Élisabeth of France (1764–1794)

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Servant of God
Élisabeth
Vigée Le Brun - Élisabeth of France, Versailles.jpg
Born (1764-05-03)3 May 1764
Palace of Versailles, France
Died 10 May 1794(1794-05-10) (aged 30)
Paris, France
Burial Cimetière des Errancis, Paris (first)
Catacombs of Paris (final)
Full name
Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène de France
House Bourbon
Father Louis, Dauphin of France
Mother Duchess Maria Josepha of Saxony

Élisabeth of France (Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène de France;[1][2] 3 May 1764 – 10 May 1794), known as Madame Élisabeth, was a French princess and the youngest sibling of King Louis XVI. She remained beside the king and his family during the French Revolution and was executed at Place de la Révolution in Paris during the Terror. She is viewed by the Roman Catholic Church as a martyr and a Servant of God.[3][4]

Life[edit]

Early life[edit]

Élisabeth as a child by Joseph Ducreux, 1768

Élisabeth was born on 3 May 1764 in the Palace of Versailles, the youngest child of Louis, Dauphin of France and Marie-Josèphe of Saxony. Her paternal grandparents were King Louis XV of France and Queen Maria Leszczyńska, as the granddaughter of the king, she was a Petite-Fille de France.

At the sudden death of her father in 1765, Élisabeth's oldest surviving brother, Louis Auguste (later to be Louis XVI), became the new Dauphin (the heir-apparent to the French throne), their mother Marie Josèphe died in March 1767 from tuberculosis.[5] This left Élisabeth an orphan at the age of just two years old, along with her older siblings: Louis Auguste, Louis Stanislas, Count of Provence, Charles Philippe, Count of Artois and Clotilde, ("Madame Clotilde").

Élisabeth and her elder sister Clothilde were raised by Madame de Marsan, Governess to the Children of France. The sisters were considered much dissimilar in personality. While Elisabeth was described as "proud, inflexible, and passionate", Clothilde was in contrast estimated to be "endowed with the most happy disposition, which only needed guiding and developing",[6] they were given the usual education of contemporary royal princesses, focusing upon accomplishments, religion and virtue, an education to which Clothilde reportedly willingly subjected herself.[7] They were tutored botany by M. Lemonnier, history and geography lessons by M. Leblond, and religion by Abbe de Montigat, Canon of Chartres, and they followed the court between the royal palaces with their days divided between studies, walks in the Park, or drives in the forest.[6] While Clothilde was described as a docile pupil, "who made herself loved by all who approached her", Élisabeth long refused to study, stating that "there were always people at hand whose duty it was to think for Princes", and treated her staff with impatience,[6] because of their difference, Madame de Marsan, who was not able to handle Elisabeth, preferred Clothilde, which made Elisabeth jealous and created a riff between the sisters.[6] Their relationship improved when Elisabeth fell ill and Clothilde insisted upon nursing her, during which she also taught her the alphabet and gave her an interest in religion, which prompted a great change in the personality of Elisabeth, and she came to be both her friend, tutor and Councillor,[6] after this, she was given Marie Angélique de Mackau as her tutor, who reportedly had "the firmness which bends resistance, and the affectionate kindness which inspires attachment", and under whose tuition she made progress in her education, as well as developed a softer personality, with her strong will directed toward religious principles.[6]

In 1770, her eldest brother the dauphin married Marie Antoinette of Austria. Marie Antoinette found Elisabeth delightful and reportedly demonstrated too openly that she preferred her to her sister Clothilde, which caused some offence at court. [8]

Louis XVI[edit]

On 10 May 1774, her grandfather Louis XV died, and her elder brother Louis Auguste ascended the throne as Louis XVI.

