Item of the Day: Trapp’s Trial of Louis XVI (1793)

Full Title Page:

Proceedings of the French National Convention on the Trial of Louis XVI. Late King of France and Navarre; to which are added, Several Interesting Occurences and Particulars Attending the Treatment, Sentence, and Execution of the Ill-Fated Monarch; the Whole Carefully collected from authentic Documents, and republished with Additions, from the Paper of The World. By Joseph Trapp, A.M. “Murder, most foul, as in the best it is, / But this, most foul, horrid, and unnatural!” – Shakespeare. London: Printed for the Author; Sold by Messrs. Murray, Kearsley, and Wenman and Co. Fleet-street; Ridgway, York-street, St. James’s; Deighton, Holborn, Downes, and McQueen, Strand; and at the World Office. 1793.

From pp. 199-206:

The particulars of the last moments of the unfortunate Monarch are so extremely moving, that, although very few of them have transpired from a pure source, yet it is incumbent on the historian to state those which are most congenial to the truth.–It gives me pain to say that the treatment of the unfortunate King during the last hours of his unhappy life, exceeded in point of cruelty, all the powers of description or utterance.–He had been deprived of every intercourse that could be dear to him; a set of sanguinary arguses watched his every motion. On Sunday, January 20, at two o’clock in the afternoon, the Minister of justice read to him the proclamation of the Executive Council relative to his execution, which he heard with heroic fortitude and resignation.–Immediately after he desired to speak to his wife and family, and expressed a wish to go himself to their apartment. The commissaries, however, thought proper to refuse him the latter part of his request. They sent two of their colleagues to the Queen’s apartment to signify to her the wish of her royal consort.

The Queen advanced towards the officers, with her hands uplifted, and cried, “O ye murderers! O ye murderers!” for near ten minutes–then in convulsive hysteric fits dropped down on the floor:–having recovered herself, she looked with a staring, significant eye at the officers who stood in a distant corner of the room–then turning round to the Dauphin, she shed a flood of tears, embraced him, and exclaimed: “My dear son, I do not know what I am doing–let us never confound the innocent with the guilty.”

Soon after, the Queen, Madame Elizabeth, (the King’s sister) and the Dauphin, were conducted to the King’s dining-room, where the unfortunate Monarch embraced them with heavenly serenity: the officers withdrew, and a scene ensued of tenderness and grief, which none but heaven, and the parties present, witnessed.

This interview lasted upwards of two hours, the officers were then called in, and the King expressed a desire of seeing his wretched royal daughter, who was in a separate apartment. His demand was granted, and he and his family, under proper escort, went to the spot. Paternal heroism made the King depart from his beloved daughter. Maternal feeling retained the Queen and her Sister-in-law with the Dauphin, who said to LOUIS, “We will see you by and bye–Adieu Husband! Adieu Brother! Adieu Father!” The King wafted a kiss to them with his right hand, but they saw him no more!–Arrived in his room, the Monarch prostrated himself, and said prayers with his Confessor, Edgeworth, an Irish Priest, otherwise called De Fermond.

The Dauphin fell down on his knees before one of the commissaries, and said: “O my good Sir, you are a stout man, pray take me in your arms and carry me to the Convention, I will speak to them–carry me in the streets, I will see the people and intercede for my dear father–he is so good a father I know they will not refuse me.”

LOUIS XVI. spent several hours with Edgeworth in prayer, and other acts of devotion–and when the latter had left him he fell in deep prostration before his Maker, hiding his face in his hands.–At 11 o’clock at night he rose from the floor, and being asked by Clery, his valet, if he would please to have his supper, he answered in the negative.–A few minutes after he called for a crust of bread, and a glass of wine, which Clery immediately brought him. He then undressed himself, and went to bed and slept soundly for several hours.

