Little Dauphin - George Upton

In the Temple

The French Revolution pursued its terrible course, and war with Austria was finally added to the internal disorders that distracted the unhappy country. The people, kept in a constant tumult by the false reports and incessant assaults of the bloody Jacobins, hated the King more than ever. Not content with depriving him of his liberty and his throne, and subjecting him to the deepest humiliations, the brutal mob also demanded his life.

The first step toward this dreadful denouement of the tragedy was the formal arrest of the royal family and their imprisonment in the Temple. On the thirteenth of August, 1792, they were taken to this prison, the gates of which closed behind the King, never to open for him again till he went forth to lay his head under the guillotine.

The Temple was originally the residence of the Grand Priors of the Knights Templars, and in the thirteenth century occupied an extensive area, acquired by the purchase of surrounding lands. In the year 1792, however, little remained of it but the so-called Tower of the Temple, a dark square structure whose massive, frowning walls were flanked by turrets at each corner. The Tower had four stories. On the ground floor there was but one large room, and a kitchen which was unused. The first story consisted of an antechamber and a dining-room, which communicated with a small closet in one of the turrets. The second floor also contained an anteroom and two apartments, one of which the Queen and her daughter used as a bedchamber, others being occupied by the Dauphin, Madame Elisabeth, and Madame de Tourzel. The third floor was similar to the second, and here at first the King was lodged with his attendants, M. Hue and M. Chamilly.

A few faithful and devoted friends had chosen to share the royal family's imprisonment, but this consolation was not long permitted them. On the nineteenth of August, two officers made their appearance with an order from the Commune to remove all persons not belonging to the Capet family. In vain the Queen opposed the departure of the Princess de Lamballe, on the ground that she was a relative. Their parting was most affecting; both the royal children mingled their—tears with those of their elders, until the Princess and Madame de Tourzel were forcibly separated from them and carried away. Not a single attendant was left to the unfortunate prisoners, except M. Hue, who, much to his surprise, was permitted to remain.

Their life in the Tower of the Temple was very sad and monotonous. The King arose every morning between six and seven, and employed himself with his devotions in his little oratory in the turret

until nine o'clock, while M. Hue set the room in order, laid the table for breakfast, and then went down to the Queen. Marie Antoinette was up even before the King, dressed herself and her son, and heard him say his prayers. She kept her door closed, however, until M. Hue appeared, in order to prevent the officers, sent by the Commune to remain in her room during the day, from entering any earlier. At nine she went with her children and Madame Elisabeth to breakfast with the King, and M. Hue took this opportunity to clean their rooms and light the fires. At ten the whole family returned to the Queen's room, where they remained for the rest of the day. The King devoted himself to his son's instruction, and the Queen heard the Princess recite her lessons, while Madame Elisabeth taught them ciphering and drawing.

At one o'clock, when the weather was fine and Santerre, the commander of the guards, was present, the whole family walked in the little garden of the Temple, and the Dauphin amused himself with childish sports and games. At two they had dinner, after which came an hour of recreation, when the children's amusements and laughter somewhat enlivened the customary gloom. About four the King would often take a short nap in his armchair, while the Princesses sat by with a book or some needlework, and the little Prince studied his lessons or applied himself to his drawing and copybook. M. Hue superintended his work, and after it was finished took him into the other room, where they played ball or shuttlecock together.

At seven the family gathered around the table; and read aloud from some religious or historical work that would interest and instruct the children. At eight M. Hue gave the Dauphin his supper in Madame Elisabeth's room; his parents were usually present, and the King would often give him little easy riddles to guess, the solution of which occupied and diverted the child. After supper he was undressed and said his evening prayer, which usually was as follows:

Almighty God, who hast created and redeemed me, to Thee I pray. Preserve the life of the King, my father, and watch over the days of my family also. Protect us from our enemies! Grant to Madame de Tourzel strength to bear the sorrows she is enduring on our behalf."