In August 1775, her sister Clothilde left France for her marriage to the crown prince of Sardinia. Upon the departure of Clothilde from France, the farewell between the sisters were described as intense, with Elisabeth could hardly tear herself from the arms of Clothilde, queen Marie Antoinette commenting: "My sister Elisabeth is a charming child, who has intelligence, character, and much grace; she showed the greatest feeling, and much above her age, at the departure of her sister. The poor little girl was in despair, and as her health is very delicate, she was taken ill and had a very severe nervous attack. I own to my dear mamma that I fear I am getting too attached to her, feeling, from the example of my aunts, how essential it is for her happiness not to remain an old maid in this country."[9] "She shows on the occasion of her sister's departure and in several other circumstances a charming good sense and sensibility. When one has such right feeling at eleven years of age, it is very delightful. . . . The poor little dear will leave us perhaps in two years' time. I am sorry she should go as far as Portugal, but it will be happier for her to go so young as she will feel the difference between the two countries less. May God grant that her sensibility does not render her unhappy."[6]

On the 17th of May 1778, after the visit of the court to Marly, Madame Élisabeth formally left the children's chamber and became an adult when she, upon the wish of the king her brother, was turned over to the king by her governess and given her own household, with Diane de Polignac as maid of honour and the Bonne Marie Félicité de Sérent as lady-in-waiting.[9] The ceremony was described: "Mme Elizabeth accompanied by the Princesse de Guemenee, the under governesses, and the ladies in attendance, went to the King's apartments, and there Mme de Guemenee formally handed over her charge to His Majesty, who sent for Mme la Comtesse Diane de Polignac, maid of honour to the Princess and Mme la Marquise de Sereat, her lady-in-waiting, into whose care he gave Mme Elizabeth." [6]

Several negotiations was made for a potential marriage for her, the first suggested marriage partner was the Infant of Portugal, Prince of Brazil and heir to the throne of Portugal. She made no objections to the match, but was reportedly relieved when the negotiations were discontinued.[6]

Secondly, she was proposed by the Duke of Aosta (future Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia), brother of the crown prince of Savoy and brother-in-law of her sister Clothilde; however, the court of France did not consider it proper for a French princess to be married to a prince of lower status than that of a monarch or an heir to a throne, and thus, the marriage was refused on her behalf for matter of status.[9]

Finally, a marriage was suggested between her and her brother-in-law Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, who had a good impression of her from his visit to France the previous year, and commented that he was attracted by the "vivacity of her intellect and her amiable character."[6] However, the anti-Austrian party at court viewed an alliance between France and Austria as contrary to the interests of France, and by 1783, the plans were finally discontinued, and no further suggestions of marriage were made.[9] Élisabeth herself was not discontent to remain unmarried, as it would have to be to a foreign prince, which would force her to leave France: "I can only marry a King's son, and a King's son must reign over his father's kingdom. I should no longer be a Frenchwoman. I do not wish to cease to be one, it is far better to stay here at the foot of my brother's throne than to ascend another."[6]

Madame Élisabeth did not play any role prior to the revolution; she viewed the royal court to be decadent and a threat to her moral welfare and acted to distance herself from it, and she attended court only when her presence was absolutely necessary or when she was explicitly asked by the king or queen.[6] When she left the royal children's chamber and formed her own household as an adult, she reportedly resolved to protect herself from the potential moral threats from court life by continuing to follow the principles set by her governesses and tutors during her childhood; to devote her days to a schedule of religious devotion, study, riding and walks, and to socialize only with "the ladies who have educated me and who are attached to me", and "my good aunts, the Ladies of St. Cyr, the Carmelites of St. Denis".[6]

She was engaged in the school of St Cyr and often visited her aunt the nun Louise at the Carmelite convent of St Denis, and the king, who was somewhat worried that she should become a nun, once said "I ask nothing better than that you should go to see your aunt, on condition that you do not follow her example: Elizabeth, I need you."[6] A staunch believer in absolute monarchy, Élisabeth had great respect for the position of her eldest brother the king and regarded it her duty to stand by him,[6] on a personal level, she was deeply devoted to her second brother, the count de Provence: "My brother the Comte de Provence, is at the same time the best adviser and the most charming conteur. He is seldom mistaken in his judgment of men and things, and his prodigious memory furnishes him in all circumstances with a never ending flow of interesting anecdote."[6] Her youngest brother, the count of Artois, was dissimilar to her and was sometimes given an "affectionately lecture" by her for his scandals, though he came to admire her.[6]