When his valet-de-chambre entered his apartment the next morning drowned in tears, the King took him by the hand and said, “You are in the wrong, Clery, to be thus affected; those, whose kindness induces them to love me, ought rather to rejoice that I am at last arrived at the end of all my sufferings.”

He then put on a clean shirt and stock, a white waistcoat, black florentine silk breeches, black silk stockings, a pair of shoes tied with silk strings, and the same yellow coat which he wore when he first appeared at the bar of the Convention. He asked for a pair of scissars to cut off his hair, but they were refused him. The commissaries then took away his knife. LOUIS said to them, with a smile of pity, “what, could you think me cowardly enough to take away my own life?” The King them spent his time in prayer till eight o’clock, when he took his breakfast. Clery attended him as usual, and after his royal master had done, he delivered to his servant the following effects, in the presence of the commissaries on duty, viz. A gold ring, in the inside of which were these letters, M.A.A.A. engraved: (Maria Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria,) which ring he charged him to deliver to the queen, and to tell her, that it grieved him much to be parted from her. 2. A silver watch-seal, opening in three different parts, upon which were engraved the arms of France—upon another L.L. and upon a third the head of a child with a helmet; which seal he desired him to deliver to his son. 3. A little packet, upon which was written with his own hand, “Hair of my wife, my sister, and my children,” inclosing four little parcels of hair, which he had ordered Clery to deliver to his wife, and to tell her, that he asked her pardon for not having desired her to come down that morning, as he wished to save her the pangs of so cruel a separation.

Clery delivered these articles to the commissaries on duty in the Temple, on the 22d of January, who ordained that he should not deliver them, but keep them in his possession until he should have received orders to the contrary.

The guards, amounting to several thousand men, arrived in and before the Temple at seven o’clock in the morning. A little before nine the drums beat and the trumpets sounded, the last summons for the ill-fated monarch.—–The King started, and exclaimed, “It is time!” Soon after General Santerre, the Mayor of Paris, and the different officers who were ordered to conduct him to the scaffold, entered the Monarch’s chamber, and found him praying on his knees: Santerre, in a ferocious tone of voice, said to the King, “LOUIS CAPET, I am come to conduct you to the place of execution, where you are to suffer death according to your sentence.” LOUIS rose, and making a slight bow, begged for a delay of three minutes, to speak to Mr. Edgworth his confessor, which was granted.

A moment after the King delivered a parcel to James Roux, which he begged him to deliver to the Council General of the Common. Roux refused taking this parcel, which contained the King’s will, alledging, that his orders went no farther than to conduct him to the place of execution. “Justly so,” replied LOUIS, and turning round to another commissary, on duty in the Temple, he delivered the will.

He then said to General Santerre, “Let us march, I am ready.” They immediately descended, and on the bottom of the stairs. LOUIS intreated the Municipal Officers to recommend to the Council of the Common his family, and all the persons who had been attached to his houshold, and were then reduced to poverty. He also begged, that Clery, his valet, might be suffered to remain with the QUEEN–(at this title the municipal monsters made a malicious sneer)–the King recollected himself, and said, “I beg Clery may be suffered to attend my wife.” The inhuman lictors replied, that they would not fail to give a strict account to the Common of what he had said. LOUIS then passed the first court yard on foot, and often turned his head and lifted up his eyes towards the tower in which his wife and family were confined. Arrived in the second yard, the Mayor’s carriage stood ready there to receive him.–He started at the noise of the drums, the sound of the trumpets, and the number of armed men; and, recalling as it were his firmness, by a shake of the body, which was always peculiar to him, he stept into the carriage, which his confessor and two captains of the light horse.

The carriage was drawn by two black horses, preceded by the Mayor, General Santerre, and other Municipal Officers. One squadron of horse, with trumpeters and kettle-drums, led the van of the melacholy convoy. Three heavy pieces of ordnance, with proper implements, and cannoneers with lighted matches, went before the vehicle, which was escorted on both sides by a treble row of troopers.