After his prayer the Queen put him to bed, and she and Madame Elisabeth remained with him in turn. As soon as the family supper was over, the King came to say goodnight to his son. After a few moments' talk, he pressed the hand of his wife and sister, received the caresses of his children, and returned to his own room, retiring at once to his oratory, where he remained till midnight.

The Princesses sat together some time later, often making use of this quiet hour to mend the family clothing; and the King rarely composed himself to sleep until after the guard was changed at midnight. This was the daily routine as long as the King remained a prisoner. The days passed in sadness and humiliation, and there was scarcely an hour in which they were not exposed to some fresh insult or indignity.

At this time the little Dauphin was seven and a half years of age. Through all their troubles, he showed a courage and sweetness of disposition seldom found even in the happiest natures. Sometimes the seriousness of his thoughts would betray itself by word or look; but he never failed to respond to his parents' affected cheerfulness with all a child's unquestioning light-heartedness. Apparently he thought no more of past greatness; he was glad to be alive, and the only thing that made him unhappy was his mother's tears. He never spoke of his former amusements and pleasures, showed no regrets, and seemed to have forgotten all the joys of happier days. He applied himself diligently to his studies, and with the aid of a good memory he was far more advanced than most children of his age. Through all this time of sorrow and trouble, the poor little Prince had possessed one unfailing consolation—his parents' love and care. But alas! the time was soon to come when he would be deprived of this, too, and lose, first, his father, then his mother.

The hard school of adversity developed all the purity and nobility of the boy's nature, already so richly endowed with warm affections and tender sensibilities. Still a child in all his acts and feelings, he was old enough at the same time to be able to comprehend the misfortunes of the family, and seemed to feel that he owed his parents even more respect and attention than formerly, though his lively fancies often made him forget their cruel situation. He realized that they were prisoners, and was discreet and prudent in his speech and behavior. Never a syllable escaped him that could have caused a painful memory or regret in his mother's heart. How affectionate and yet how thoughtful and quick-witted he was, one or two incidents will show.

A stone-mason was at work one day on the wall of the King's anteroom, making a place for heavier bolts to be put on the door. While the workman was eating his breakfast, the little Prince amused himself by playing with his tools. The King took the chisel and hammer from his son's hand to show him how to use them, and worked at the wall himself for a few moments. The mason, moved by a sudden feeling of pity, said to him:

"After you have gone away from here, you can say you have worked on your own prison!"

"Alas!" answered the King, when and how shall I get away from here?"

Scarcely had he spoken the words, when the little Dauphin threw himself into his father's arms and burst into tears. The King dropped the hammer and chisel: he, too, was much affected, and paced up and down the room for some moments, struggling with his emotions.

On another occasion the Prince had not shown a coarse fellow named Mercereau all the respect to which he considered himself entitled, whereupon he addressed the child roughly with:

"Hey, boy! don't you know that liberty has made us all equal?"

"Equal, as much as you please," answered the Dauphin with a glance at his father, "but you will find it hard to make us believe that liberty has made us free!"

And now the time was approaching which was to separate the King from his loved ones forever. After so many crimes committed by the French people in the first intoxication and frenzy of their power, there remained only the King's death to be accomplished. Louis the Sixteenth, the mildest and most just of kings, who had committed no crime but that of loving his people too well, was summoned before the blood-thirsty Convection which had boldly set itself up to judge him. For several days previously the treatment of the royal prisoners had been even harsher than before. They were deprived of every means of employment; even the ladies' needles were taken away from them, so that they could no longer find distraction in their feminine occupations, and to Louis these added brutalities indicated but too plainly the issue of his trial. Indeed, he was quite prepared for the worst; but what troubled him most was the separation from his family. During the session of the Convention he had not been permitted to see them, and it was only with the greatest difficulty and by the most ingenious expedients that he was able to obtain news of them or communicate with them.