Her relationship to queen Marie Antoinette was complicated, as they were quite dissimilar. Marie Antoinette reportedly found Élisabeth delightful when she first entered court as an adult: "The Oueen is enchanted with her, she tells everyone that there is no one more amiable, that she did not know her well before, but that now she has made her her friend and that it will be for life."[6] Élisabeth, however, was very close to her aunts the Mesdames de France, who were members of the anti-Austrian party at court, noted for their animosity toward the queen and deeply opposed to her informal reforms in court life,[10] and the later view was shared by Élisabeth who, as a monarchist, regarded the queen's disregard of etiquette as a threat to the monarchy, and once remarked in connection to it: "if sovereigns descended often to the people, the people would approach near enough to see that the Queen was only a pretty woman, and that they would soon conclude that the King was merely the first among officials."[6] She also attempted to criticize the queen's behavior in this regard, but never did so openly, instead asking her aunt Madame Adélaïde to to it for her.[6] Regardless of these differences, she did occasionally visit Marie Antoinette in Trianon were they fished in the artificial lake, watched the cows being milked and welcomed the king and his brothers for supper "in white cotton dresses, straw hats and gauze fichus", and she did at least on one occasion accept to participate in one of the queen's amateur theater performances,[6] she became devoted to the children of the king and queen, in particular the first dauphin and Marie Thérèse of France. Élisabeth became the godmother of Sophie Hélène Beatrix of France in 1786, and the same year, she participated in the centenary of St. Cyr, a school she was very engaged in.

In 1781, the king gave her the villa Montreuil (fr) not far from Versailles as a private retreat, and the queen presented it to her with the words: "My sister, you are now at home. This place will be your Trianon."[6] The King did not allow her to spend her nights at Montreuil until she was twenty-four, but in practice, she normally spent her entire days there from morning mass until she returned to Versailles to sleep, at Montreuil, she followed a schedule that divided her days in to hours for study, exercise by riding or walks, dinner and prayers with her ladies-in-waiting, inspired by the schedule set by her governesses during her childhood. Élisabeth took an interest in gardening and engaged in charity in the nearby village of Montreuil. Her former tutor Lemonnier was her neighbor at Montreuil, and she named him her almoner to distribute her charity in the village: "There grew up a constant interchange of interests between them, the learned Professor shared his botanical studies in his garden with the Princess, and even his experiments in his laboratory; and Mme Elizabeth in return associated her old friend with her in her charities, and made him her almoner in the village."[6] She imported cows from Switzetland and the Swiss Jacques Bosson to manage them; upon his request, she also brought his parents and his cousin-bride Marie to Montreuil, married Marie to him and installed her as her milkmaid, and arranged for the Bosson family to tend her farm at Montreuil, producing the milk and eggs which she distributed to the poor children of the village.[6] This was regarded by the court as a picturesque idyll, and Jacques Bosson was the portrayed by Mme de Travannes in the poem "Pauvre Jacques", which became very popular and was set to music.[6]

Élisabeth was interested in politics and a staunch supporter of absolute monarchy. She attended the opening of the National Assembly at Versailles on 22 February 1787 and commented: "What will this famous Assembly do for us? Nothing, except to let the people know the critical position in which we are. The King acts in good faith in asking their advice; will they do the same in the counsels they will give him ? The Queen is very pensive. Sometimes we spend hours alone without her saying a word, she seems to fear me. And yet who can take a more lively interest than I do in my brother's happiness? Our views differ. She is an Austrian. I am a Bourbon, the Comte d'Artois does not understand the necessity of these great reforms; he thinks that people augment the deficit in order to have the right to complain and to demand the assembly of the States-General. Monsieur is much occupied in writing; he is much more serious, and you know he was grave enough already. I have a presentiment that all this will turn out badly, as for me, intrigues tire me. I love peace and rest, but I will never leave the King while he is unhappy."[6]

Revolution[edit]

Élisabeth and her brother Charles-Philippe, comte d'Artois, were the staunchest conservatives in the royal family. Unlike Artois, who, on the order of the king, left France on 17 July 1789, three days after the storming of the Bastille,[11] Élisabeth refused to emigrate when the gravity of the events set forth by the French Revolution became clear.

