Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Tragic Anniversary

It was on this day in 1793 that His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XVI of France and Navarre was executed by guillotine by a mob of revolutionary traitors. The horror and far-reaching effects of this monstrous crime cannot be overstated. King Louis XVI, almost every serious historian now admits, was no tyrant and no villain. He was a good, upright, compassionate, God-fearing man devoted to his wife, his children and his beloved France. He was also a hard working monarch doing everything he could to set France again on firm financial ground and repair the slow decay the kingdom had been experiencing for some time.

The vision that Louis XVI had for France was a great one. He saw France restoring herself as the dominant power in Europe, recovering at least somewhat the influence lost to Great Britain in North America, pushing the British out of India to be the primary European power in the subcontinent and establishing new ties with the Far East in Indochina. His vision was also for a more religious France, a vision shared by his dear wife Queen Marie Antoinette –though few today would know it. They were a devoutly religious couple and if anything pained him more than the pressure to give up the powers of the monarchy that were his birthright it was being forced to accept legislation that attacked the Church in France.

In King Louis XVI the French people had a monarch who was at the same time benevolent, pious and committed to their national greatness. Why then was this man, who had harmed no one and done nothing but that which he thought would better his kingdom, so cruelly deposed, humiliated and put to death? Some still maintain that this was an unfortunate but necessary step to forever put away the era of the Kingdom of France and usher in the era of the revolutionary French republic. If that is so, one must truly ask what that says about a political system which can only come to fruition through the vicious shedding of innocent blood; the taking of an innocent man’s life. What is the fruit that will be brought forth by a tree that required chopping off the head of a monarch, husband and father to grow?

The fruit, as the world soon saw, was terror and death on a scale never before imagined in Europe. The revolutionary rats were driven into a frenzy by their execution of the king, drunk on their own power, and they let loose a wave of chaos, mass murder, persecution and vile criminality of all sorts that defies description. Multitudes went to their deaths and all of Europe was eventually plunged into long succession of wars in a bloodletting and political upheaval unmatched until World War I.
However, the loss was deeper than that. There were restorations, times when things got better and worse over and over again in the future, but to a large extent it was not just Louis XVI who died on this day in 1793; it was France. When Louis XVI, or Citizen Louis Capet as the traitors mockingly called him, went up to the guillotine the Kingdom of France went with him. The France of St Joan of Arc with her blessed banners, the France of St Louis whose benevolent leadership set a standard for the world, the France of King Clovis, Charlemagne and Charles Martel, the France that was the 'Eldest Daughter of the Church'. The loss of Louis XVI, and all that he stood for, the idea of France that he represented, was a loss not only to his own family and his own country but a loss for Europe, the west and a loss for the world.
His Holiness Pope Pius VI spoke of Louis XVI as a martyr and Louis' daughter campaigned for the Church to recognize him as a saint. This issue was finally dropped as the Church could not determine to what extent he was killed for his faith or for political reasons. However, there is no doubt that Louis XVI was a martyr of a kind; he was a martyr for the Ancien Regime, a martyr for Christendom and a martyr for sacred monarchy. May His Most Christian Majesty rest in peace, may the crime of his regicide never be forgotten and may his house be one day restored to France and the wrongs of the past set right again.


  1. In order to justify ones actions against someone, you must make them the most evil and dispicable of sorts. The same is done endlessly to His Majesty King George the THird in America, where he is depicted as a Tyrant denyign the rights of the colonial inhabitants, and oppressing them, makign them virtual slaves while he grew rich on their labour, and committing horrible, intolerable acts. Never mind that the bulk of the Tax Money went to their own Administrative costs and defences and that they had all the freedom they woudlpossess afer the Revlution before it.

    Louise is still remmebered as a Tyrant, a man who denied basic Human Rights ot his peasants while he rrogantly drank the best wines and ate the best foods as his popel starved, an who denied them anythign resemblign a live where they coudl make soemthign of themselves, if not by Historians then by the common man ont he Street, because they have accepted the idea of Revolutionaries tearign down the Brital regimes of Kings, to establish Republics of Fre men an d bring Deocracy.

    But Democracy, that peaceful and free state of men so promised, has caused wars to break out ovdr ieology, and has been used as a vehicle to deny rights absed soley on majority rule.