At last the death sentence was pronounced, to be executed on the following morning, and the King was granted a final interview with his family. At half-past eight in the evening his door was opened. The Queen came first, leading the little Dauphin by the hand; then her daughter, Marie Therese, and Madame Elisabeth. They threw themselves into the arms of the King, and for some moments a sorrowful silence prevailed, broken only by sobs. The Queen made a motion to her husband to take them into his bedchamber. "Not there," said the King, "we will go into the dining-room; that is the only place where I can see you."

They stepped into the adjoining room, which was divided from the antechamber by a glass partition, and the guards closed the door. The King sat down with his wife and sister on either side; the Princess knelt before him, and the Dauphin remained standing between his father's knees. They all leaned towards him and frequently embraced him, while the King told them about his trial, and tried to excuse those who had condemned him. He then gave some religious admonitions to his children; charged them to forgive those who were the cause of his death, and bestowed his blessing upon them. The Queen expressed her earnest desire that they might all spend the night together, but he refused, saying that he much needed to rest and compose his thoughts. This melancholy scene lasted nearly two hours. As the time drew near when it must end, the King turned to his children again, and made them give him a solemn promise never to be revenged on his enemies. Then, taking the Dauphin on his knee, he impressed upon him the fulfilment of his last wishes, and concluded with these words:

"My son, you have heard all that I have said, but since an oath is more sacred than words, swear with uplifted hand that you will obey the last wishes of your father."

The little Prince obeyed and took the oath with streaming eyes. The others, too, wept bitterly, for the touching nobility of the King only intensified their grief. And now for more than a quarter of an hour not a word was spoken; only heart-rending sounds of anguish filled the room, while the whole family mingled their tears until exhausted by sorrow. At length Louis rose, and the others followed his example. A faithful servant, named Clery, who had managed to gain admittance to the prison so as to be near the King, opened the door. Louis supported his wife and held their son's hand, while the Princess clasped her arms tightly about her father and Madame Elisabeth clung to his arm. They took several steps toward the outer door, and again heart-breaking sobs burst forth.

"Be calm!" said the King; I will see you again in the morning at eight o'clock."

"You promise?" they all cried.

"Yes, I promise!"

"But why not at seven?" asked the Queen.

"Well, at seven, then," replied the King. "Adieu!"

This farewell was spoken in such a touching tone that their grief became once more uncontrollable. The Princess sank senseless at her father's feet, and Clery assisted Madame Elisabeth to support her. The King, to put an end to this distressing scene, clasped them all once more in his arms most tenderly, and tore himself from their embraces.

Louis XVI


"Farewell! Farewell!" he said again with a breaking heart, as he returned to his room.

The good King, the loving father, had seen his dear ones for the last time on earth. To save them from another such trial, he nobly resolved to deprive himself of the sad consolation of pressing them once more to his heart, and went to his execution without a last farewell. His last words, spoken from the scaffold to the people, were:

"I die innocent of all the crimes of which I am accused. I forgive all those who are the cause of my death, and pray God that the blood you are about to shed may assure the happiness of France. And you, unhappy people . . . . "

The rest was drowned in the roll of drums. His noble head fell—the head of a martyr, the head of one of the best and most merciful kings who ever ruled in France.

History relates that the King mounted the scaffold without hesitation and without fear, but when the executioners approached to bind him he resisted them, deeming it an affront to his dignity and a reflection upon his courage. The Abbe who had accompanied him, as a spiritual consoler, reminded him that the Saviour had submitted to be bound, whereupon Louis, who was of a very pious nature, at once consented, though still protesting against the indignity of the act. Before the fatal moment, he advanced to the edge of the scaffold and said to the people: "Frenchmen, I die innocent; it is from the scaffold and near appearing before God that I tell you so. I pardon my enemies. I desire that France—" The sentence was left unfinished, for at that instant the signal was given the executioner. The Abbe leaning towards the King said: "Son of Saint Louis, ascend to Heaven." Undoubtedly the reason for the interruption of the King's last words was the fear of popular sympathy, for notwithstanding the revolutionary frenzy he was personally liked by many.