On 5 October 1789, Élisabeth saw the Women's March on Versailles from Montreuil and immediately returned to the Palace of Versailles, she advised the king to "a vigorous and speedy repression of the riot"[6] rather than to negotiate, and that the royal family should relocate to some town further from Paris, so as to bee free from any influence of fractions.[6] Her advise was countered by Necker, and the retired to the queen's apartments, she was not disturbed when the mob stormed the palace to assassinate the queen, but awakened and called to the king, who was worried about her. When the mob demanded for the king to return with them to Paris, and Lafayette advised him to consent, Élisabeth unsuccessfully advised the king differently: "Sire, it is not to Paris you should go. You still have devoted battalions, faithful guards, who will protect your retreat, but I implore you, my brother, do not go to Paris."[6]

Élisabeth accompanied the royal family to Paris, were she chose to live with them in the Tuileries Palace rather than with her aunts mesdames Adélaïde and Victoire, in the château de Bellevue. The day after their arrival, Madame de Tourzel stated that the royal family was awoken by large crowds outside, and that every member of the family, "even the Princesses", was obliged to show themselves to the public wearing the national cockade.[6]

In the Tuileries, Élisabeth was housed in the Pavillon de Flore.[6] Initially on the first floor beside the queen, she switched with the Princesse de Lamballe to the second floor in the Pavillon de Flore[8] after some fish market women had climbed in to her apartment through the windows.[6]

In contrast to the queen, Madame Élisabeth had a good reputation among the public, and was referred to as the "Sainte Genevieve of the Tuileries" by the market women of Las Halles,[6] the court life at the Tuileries was described as subdued. Élisabeth attended dinner with the royal family, worked on a tapestry with the queen after dinner, and participated in the evening family supper with the count and countess of Provence every day, and continued to manage her property in Montreuil by letter.

In February 1791, she chose not to emigrate with her aunts Adélaïde and Victoire, she commented in a letter: "I thought I could see in your letters and in others I have received that people are surprised that I have not done as my aunts have done. I did not think that my duty called me to take this step, and that is what has dictated my decision, but believe that I shall never be capable of betraying my duty nor my religion, nor my affection for those why alone merit it, and with whom I would give the world to live."[6]

On June 1791, she accompanied the royal family on its unsuccessful escape attempt, which was stopped at Varennes, when they were forced to return to Paris, during the journey, Mm de Tourzel passed as a Baroness de Korff, the king as her valet-de-chambre, the queen as her maid, and Elizabeth as the children's nurse. She took no leading part in the famous flight, but did play a role on their way back to Paris. Soon after leaving Epernay on their return, the party was joined by three commissaries of the Assembly — Barnave, Potion, and Latour-Maubourg, the two first joined them inside the carriage, during the journey, Elizabeth spoke to Barnave for several hours in an attempt to justify the attempted escape of the king and describe his views of the revolution, which was in part described in the memoirs of Tourzel: "I am very glad that you have given me the chance of opening my heart and of speaking to you frankly about the Revolution. You are too clever, M. Barnave, not to have recognised at once the King's love for the French and his desire to make them happy. Misled by an excessive love for liberty, you thought only of its benefits, without considering the disorder which might accompany it. Dazzled by your first success, you went much further than you intended, the resistance you met with strengthened you against difficulties and made you crush without reflection all that was an obstacle to your plans. You forgot that progress must go slowly, and that in striving to arrive quickly, one runs the risk of losing one's way. You persuaded yourself that by destroying everything that already existed, good or bad, you would make a perfect work and that you would then re-establish what it was useful to preserve. Led away by this desire, you have attacked the very foundations of royalty, and covered with bitterness and insult the best of kings. All his efforts and sacrifices to bring you back to wiser ideas have been useless, and you have not ceased to calumniate his intentions and to humiliate him in the eyes of his people, in taking from royalty all the prerogatives which inspire love and respect. Torn from his palace and taken to Paris in the most disgraceful manner, his goodness never failed, he opened his arms to his misguided children, and tried to come to an understanding with them in order to cooperate with them for the welfare of France, which he cherished in spite of its errors. You have forced him to sign a Constitution not yet completed, although he represented to you that it would be better not to sanction an unfinished piece of work, and you have obliged him to present it in this form to the People before a Federation of which the object was to attach the Departments to you in isolating the King from the nation."[6] "Ah, Madame, do not complain of the Federation. We should have been lost, had you known how to profit by it.", replied Barnave.[6] "The King, in spite of the fresh insults he has received since then, could not make up his mind to do what he has now done. But, attacked in his principles — in his family — in his person — profoundly afflicted by the crimes committed throughout France and seeing a general disorganization in all departments of Government, with the evils which result ; determined to quit Paris in order to go to another town in the kingdom, where, free in his own actions, he could persuade the Assembly to revise its decrees and where he could in concert with it make a new Constitution, in which the different authorities could be classified and replaced in their proper place and could work for the happiness of France. I do not speak of our own sorrows, the King alone, who should make one with France, occupies us entirely. I will never leave him unless your decrees, by withholding all liberty to practice religion, force me to abandon him to go to a country where liberty of conscience enables me to practice my religion, to which I hold more than to my life.'[6] "By no means, Madame, your example and your presence are too useful to your country," replied Barnave.[6] Petion for his part famously described Élisabeth as attracted by him during the journey: Élisabeth herself later alluded to this in a letter by commenting that she remembered "certain strange remarks of his during the journey from Varennes."[6] At the inn at Dormans, Elisabeth was reportedly contacted by the officer Jean Landrieux, who used her as intermediary in his unsuccessful attempt to help the family escape via the window via the river to Vincelles.[6] Upon the return to Paris, Elisabeth and Tourzel were escorted from the carriage to the palace by Barnave and Latour-Maubourg respectively and last, after the king, the queen and the royal children; while the crowd had greeted the king with silence, the queen with dislike and the children with cheers, no particular public reaction was shown Elisabeth and Tourzel.[6]

