Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

He was very

to drink nothing but water, and

even afterward taking very little wine. The tenderness of his heart afforded a remarkable contrast to his bodily strength, since he could not hear an account of any misfortune, public or private, without being visibly affected ; nor could he look at an unfortunate person without affording him relief. devout, and was consequently the more obnoxious to the irreligious leaders of the Revolution. He was also fond of reading, and was in the habit of allotting a long time to a book, for the purpose of making extracts. He had acquired the English language, and had actually written a translation of Walpole’s “ Historic Doubts on the Life of Richard III.," an edition of which was printed from his MS. in the year 1800. Geography was also with him a very favourite study : but the great merit of his character rests on his unimpeached morals. A young prince is in general permitted to commit trespasses without losing much credit in the eyes of the world: but the early years of Louis were passed as unexceptionably as his middle age. Being told, before the death of his grandfather, that one of the first places was solicited by a young man of good family, but loose habits, he said, “ If that person succeed in his suit with the king, let him not come near me. I shall willingly dispense with his atten dance.” At another time, when following his grandfather in his hunting excursions, the guards who were with his coach, hearing a noise which they took to be the death of the stag, ordered the coach. man to drive on expeditiously, who consequently, to shorten the way, began to cross a field of corn; when the young prince put his head out of the window, and desired him to keep the usual road, adding, “ This corn is not ours, and we have no right to damage it." He was married at the early age of sixteen to Marie Antoinette of Austria, who was then a year younger.' This event took place in May 1770 ; and the last day of that month was marked by a melancholy event, the death of a number of the spectators of a festival given in honour of the marriage. Some ditches, having been imper. fectly filled up, became, in consequence of the pressure, the graves of several persons ; and the alarm thus occasioned was productive of so. much trepidation, and of such precipitate exertions to escape, that the people rushed against each other, and trampled under foot those who had the misfortune to fall : so that the “ Place de Louis XV.," and the adjacent streets, were covered with dead bodies. The young prince was dreadfully affected at this catastrophe, and immediately wrote the following lines to the lieutenant of police :

« “ I have learned with much sorrow the dreadful misfortune which took place on the celebration of a festival connected with my marriage. I have just received the 2000 crowns which the King sends me every month for pocket-money; it is all that I have at my dis posal : I send it to you, and beg that you will apply it to the relief of those who have suffered most.”

. It would be endless to relate all the instances of individual charity and liberality which flowed from the hands of Louis, and we shall accordingly confine ourselves to a proof of his sympathizing disposition connected with the discharge of his royal functions. Ambassadors having arrived from Tippoo Saib, and having declared

that

that they were instructed to ask what their master could do as the best evidence of his esteem and friendship for Louis, the latter replied, “ Tell the Sultan that nothing which he can do will be so agreeable to me, as the liberation of the English who are prisoners in his territory."

After having mentioned various particulars of the early part of the reign of Louis, the author arrives on the well known ground of the Revolution. The King was here called to display all that tranquillity which results from the consciousness of the best intentions; and, if we cannot give him the praise of talents equal to the very difficult situation in which he was placed, we often trace the source of his errors to motives which do credit to his heart. It seems scarcely doubtful that his personal safety might have been effectually consulted, had he chosen to make an unsparing use of the military power at his disposal in the early part of the Revolution. Even at Varennes, it was only an aversion to bloodshed, mixed perhaps with an apprehension for the safety of his family, that deterred him from making his way by means of the armed force which the Marquis de Bouille had collected in the direction in which he was flying. His composure and fortitude, when brought to the bar of the National Assembly in December 1792, are well known; and it has been very justly remarked that the clearness and brevity of his answers afford a striking contrast to the intricate and circuitous charges to which his adversaries were obliged to resort.

Barrère was at that time president of the Convention; and, although his questions were prepared before-hand, the precision of the King's answers placed him in a very aukward situation. « Louis,” said Prudhomme, « spoke with royal brevity; while the style of the Convention was throughout feeble, cowardly, and undignified."

The affecting circumstances of the latter days of the captivity of Louis, and the heart-rending parting with his family on the night before his execution, are related in this work in a way that is creditable to the writer. In fact, the subject was in itself too impressive not to become affecting in the hands of almost any narrator. Even the notorious Hebert, editor of the Père Duchesne, one of the most violent opponents of royalty, bears the following testimony to the behaviour of Louis when the commissioners of the National Convention came to give him notice of his approaching execution :

• I was one of those who were desirous of being present at the time of notifying the sentence of death to Louis. He listened with singular calmness during the reading of the sentence ; and, when it was over, he desired to see his family, as well as a confessor,

and

and to have whatever could afford him consolation in his last hours, He behaved with so much piety, dignity, and grandeur, that I could not help being greatly affected; he shewed, in his look and manner, something evidently superior to man. I retired, endeavouring to restrain the tears which flowed in spite of me, and firmly determined to take no more steps personally in this affair. I disclosed my feelings to one of my colleagues, who like myself was too much affected to continue to participate in the farther proceedings ; and I said to him, “ The priests who are members of the Convention formed, by voting for the King's death, that majority which decided the question. Let it, therefore, be priests who conduct him to the scaffold. Those priests who call themselves constitutional are the only persons sufficiently cruel to discharge such a duty." The consequence was that my colleague and I obtained an order that the two municipal priests, Jacques Roux and Pierre Bernard, should conduct Louis to the scaffold, and it is well known that they discharged that task with the insensibility of savages.'

