion, "I thought that human nature would excuse me from answering such an imputation, but I appeal from it to the heart of every mother here present." This noble and simple reply affected all who heard it.




In the depositions of the witnesses, however, all was not so bitter for Marie Antoinette. The brave D'Estaing, whose enemy she had been, would not say anything to inculpate her, and spoke only of the courage which she had shown on the 5th and 6th of October, and of the noble resolution which she had expressed, to die beside her husband rather than fly. Manuel, in spite of his enmity to the Court during the time of the Legislative Assembly, declared that he could not say anything against the accused. When the venerable Bailly was brought forward, who formerly so often predicted to the Court the calamities which its imprudence must produce, he appeared painfully affected; and when he was asked if he knew the wife of Capet, "Yes," said he, bowing respectfully, "I have known Madame." He declared that he knew nothing, and maintained that the declarations extorted from the young Prince relative to the journey to Varennes were false. In recompense for his deposition he was assailed with outrageous reproaches, from which he might judge what fate would soon be awarded to himself.

In all the evidence there appeared but two serious facts, attested by Latour-du-Pin and Valaze, who deposed to them because they could not help it. Latour-du-Pin declared that Marie Antoinette had applied to him for an accurate statement of the armies while he was minister of war. Valaze, always cold, but respectful towards misfortune, would not say anything to criminate the accused; yet he could not help declaring that, as a member of the commission of twenty-four, being charged with his colleagues to examine the papers found at the house of Septeuil, treasurer of the civil list, he had seen bonds for various sums signed Antoinette, which was very natural; but he added that he had also seen a letter in which the minister requested the King to transmit to the Queen the copy of the plan of campaign which he had in his hands. The most unfavourable construction was immediately put upon these two facts, the application for a statement of the armies, and the communication of the plan of campaign; and it was concluded that they could not be wanted for any other purpose than to be sent to the enemy, for it was not supposed that a young princess should turn her attention, merely for her own satisfaction, to matters of administration and military, plans. After these depositions, several others were received respecting the expenses of the Court, the influence of the Queen in public affairs, the scene of the 10th of August, and what had passed in the Temple; and the most vague rumours and most trivial circumstances were eagerly caught at as proofs.

Marie Antoinette frequently repeated, with presence of mind and firmness, that there was no precise fact against her; that, besides, though the wife of Louis XVI., she was not answerable for any of the acts of his reign. [At first the Queen, consulting only her own sense of dignity, had resolved on her trial to make no other reply to the questions of her judges than "Assassinate me as you have already assassinated my husband!" Afterwards, however, she determined to follow the example of the King, exert herself in her defence, and leave her judges without any excuse or pretest for putting her to death.—WEBER'S "Memoirs of Marie Antoinette."]




Fouquier(-Tinville) nevertheless declared her to be sufficiently convicted; Chaveau-Lagarde made unavailing efforts to defend her; and the unfortunate Queen was condemned to suffer the same fate as her husband.



Conveyed back to the Conciergerie, she there passed in tolerable composure the night preceding her execution, and, on the morning of the following day, the 16th of October, she was conducted, amidst a great concourse of the populace, to the fatal spot where, ten months before, Louis XVI. had perished.

[The Queen, after having written and prayed, slept soundly for some hours. On her waking, Bault's daughter dressed her and adjusted her hair with more neatness than on other days. Marie Antoinette wore a white gown, a white handkerchief covered her shoulders, a white cap her hair; a black ribbon bound this cap round her temples .... The cries, the looks, the laughter, the jests of the people overwhelmed her with humiliation; her colour, changing continually from purple to paleness, betrayed her agitation .... On reaching the scaffold she inadvertently trod on the executioner's foot. "Pardon me," she said, courteously. She knelt for an instant and uttered a half-audible prayer; then rising and glancing towards the towers of the Temple, "Adieu, once again, my children," she said; "I go to rejoin your father."—LAMARTINE.]

She listened with calmness to the exhortations of the ecclesiastic who accompanied her, and cast an indifferent look at the people who had so often applauded her beauty and her grace, and who now as warmly applauded her execution. On reaching the foot of the scaffold she perceived the Tuileries, and appeared to be moved; but she hastened to ascend the fatal ladder, and gave herself up with courage to the executioner.

[Sorrow had blanched the Queen's once beautiful hair; but her features and air still commanded the admiration of all who beheld her; her cheeks, pale and emaciated, were occasionally tinged with a vivid colour at the mention of those she had lost. When led out to execution, she was dressed in white; she had cut off her hair with her own hands. Placed in a tumbrel, with her arms tied behind her, she was taken by a circuitous route to the Place de la Revolution, and she ascended the scaffold with a firm and dignified step, as if she had been about to take her place on a throne by the side of her husband.—LACRETELLE.]

The infamous wretch exhibited her head to the people, as he was accustomed to do when he had sacrificed an illustrious victim.


the memoires of Mdme Campan

Marie-Antoinette, martyred Queen Pray for us...

Dieu le Roy!
Brantigny

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