Élisabeth commented on the journey to Marie-Angélique de Bombelles: "Our journey with Barnave and Petion passed off very ludicrously. You believe no doubt that we were in torments! Not at all. They behaved very well, especially the former, who is very intelligent, and not fierce as is said. I began by showing them frankly my opinion of their doings, and after that we conversed for the rest of the journey as if we were not concerned in the matter. Barnave saved the Gardes die Corps who were with us, and whom the National Guard wished to massacre on our arrival here."[6]

After their return, the king, the queen and the dauphin (and thereby his governess Tourzel) was placed under surveillance, but no guards were tasked with the surveillance of the king's daughter or sister, and Elisabeth was in fact to leave if she wished, but she chose to stay, according to Tourzel, as "their consolation during their captivity, her attentions to the King and Queen and their children always redoubled in proportion to their misfortunes."[6] She was urged by one of her correspondents, the Abbe de Lubersac, to join her aunts in Rome, but refused: "There are certain positions in which one cannot dispose of oneself, and such is mine, the line I should follow is traced so clearly by Providence that I must remain faithful to it."[6]

On 20 February 1792, Élisabeth accompanied the queen to the Italian Theatre, which was remembered as the last time the queen made such a visit and was applauded in public,[6] and she also attended the official celebrations after the king signed the new constitution, and the Federation celebration of 14 July 1792, the new constitution prompted her exiled brothers to prepare a French exile regency, and Elisabeth informed her brother the count of Artois of the political changes in code.[6] She unsuccessfully opposed the king's sanction of the Decree against the priests who refused to take the constitutional oath.[6]

Élisabeth as well as Marie Antoinette were also visited by the delegation of slave owners from Saint Domingue, who had came to petition the king for his protection against the slave rebellion, during which the image of her was alluded to: "in appearing before you, Madame, they can feel no other sentiment than that of veneration for your high virtues. The interest which you will deign to feel for their fate will sweeten its bitterness," upon which she replied: "Gentlemen, I have keenly felt the misfortunes which have visited the Colony. I very sincerely share the interest taken in it by the King and the Queen, and I beg you to assure all the Colonists of this."[6]

