Autobiography

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Author: A Correspondent of The London Times  | Date: January 26, 1793

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The Vengeance of Dr. Guillotin

[1793]

III

[The Times, London, January 26, 1793]

By an express which arrived yesterday morning from Messrs. Festor & Co. at Dover, we learn the following particulars of the King’s execution:

At six o’clock on Monday morning, the King went to take a farewell of the Queen and royal family. After staying with them some time, and taking a very affectionate farewell of them, the King descended from the Tower to the Temple, and entered the Mayor’s carriage, with his confessor and two members of the Municipality, and passed slowly along the boulevards which led from the Temple to the place of execution. All women were prevented from appearing in the streets, and all persons from being seen in their windows. A strong guard cleared the procession.

The greatest tranquillity prevailed in every street through which the procession passed. At about half past nine the procession arrived at the place of execution, which was the Place de Louis XV between the pedestal which formerly supported the statue of his grandfather and the promenade of the Elysian Fields. Louis mounted the scaffold with composure, and that modest intrepidity peculiar to oppressed innocence, the trumpets sounding and drums beating during the whole time. He made a sign of wishing to harangue the multitude, when the drums ceased, and Louis spoke these few words:

"I die innocent; I pardon my enemies; I only sanctioned upon compulsion the Civil Constitution of the Clergy."1

He was proceeding, but the beat of the drums drowned his voice. His executioners then laid hold of him, and an instant after, his head was separated from his body. This was about a quarter past ten o’clock.

After the execution the people threw their hats up in the air, and cried out Vive la Nation! Some of them endeavored to seize the body, but it was removed by a strong guard to the Temple, and the lifeless remains of the King were exempted from those outrages which his Majesty had experienced during his life.

The King was attended on the scaffold by an Irish priest as his confessor, not choosing to be accompanied by one who had taken the National oath. He was dressed in a brown great coat, white waist coat and black breeches, and his hair was powdered.

M. de Malsherbes announced to Louis the final sentence of death. "Ah!" exclaimed the monarch, "I shall then at length be delivered from cruel suspense."

Since the decree of death was issued, a general consternation has prevailed through Paris—the Sans Culottes are the only persons to rejoice. The honest citizens, immured within their habitations, could not express their heartfelt grief and mourned in private with their families the murder of their much-loved sovereign.

The last requests of the unfortunate Louis breathe the soul of magnanimity, and a mind enlightened with the finest of human virtue. He appears not to be that man which his enemies reported. His heart was sound his head was clear—and he would have reigned in glory, had he but possessed those faults which his assassins laid to his charge. His mind possessed the suggestions of wisdom; and even in his last moments, when the spirit of life was winged for another world, his lips gave utterance to them, and he spoke with firmness and resignation.

Thus has ended the life of Louis XVI, after a period of four years’ detention; during which he experienced from his subjects every species of ignominy and cruelty which a people could inflict upon the most sanguinary tyrant.

Long in the habit of supporting the virtues of this unhappy victim of savage Republicanism; and, steady in persevering to declare, that his highest ambition was the happiness of his people, we hold ourselves justified, from the universal indignation which has marked this last act of cruelty exercised against him, to pay our sorrowing tribute to his memory, and join with the millions in Europe, in supplicating the wrath of Heaven, and the vengeance of mankind, to extend to his unnatural murderers the most exemplary punishment.

1The Civil Constitution of the Clergy reduced the powers of the despoiled Church. The Roman Catholic Church was disestablished; its right of spiritual investiture was abolished; monasteries were dissolved; tithes were eliminated; and freedom of worship was established.

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Chicago: A Correspondent of The London Times, "The Vengeance of Dr. Guillotin—III," Autobiography in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed September 20, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1LDF1NBHXEHWQYC.

MLA: A Correspondent of The London Times. "The Vengeance of Dr. Guillotin—III." Autobiography, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 20 Sep. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1LDF1NBHXEHWQYC.

Harvard: A Correspondent of The London Times, 'The Vengeance of Dr. Guillotin—III' in Autobiography. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 20 September 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1LDF1NBHXEHWQYC.