The latter part of the volume contains short notices of the other members of the family, particularly of the Queen and Madame Elizabeth. The questions put to both at the revolutionary tribunal are given, with their answers; in which an evident difference prevails between the mild resignation of Elizabeth and the spirited tone of the Queen. The latter, when asked whether she had any reason to allege why sentence of death should not be pronounced against her, shook her head in silent disdain, and withdrew from the court. This proceeding occurred between four and five o'clock in the morning of the 15th October 1793. At it o'clock of the next day, she was taken from her prison; and, though she had demanded either á carriage to conduct her to the scaffold or a veil to cover her head, she was placed on the same cart with the other victims of the revolutionary tribunal. She was dressed in white, and maintained a firm and calm air during the whole of her progress through the streets. She had just completed her thirty-eighth year. The priest who accompanied her said, on seating himself beside her, “ This, Madam, is the moment to summon up your courage. “ Courage !” replied the Queen; “ I have been taught it tog long to entertain any apprehension of a want of it on this day." The Abbé, continuing his consolatory discourse, added, " Your death is about to expiate ;" when the Queen, interrupting him, exclaimed, « to expiate faults but no crimes.” She mounted the scaffold with firmness, and was immediately placed under the fatal axe.

Madame Elizabeth was allowed to live nearly seven months after the death of the Queen. Her affection for the young Prince and Princess alone attached her to existence after the App. Rey. VOL. LXXVI, Hh

loss from

[ocr errors]

loss of those for whom she valued it. At last, in May 1794, she was involved in a pretended conspiracy, and sentenced to death with twenty-four other persons as innocent as herself. The charges against her were most ridiculous; such as that of inveterate hatred to the revolutionists, and blind attachment to the Queen. By way of giving an appearance of precision to the accusation, the president of the court asked her whether she had not on the roth August handed musketbullets to the guards to fire on the patriots, and even chewed them between her teeth. These and similar charges roused the spirit of this mild and religious woman, and made her reply, “ All those things which you allege against me are so many indignities with which my conduct was never sullied.” Next day, the roth May 1794, she was carried to the scaffold, and suffered death, the last of twenty-five persons. Her body was deposited in the church-yard of Monceaux, near those of many other victims of revolutionary tyranny; and, before three months were passed, the authors of these judicial mur. ders were themselves added to the fatal catalogue, and laid beside the innocent sufferers.

Without displaying any particular powers for composition, this author is intitled to praise both for what he has described and for what he has omitted. Although evidently partial to the Bourbon cause, and disposed to refrain from imputing the Revolution to any fault on the part of the royal family or the nobility, he does not run into the extreme of indiscriminate condemnation of the revolutionists; nor does he dwell toe long on those parts of the King's conduct which were most calculated to excite admiration. The politician must not expect to find any new light thrown on the secret springs of public measures, nor any particular sagacity in detailing the machinations of parties : but he will meet with a plain narrative of a succession of remarkable and affecting events.

ART. IV. Éloge Historique, &c.; iie. An Historic Eulogy of

Madame Elizabeth of France; with several of this Princess's Letters. By ANTHONY FERRAND, Author of the Spirit of History. Second Edition. 8vo. Paris. 1814. Imported by De Conchy. Price 1os. ARUMOUR

prevailed some time since on the Continent, that the unfortunate sister of Louis XVI., who is the object of the eulogy before us, would shortly receive from the see of Rome the honours of formal canonization; and certainly the festival of Saint Elizabeth of Versailles might be well adapted for enforcing

from the pulpit the danger of revolution, the mischief of atheism, the destructiveness of insurrection, and the inutility of regicide. Worthy by her piety to atone for the surmised religious indif. ference of the last two monarchs of her family, her character offers a convenient bond of sympathy, of reconciliation, and of alliance, between the faith and the Bourbons, between the altar and the throne. The Pope and Louis XVIII. may, with sincerity and propriety concur in the worship of this martyred princess.

The Dauphin, son of Louis XV., married for his second wife a princess of Saxony, by whom Madame Elizabeth was the youngest daughter. Her father and mother were much attached to a zealous ecclesiastical party, which propagated a loud discontent against the favour shewn to philosophers by the King, through Mad. de Pompadour. We made some critical remarks on this period of French history in M.R. Vol. lxvii. p. 145-150. The sentiments of Mad. Elizabeth corresponded with the wishes of her parents and the bias of her education : but the kindness of her heart corrected any intolerance which her governors tended to inspire. She was already in early life the favourite sister of her half-brother, afterward Louis XVI., and she continued, after his marriage, to attract his most affectionate confidence. The King bought for her at Montreuil a villa, in which she founded habits of family-prayer that were too much neglected at Versailles. In the winter of 1789, she contracted debts to relieve the wants of the poor ; and she endowed, with much sacrifice of her own convenience, several young noble ladies who were at different times her companions. Faithful to the principles of her education, she was attached to the religious party in the States-General, and wished the King more entirely and exclusively to have belonged to it. She is stated (p. 69.) to have encouraged his flight from Paris ; and her attachment, if it recommended a doubtful policy, was willing to share every risk. After the roth August 1792, when the Assembly began to prepare for the trial of the King, Mad. Elizabeth was committed to the Temple with the rest of the royal family. She survived their fate only to endure a similar death on the roth May 1794; happier, perhaps, in a station less responsible, in a purer innocency, in a steadier consistency, in a more rooted and consolatory piety.

« May the tomb of Elizabeth,' exclaims this eloquent author, (p. 130.) in his splendid but bombastic peroration, for ever recali the idea of immortality in those virtuous persons who shall come to weep over her dust :- may it awaken the thought of futurity in the guilty wretch who approaches to insult her reliques ! The tomb of Elizabeth, did I say, and has she one? alas! her remains are H h 2

scattered

« AnteriorContinuar »