During the Demonstration of 20 June 1792 at the Tuileries Palace, Élisabeth made a great impression by her courage, in particular when she was famously temporary mistaken for the queen, she was present in the chamber of the king during the event and remained by his side during most of the incident. When he demonstrators forced the king to put on the revolutionary red cap, Élisabeth was mistaken for the queen, she was warned: "You do not understand, they take you for the Austrian", upon which she famously replied: "Ah, would to God it were so, do not enlighten them, save them from a greater crime."[6] She turned aside a bayonet which was pointed against her with the words: "Take care, monsieur. You might wound some one, and I am sure you would be sorry."[6] When a male royalist attempting to protect the king fainted, she reached him and revived him with her smelling-salt,[6] after the Demonstration of 20 June, some of the demonstrators actually attributed the failed assault on the royal family upon the demonstration of courage made by the behavior of Elisabeth, and a female demonstrator was reported saying: "There was nothing to be done to-day; their good St. Genevieve was there."[6]

Élisabeth herself described the Demonstration in a letter as follows: "We were now at the King's window. The few persons who were with his valet came also to rejoin us, the doors were closed and a few minutes later we heard someone calling. It was Aclocque and some Grenadiers and Volunteers he had brought, he asked the King to show himself alone. The King passed into the first ante-room. ... At the moment that the King went into his ante-room some of the Queen's people obliged her to go back to her rooms. Happier than she, there was no one to force me to leave the King, and the Queen had hardly been dragged back when the door was burst open by the pikemen, at that moment the King got up on some chests which stood in the window, and the Marechal de Mouchy, MM. d'Hervelly, Aclocque, and a dozen grenadiers surrounded him. I remained near the wall encircled by Ministers, M. de Marsilly, and a few of the National Guards. The pikemen entered the room like lightning, they looked for the King, one in particular who, they say, said horrid things, but a Grenadier caught his arm, saying : ' Unhappy one, it is your King' They at the same time cried Vive le Roy. The rest of the pikemen answered the cheer rhechanically, the room was full in quicker time than I can write, all asking for the Sanction (for the decrees) and that the Ministers should be sent away. For four hours the same cry was repeated, some members of the Assembly came soon afterwards. MM. Vergniaud and Isnard spoke very well to the people, telling them they were wrong to ask the King in this way for the Sanction, and tried to persuade them to retire, but their words were useless. ... At last Petion and other members of the municipality arrived, the first-named harangued the people, and after having praised the dignity and order with which they had come, he begged them to retire with the same calm, so that they might not be reproached with having given way to any excess during a fete Civique. . . . But to return to the Queen, whom I left being forced back, against her will, to my nephew's apartment. . . . She did everything in the world to return to the King, but MM. de Choiseul and de Hauteville and our women who were there prevented her. . . . The Grenadiers entered the Council Chamber, and put her and the children behind the Table, the Grenadiers and others who were much attached to them, surrounded them, and the crowd passed before them. A woman put a red cap on the Queen's head and on my nephew's, the King had one almost from the first. Santerre, who led the file, harangued her, and told her people had misled her in saying that the people did not love her ; they did, and he could assure her she had nothing to fear. ' One never fears anything when one is with good people,' she replied, holding out her hand at the same time to the grenadiers near her, who all threw themselves upon it to kiss it. It was very touching. ... A real deputation arrived to see the King, and as I heard this and did not wish to remain in the crowd, I left an hour before he did. I rejoined the Queen, and you can guess with what pleasure I embraced her."[6]

After the Demonstration of 20 June, Élisabeth as well as the king reportedly despaired for the future "as an abyss from which they could only escape by a miracle of Providence,"[6] but she continued to act as the king's political adviser, and Mme de Lage de Volude described her state at this point: "She spends her days in prayer and in devouring the best books on our situation. She is full of noble and generous sentiments : her timidity changes to firmness when it is a question of speaking to the King and of informing him as to the state of things."[6]

The royal court was warned that there would be an attack on the palace, and royalists noblemen gathered there to defend the royal family on 9 August, sleeping every where they could find a place, during the following day, awaiting the attack, the queen, accompanied by the royal children, Elisabeth and the princesse de Lamballe, went about the palace to encourage the defenders, and then followed the king when he inspected the guards in the interior of the palace - they did however not accompany him when he visited the guards posted outside of the palace.[6]

