|"A notre Roi martyr - Souvenir et Pardon" (To our martyred King - Remembrance and Forgiveness)|
Heavy dark clouds hung over the Place de la Concorde giving it an ominous air on Tuesday afternoon. With the tops of the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnasse Tower obscured by mist, it was all too easy to imagine what it would have been like when King Louis XVI was executed by guillotine at the Place de la Révolution (Place de la Concorde) on January 21, 1793. Shivering from the cold, I recalled Abbé Edgeworth's description of King Louis's last minutes on earth:
The King, finding himself seated in the carriage, where he could neither speak to me nor be spoken to without witness, kept a profound silence. I presented him with my breviary, the only book I had with me, and he seemed to accept it with pleasure: he appeared anxious that I should point out to him the psalms that were most suited to his situation, and he recited them attentively with me. The gendarmes, without speaking, seemed astonished and confounded at the tranquil piety of their monarch, to whom they doubtless never had before approached so near….
|King Louis XVI receiving the Last Sacraments from Abbe Edgeworth.|
When the revolutionary journal 'Thermomètre du jour' published an inaccurate account of the King Louis XVI's execution stating that the King had to be led to the scaffold with a pistol held to his temple, Charles Henri Sanson, the Royal Executioner of France during the reign of King Louis XVI and High Executioner of the First French Republic, wrote a letter to the newspaper recording "the exact truth of what happened". Sanson, who was fourth in a six-generation family dynasty of executioners and oversaw nearly 3,000 executions, declared that the King Louis XVI had shown considerable bravery and calmness of mind. Sanson's first-hand account was discovered two hundred years after the monarch's death.
Paris, 20 Feb. 1793; 1st year of the Fr. Rep.
A short absence has prevented my sooner replying to your article concerning Louis Capet. But here is the exact truth as to what passed. On alighting from the carriage for execution, he was told that he must take off his coat; he made some difficulty, saying that they might as well execute him as he was. On [our] representation that that was impossible, he himself assisted in taking off his coat. He again made the same difficulty when his hands were to be tied, but he offered them himself when the person who accompanied him [his confessor] had told him that it was the last sacrifice [the Abbe Edgeworth had suggested to him that the Saviour had submitted to the same indignity]. Then he inquired whether the drums would go on beating as they were doing. We answered that we could not tell. And it was the truth. He ascended the scaffold, and advanced to the front, as if he intended to speak; but we again represented to him that the thing was impossible: he then allowed himself to be conducted to the spot, when he was attached to the instrument, and from which he exclaimed, in a loud voice, "People, I die innocent!" Then, turning round to us, he said, "Sir, I die innocent of all that has been imputed to me; I wish that my blood may cement the happiness of the French people!"
"These, citizen, were his last and exact words. The kind of little debate which occurred at the foot of the scaffold turned altogether on his not thinking it necessary that his coat should he taken off, and his hands tied; he would also have wished to cut off his own hair [he had wished to have it done early in the morning by Clery, but the Municipality would not allow him a pair of scissors].
And, as an homage to truth, I must add that he bore all this with a sangfroid and firmness which astonished us all. I am convinced that he had derived this strength of mind from the principles of religion, of which no one could appear more persuaded and penetrated.
You may be assured, citizen, that there is the truth in its fullest light.
I have the honour to be
Your fellow citizen,
On January 21, 2014 at precisely 10:22 am, the moment when King Louis XVI was executed, a group of approximately 50 royalists gathered at the Place de la Concorde. They left two bouquets of white lilies on the ground to mark the exact spot where their monarch was guillotined 221 years ago.
A mass for France and the royal family was held at the Chapelle Expiatoire on Sunday, January 19, 2014.
Related article: Louis XVI blood mystery 'solved'
|Flowers placed near the statue of Rouen at the Place de la Concorde. King Louis XVI was executed nearby.|
|Two bouquets of white lilies placed on the ground where King Louis XVI was beheaded.|