The tragic fate of King Louis XVII (Part two)

King Louis XVII
Museum of the French Revolution, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Read part one here.

They had arrived at the Temple with virtually nothing, but over the next few weeks, they were able to buy items to decorate their rooms. By then, they had been stripped of their attendants, including the Princess of Lamballe and the Marquise de Tourzel. Louis Charles couldn’t be alone, so he would now sleep in his mother’s room. The family now began to hope for rescue, which seemed like the only way out. Unfortunately, on 2 September, they were disturbed during their daily walk, and that night an angry mob stormed the Temple. When the King asked what was happening, the guard responded, “Well, if you want to know, it is the head of Madame de Lamballe they want to show you, for you to see how the people avenge themselves on tyrants.”1 The Princess of Lamballe had been hastily brought before a tribunal, and she was lynched by the mob. Both Louis Charles and Marie Thérèse were sobbing at the horror of it all.

Following the horrors, the family tried to keep a routine in the Temple. Louis Charles received lessons from his father, while Marie Thérèse received lessons from her mother. They were permitted to talk walks in the compound and exercised there as well. Nevertheless, Louis Charles suffered from nightmares and was often visibly distressed and nervous. Finally, in September 1792, the monarchy was abolished, and France was proclaimed a republic. In October, the family was moved to the other tower. The King and the Dauphin were on the second floor, while Marie Antoinette, Marie Thérèse and Élisabeth were on the third floor.

On 11 December, Louis Charles was taken from his father to his mother, and he certainly sensed that something was wrong. The King’s trial had begun, and he was told he could see his children, but only if they did not see their mother or aunt as long as the trial lasted. Thus, he refused. The trial continued throughout December and early January. The vote for his execution ended with 361 in favour – a majority of just one. Due to this close majority, another motion for a reprieve was made, which was rejected with a majority of 70. On 20 January 1793, he was informed that he would be executed within 24 hours. Later that day, he was finally reunited with his family. He told Louis Charles directly to pardon those who were putting him to death. He also told him and Marie Thérèse to always be close friends and support each other and to be obedient to their mother.2 He gave them their blessing but refused to spend the night with them. He promised to see them in the morning, but their sobs still echoed as they left him. He was executed the following day without seeing his family again to spare them the agony.

“Shouts of joy” reached the ears of Marie Antoinette and Madame Élisabeth, the latter of whom exclaimed, “The monsters! They are satisfied now!”3 Marie Antoinette was unable to speak, but she, Élisabeth and Marie Thérèse curtsied deeply for the new – titular – King – the seven-year-old King Louis XVII. Marie Antoinette devoted her life to Louis Charles and took over the lessons. The stifling conditions were bad for Louis Charles’s health, and he began to suffer from headaches, convulsions and a worm infestation. His mother and sister dutifully nursed him through the worst.

On 3 July 1793, Louis Charles was forcibly separated from his family. He “flung himself into my mother’s arms, imploring not to be taken from her.”4 Marie Antoinette refused to give him up, telling the guards they would have to kill her first. After being threatened that all would be killed, Marie Antoinette handed him over. Louis Charles “kissed us all very tenderly and went away with the guards, crying his heart out.”5 He was taken to a room on the floor below, the late King’s room. He cried for the next two days, which his mother and sister could hear in the room above. It was decided that Louis Charles should be re-educated into a good citizen, and a man named Antoine Simon was chosen for the task. He treated Louis Charles well initially.

In August 1793, Marie Antoinette was taken to the Conciergerie for her trial, and she was separated from Marie Thérèse and Élisabeth. As she left, she commended the care of her children to Élisabeth. She would never see them again and was executed on 16 October 1793.

(public domain)

Meanwhile, Louis Charles was made to sing revolutionary songs at the window so his sister and aunt could hear them. Marie Thérèse wrote, “Simon made him eat horribly and forced him to drink much wine, which he detested. All this gave him a fever… and his health became totally out of order.”6 He was made to wear the revolutionary uniform, and Antoine’s wife cut off his hair. He was taught to use foul language and was forced to refer to his aunt and sister as “common whores.”7 As Antoine became bored with his royal charge, he became more violent. Louis Charles, manipulated by the abuse, eventually testified against his mother. During this time, he briefly saw his sister, who rushed to embrace him. Marie Thérèse was questioned about the alleged sexual relationship between her mother and brother. She was horrified at the allegations, and this would be the last time she saw her brother. Louis Charles remained unaware of his mother’s execution. 

Read part three here.

  1. The lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.77
  2. The lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.93
  3. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.399
  4. The lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.102
  5. The lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.102
  6. The lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.116
  7. The lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.116

About Moniek Bloks 2748 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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