On 10 August 1792, when insurgents attacked the Tuileries, the king and queen was advised by Roederer to leave the palace and seek refuge in the Legislative Assembly for their own safety, as it would be impossible to defend the palace. When she heard this, Elisabeth asked Roaderer: "Monsieur Roederer, you will answer for the lives of the King and Queen?" "Madame," was his reply, "we answer for it that we will die at their side; that is all we can guarantee."[6] The royal family, including Elisabeth, then left the palace to seek refuge in the National Assembly. M. de la Rochefoucauld described them: ' I was in the garden, near enough to offer my arm to Madame la Princesse de Lamballe, who was the most dejected and frightened of the party ; she took it. The King walked erect ... the Queen was in tears ; from time to time she wiped them away and strove to take a confident air, which she kept for a little while, but I felt her tremble. The Dauphin was not much frightened. Madame Elizabeth was calm and resigned, religion inspired her. . . . The little Madame wept softly. Madame la Princesse de Lamballe said to me, "We shall never return to the Château."[8] When Elisabeth saw the crowd she reportedly said: "All those people are misled. I desire their conversion, but not their punishment."[6]

Élisabeth was described as calm in the assembly, where she witnessed, later on in the day, her brother's dethronement. She followed the family from there to the Feuillants, were she occupied the 4th room with her nephew, Tourzel and Lamballe, during the night, there were reportedly some women outside on the street who cried for the heads of the king, queen and Elisabeth, upon which the king took offence and asked "What have they done to them?" referencing to the threats against his spouse and sister.[6] Élisabeth reportedly spent the night awake in prayer. They were joined at the Feuillants by some of their retinue, among them Pauline de Tourzel, the whole family was transferred to the Temple Tower three days later. Before leaving the Feuillants, Elisabeth said to Pauline de Tourzel: "Dear Pauline, we know your discretion and your attachment for us. I have a letter of the greatest importance which I wish to get rid of before leaving here. Help me to make it disappear."[6] They tore an eight pages letter, but taking too long, Pauline swallowed the pages for her.[6]

After the execution of the former king on 21 January 1793 and the separation of her nephew, the young "Louis XVII", from the rest of the family on 3 July, Élisabeth was left with Marie Antoinette, and Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, Madame Royale, in their apartment in the Tower. The former queen was taken to the Conciergerie on 2 August 1793, and executed on 16 October. Marie Antoinette's last letter, written in the early hours of the day of her execution, was addressed to Élisabeth, but never reached her. Élisabeth and Marie-Thérèse were kept in ignorance of Marie Antoinette's death.

Trial and execution[edit]

Élisabeth was not regarded as dangerous by Robespierre, and the original plan had been to banish her from France.[12] She spent her last days with Marie-Thérèse, comforting and looking after her niece, who later wrote of her: "I feel I have her nature . . . [she] considered me and cared for me as her daughter, and I, I honoured her as a second mother".[13] On 9 May 1794, however, Élisabeth was transferred to the Conciergerie and brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal, she was accused of assisting the king's flight, of supplying émigrés with funds, and of encouraging the resistance of the royal troops during the events of 10 August 1792. During her trial, she replied, when addressed as "The Sister of a Tyrant": "If my brother had been what you call him, you would not have been where you are, nor I where I am", she was condemned to death and guillotined the following day.[14] In the notes of the trial of Nicolas Pasquin, her valet of the chambers, she is referred to as the sister of the tyrant Capet. Pasquin, at the age of 36 years, was executed for his own alleged part in the conspiracy of 10 August 1792, and executed on 6 February.[15]

Madame Élisabeth was executed along with 23 other men and women, who had been tried and condemned at the same time as she. A devout Roman Catholic, and the highest ranking among them, in the cart taking them to their execution, and while waiting her turn, she helped several of them through the ordeal, encouraging them and reciting the De profundis until her time came.[16]

At the foot of the guillotine, two of the women who were also in the cart asked to kiss her before their execution. Élisabeth gladly did so, and then was forced by the executioners to remain in the cart and watch the others being executed, before she herself was finally taken up to be guillotined.[17] While she was being strapped to the board, her shawl fell off, exposing her shoulders, and she cried to the executioner “Au nom de votre mère, monsieur, couvrez-moi. (In the name of your mother, sir, cover me)”.[18]

Her body was buried in a common grave at the Errancis Cemetery in Paris,[19] at the time of the Restoration, her brother Louis XVIII searched for her remains, only to discover that the bodies interred there had decomposed to a state where they could no longer be identified. Élisabeth's remains, with that of other victims of the guillotine (including Robespierre, also buried at the Errancis Cemetery), were later placed in the Catacombs of Paris. A medallion represents her at the Basilica of Saint Denis.