    A Tragesy indeed befell us when King Louise the 16th was evecuted, and the Atheistic (Or Deistic) forces of the Revolution, so keen on forcign freedom, in an Irony eliminaged Freedom, for a forced freedom is no freedom at all.

    Revolutiiaries are seen in a ROmantic light though, as brigners of freedom, and htis is the COmmon Myth, so tears fall frm few eyes over the Lamentable crime commited so logn ago agaisnt a man who to modern eyes lacked legitimacy. He was ot duly elected by the people, afer all. But who has been eelcte dby h Peopel who int he end united the people in any way? And what good are elected leaders who pander to mases and change their supposeldy deep seated ocnvictions t meet with the latest polls?

    Even "The One" who was to lead us into a Golden New Age of Unity and Prosperity in America, and who woudl stand by his Liberal COnvicitosn for a Progressive America, Barrack Obama, is moving tot he Cente faster than an olympic Gold Medal winner in the 200 Metre Dash after the latest polls and election results. Politicians know from whence their pwoer is derived and never hold to firm convicitons, only popular trends, and are very short sighted.

    But you are right in aking what fruit can be born of VIolence, and I have often asked the same. Others htinkt he Revolutions where nessisary ot Brign Democracy, but this assumes emocrayc is always good, and we have discusse dint he apst that Democracy is understood as a virtue in and of itself by the majority of people who live today. Simly beign Dmeocatic is good, and the way we became democratic unimportant.

    But the Bloodshed lead ot the Terror, and eventually the Colpas of he Much Vaunted Democracy, and the Rule of Emperor Napoleon the FIrst.

    Todays France, while certianly shaoed byt he Revolution, is not Governed by the French Revolutionary Government who executed his Majesty the Kign in 1793, but by a fifth Republic that took shape only much later. The Bloodshed lead ot instability, terror, and oppresison, and once the tasteof blood was had, once the Kkgn himself lay dead, it became eaiser ot kill others for other reasons, and killing base don Political isagremeent became the Norm.

    That is the Fruit of the revolution, a Ruined French Economy, a Devistanted French Cultue, and oppressiona dn Murder until Order is restored not by a Republican voice rising up form this, nor a Republcian Voice tellign them of another way to be a epublic, but by a Crowned Head, risign up form the Military, in the Person of Napoleon Bonaparte, who, no matter hat you think fo him, at leats did return to France some pwoer and Civil ORder, and whose Napoleonic Law codes where Brilliantly written.

    Still, I shall shed my tear and say my rpayer ofr the SLain Louise, of most Tragic Memory, and wonder what may have been had he lived.

  2. I have had the occasion to read some writings/letters/political speeches of this King. Despite all the bad press he receives, he clearly appears in his own writings as a noble, intelligent and idealistic young man with (as you noted) grand hopes for the future.

  3. You know, the famine that caused the riots could have actually been averted. The King had tried to get his peasants to grow potatoes, which endured Europe's then-cooler climate much better than the cereals the French peasantry relied on as their staple. His Majesty even put out that he had them for supper.

    Of course, the peasants never took it up, and so they starved. I guess they forgot that their King had actually tried (without using force, I might add) to avert such a crisis. The peasants really only had themselves to blame.

  4. If you get passed the slogans and the 'let them eat cake' crap and look at the actual ministers Louis appointed and the policies he was pursuing it looks to me like he was making all the right moves, he just didn't have enough time to save the situation and was faced with a bunch of traitors who would have opposed him no matter what. Even some of the foreign adventures he was criticized for, had they worked out, would have brought a great deal of prosperity to France. They did not so it didn't end well, but it shows at least that he was forward thinking and not the simpleton he is so often portrayed as.

  5. Of Course you can't blame the Peasants, why it can't be their fault. A King is a King and so is a Tyrant and always at Fault... who cares about the facts? He was a King! And the people would never make poor decisions, int that the whole premise of Democracy?

  6. What blows my mind the most are comments to this effect: Louis XVI might have been a decent enough man, but still had to be killed for symbolic value. For crying out loud, he wasn't just a symbol, he was a real person - flesh, blood and soul! I wonder if these people would be so airy about it if it were their own lives that were at stake?!


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