Monday, 8 April 2013

Trial of Marie Antoinette

Louis XVI had been executed on January 21 1793 and during the following months Marie Antoinette mourned her husband's death deeply - so much that her health began to deteriorate. But the fate of the Queen was still the main focus of the National Assembly; with her still alive the threat of a foreign invasion was as real as it had ever been. Some of the members of the National Assembly had argued that the dethroned Queen should be sent into exile in America while others wanted to exchange her for French prisoners of war. But no matter what a trial had to be put together.

Marie Antoinette herself was convinced that the National Assembly would kill her - Louis XVI had shared the same thought about his own life. The National Assembly finally decided to act. Louis-Charles (the surviving son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette - he was now technically Louis XVII) was removed from his mother. Then, Marie Antoinette herself was transferred to the prison of the Conciergerie on August 1 and was now "prisoner no. 280".

The trial was to be judged by a tribunal on October 14. But this trial was very different from the one that Louis XVI had been through - Marie Antoinette had had less than a single day to prepare her offence. The dethroned Queen was charged with almost ridiculous charges; some of them were clearly inspired by the vicious pamphlets about her - one of these charges claimed that she had organized massive orgies at Versailles. The Queen was also accused of plotting to have the Duc d'Orlèans killed as well as having organized the massacre of the Swiss Guards the previous year (especially this last accusation was ludicrous since the Queen had been imprisoned at the time and was under the protection of the Swiss Guards - killing them would leave her defenceless). Having sent money to the Austrian treasury was another accusation including that of having proclaimed her son to be the next King of France - the latter was actually true but can hardly be named an offence.

The most outrageous accusation Marie Antoinette had to face was that of having sexually abused her son. The Queen had been calm and dignified during the entire trial but when this charge was announced she turned pale. The charge was so offensive that even the market women present at the time (most of these women had participated in the storming of Versailles in 1789) took the Queen's defence. Marie herself had protested her innocence against all the accusations made against her but refused to answer this charge; when she was finally confronted with this lack of an answer she simply replied:
If I have not replied, it is because Nature herself refuses to respond to such a charge laid against a mother.
In reality the entire trial was just for show. The tribunal had already decided the verdict before the trial had even begun but still spent two days judging the case. Finally, Marie Antoinette was declared guilty on October 16 - she would be executed that same day.

Depictions of the Queen's trial: 

Marie Antoinette listening to the Act of Accusation, the Day Before Her Trialby Edward Matthew Ward
The Revolutionary Tribunal  of Marie Antoinette

Marie-Antoinette before the revolutionary tribunal; 14, 15, 16 Oct 1793, black ink and pen (Louvre)

Marie Antoinette as a prisoner at the Conciergerie - the guards were
always just behind a screen and sometimes they would literally peak over to
watch the woman who used to be their Queen
"Marie Antoinette Before the Court" by Paul Delaroche from 1850
Rough drawing of the drawing
This was how Marie Antoinette looked when she faced the tribunal

1 comment:

  1. the revolt was initiated by duc de orlens and some dissatisfied nobles it was fanned by some lawyers Parisians and deserted guards it was fuelled by profiteers who created artificial scarcity of the food and the rumour mongers about indiscreet royalty played havoc and the foolhardiness of the king and the queen who could not take stock of the prevailing situation and could not tactfully handle the situation and did not kept a strong force including artillery around them to silence the dissidents and miscreants by a whiff of grapeshots as the Napoleon did they were the victims of their cocooned dreamy nay fairy-world actually the execution of the king and queen was wrong and senseless it was perpetrated by some power hungry persons mob was only manipulated and incited to riots and the bloodshed was for petty grievances and revenges it was deliberate orchestrated mutiny and revoltonly no revolution misconduct of frustrated literates and hungry illiterates the queen wasn’t as bad as portrayed moreover question of being royalist or revolutionar is out of context now some may be speaking out of emotional attachments they should not be accused we pray that madness must never occur the blood of king Louise XVI indeed visited the france and whole of Europe afterwards for many years