Beatification[edit]

The Cause of Beatification of Élisabeth was introduced in 1924, but has not yet been completed.

Assessment[edit]

Élisabeth, who had turned thirty a week before her death, was executed essentially because she was a sister of the king; however, the general consensus of the French revolutionaries was that she was a supporter of the ultra-right royalist faction. There is much evidence to suggest that she actively supported the intrigues of the comte d'Artois to bring foreign armies into France to crush the Revolution; in monarchist circles, her exemplary private life elicited much admiration. Élisabeth was much praised for her charitable nature, familial devotion and devout Catholic faith. There can be no question that she saw the Revolution as the incarnation of evil on earth[citation needed] and viewed civil war as the only means to drive it from the land.

Royalist literature represents her as a Catholic martyr, while left-wing historians severely criticise her for extreme conservatism, which seemed excessive even to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette[citation needed]. Several biographies have been published of her in French, while extensive treatment of her life is given in Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette and Deborah Cadbury's investigative biography of Louis XVII.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Achaintre, Nicolas Louis, Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de Bourbon, Vol. 2, (Rue de l'École de Médecine, 1824), 168.
  2. ^ Diderot & d'Alembert Encyclopédie méthodique: Jurisprudence, Paris, 1786, p. 159 [1]
  3. ^ "1794". faithweb.com. Retrieved 10 May 2017. 
  4. ^ "Bienvenue sur le site de la paroisse Sainte-Élisabeth-de-Hongrie". sainteelisabethdehongrie.com. Retrieved 10 May 2017. 
  5. ^ Évelyne Lever, Louis XVI, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris (1985), p. 43
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi Maxwell-Scott, Mary Monica, Madame Elizabeth de France, 1764-1794, London : E. Arnold, 1908
  7. ^ Woodacre, Elena: Queenship in the Mediterranean: Negotiating the Role of the Queen in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras (2013)
  8. ^ a b c Hardy, B. C. (Blanche Christabel), The Princesse de Lamballe; a biography, 1908, Project Gutenberg
  9. ^ a b c d Princess of France Elisabeth, Elisabeth The Life and Letters of Madame Elisabeth de France, Sister of Louis XVI, Versailles HistoricalSociety, 1899
  10. ^ Joan Haslip (1991). Marie Antoinette (in Swedish). p. 79-80. ISBN. 
  11. ^ Castelot, André, Charles X, La fin d'un monde, Perrin, Paris, 1988, pp. 79-80, ISBN 2-262-00545-1
  12. ^ With Barere on the day of Mme Élisabeth's execution: — He had tried to save her, he said to Barère, but Collot had insisted on her death.
    Thompson, James M. (1988). Robespierre. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. p. 218. ISBN 0-631-15504-X. 
  13. ^ Nagel, Sophie (2009). Marie-Thérèse: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter. p. 144. 
  14. ^ Trial and execution (French): de Beauchesne, Alcide-Hyacinthe, La vie de Madame Élisabeth, sœur de Louis XVI, Volume 2, Henri-Plon Éditeur-Imprimeur, Paris, 1870, pp. 199-205, 219-250.
  15. ^ (in French) Liste générale et très-exacte des noms, âges, qualités et demeures de tous les Conspirateurs qui ont été condamnés à mort par le Tribunal Révolutionnaire établi à Paris par la loi du 17 août 1792... 10 mars 1793, Marchand 1793, p. 11.
  16. ^ Beauchesne, p. 249.
  17. ^ Nagel, Sophie (2009). Marie-Thérèse: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter. p. 144. 
  18. ^ Beauchesne, p. 249.
  19. ^ de Rochegude, Félix, Promenades dans toutes les rues de Paris, VIIIe arrondissement, Hachette, Paris, 1910, p. 46.

Sources[edit]

Primary source[edit]

Ancestors[edit]