The train moved on, with a slow pace, from the Temple to the Boulevards, which were planted wit-cannon, and beset with national guards, drums beating, trumpets sounding, and colours flying. The Guillotine, or fatal axe, was erected in the middle of the square, directly facing the gate of the garden of the Thuilleries, between the pedestal on which the equestrian statue of the grandfather of LOUIS was standing, before the 10th of August, and the avenues which lead to the groves called the Elysian Fields. The trotting and neighing of horses, the shrill sound of the trumpets, and the continual beating of drums, pierced the ear of every body and heightened the horrors of the scene.

The scaffold was high and conspicuous, and the houses surrounding the place of execution were full of women, who looked through the windows: the very slates which covered the roofs were raised up for the curious and interested to peep through.

Paris resembled an immense camp; the sections and federates were marching and counter-marching through the different districts;–they had their watch-word;–they wheeled round whenever one corps met another. They carried with them upwards of 100 pieces of heavy artillery, and it made a most imposing spectacle. They were constantly in motion, not standing still five minutes.

The King was two hours in going from the Temple to the place of execution; during this time he talked to his confessor, and repeated from a book the prayers appropriated to those who are in the last agony.

All the shops were shut, and this awful melancholy convoy drew tears of pity form the eyes of many spectators. Upwards of 70,000 men were under arms on that fatal day.

At twenty minutes after ten o’clock the King arrived before the scaffold, and his prayers being ended, Edgworth gave him the general absolution, as it is usual in the church of Rome. The executioner trembled so much that he could hardly do his duty, and the General Santerre ordered two soldiers to help him to tie the King’s hand behind his back.——“Tie my hands!” exclaimed the King, with some anger; but recollecting himself, he added, “do what you please–’tis the last sacrifice.”–The Monarch had previously taken off his great coat, undone his stock, and opened his shirt in such a manner that his neck and breast were bare.

Mr. Edgeworth wanted to go up the steps of the scaffold with him, but this was rudely refused by Santerre, who behaved with detestable ferocity; and, and LOUIS mounted, he protested he was innocent; and much afraid lest the country should suffer for his unmerited end.

It was in that moment of horror, that his confessor, inspired by the sublime virtue and courage of the King, flung himself on his knees, his hands and eyes elevated towards him, and cried with a loud voice, “Son of St. Louis ascend to heaven.”

Having mounted the scaffold, he begged General Santerre to suffer him to speak. The General made a signal for the drums and trumpets to cease: LOUIS assumed a most moving attitude, and attempted to speak, but Santerre said, “I have brought you here to die; ’tis not the time to make speeches.” He then gave the signal with his sword to beat the drums and sound the trumpets again.—LOUIS during this interval had time to turn to the crowd, and was heard with a loud voice to exclaim, “Frenchmen, I die innocent! I forgive mine enemies! May my death serve the people!” He turned round in a moment, and lifting up his eyes to Heaven, said, “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo Spiritum meum!” —“Into thy hand, O Lord, I commend my spirit!” He immediately submitted to the fatal stroke of the axe; and, between the time in which he appeared on the scaffold, and the interval of the fatal stroke, no more than two minutes elapsed! Instantly the executioner lifted his head, and, amidst the flourish of trumpets, exclaimed, “Thus dies a Traitor!” Some of the guards pushed forward to the scaffold, to see the royal corpse streaming with blood: they brandished their swords, and vociferated–“God save the Republic! God save the Nation!

The body was conveyed to the Thuilleries, and at the earnest request of the Jacobines and Federates, the executioner cut off the hair imbrued in blood, which was sold for assignats, in small locks! The guards, the federates, and others, dipped their handkerchiefs in the gore, hoisted it on swords, pikes, and staffs, and sold it; and the bandiiti mob carried it triumphantly through the streets till night, intoxicated, and hollowing–“Behold the blood of a TYRANT!”

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Filed under 1790's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Revolution

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