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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 7


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It was now the turn of the unhappy Marie Antoinette to feel its force. On the 14th of October she was summoned before the revolutionary tribunal. The lives of the queen and her family, her two children, and her sister-in-law, madame Elizabeth, during the eight months which had passed since the execution of Louis XVI. had been made as bitter to them as human (?) - nay, as the most inhuman - the most devilish ingenuity could make them! For a brief period they were allowed a greater degree of liberty; were permitted to walk more often in the Temple garden. They were even flattered with the idea of being eventually liberated, and permitted to retire from France. But this seems only to have been in order to make them feel more keenly the after cruelties inflicted on them. No treatment, however, for a moment ever deceived the clear judgment of Marie Antoinette. She looked forward to nothing but death; and her mind never for an instant seemed to lose the torturing sense of the fate of her children. Her daughter, afterwards duchess of Angoulême, the only one of these unhappy captives who was left alive, says, in her memoirs, "No hope could touch my mother's heart; life and death were equally indifferent to her. She sometimes looked at us with an air of pity which made us 6hudder."

These hapless prisoners were placed in the custody of a man whose ineffable baseness even marks itself out amid the monstrous cruelties of that sanguinary people and time. This was Hébert, the so-called Père Duchesne, the deputy of Chaumette, and who had originally been a check-taker at the door of a theatre. This most despicable of wretches, who had not a single human feeling or quality, who outdid the most infamous of inquisitors, exerted himself to invent every possible means of insulting, oppressing, degrading, and maligning these afflicted women and suffering children. He declared that they ought not to be treated better than any sans-culotte family, and the worst of criminals, the worst galley-slaves. He sent away the faithful Clery, whom the king had so tenderly implored to continue to attend the dauphin. He sent away all servants except the cook, two girls, and an old laundry-woman. He procured an order to have the few remaining little luxuries of their table reduced. They were no longer to be allowed either poultry or pastry. They were confined to one kind of aliment for breakfast; to soup, and a single dish for dinner; to two dishes for supper, and half a bottle'-of wine a-piece. The wax candles were withdrawn, and tallow candles substituted. China gave way to common earthenware, and silver spoons and forks to iron or plated ones. The few servants left were forbidden to enter their room; only the wood and water carriers could do this, and then only in the presence of two commissioners. Their food was introduced by a turning-box, and thus they were cut off almost wholly from mankind. They saw only such individuals who came as spies, and remorseless gaolers.

Armed with this order, Hébert went to the Temple, and deprived the captives of every little thing to which they could attach a melancholy value from the remembrance of the giver. He took away from madame Elizabeth eighty louis in gold, which the princess de Lamballe gave her a few days before her death. But this devil incarnate was yet far from the end of his torments. He determined to remove the little dauphin from his mother, his sister, and his aunt; and that on a plea which made the separation an atrocity more lacerating to the feelings of the captives, and more monstrous than had ever before entered into the imagination of a devil in human shape. He accused the queen of incest with her son - with a child of only eight years old! He extended the vile charge to the aunt. He went beyond this, and declared that these ladies had taught him practices of self-abuse, hoping, by this means, to destroy his constitution, and thus reign in his name. To the horrible pollution of the idea, and the charges of a wretch like this, were the afflicted women subject; and on this plea he tore away the child, and placed him under the management - care it was said - of Simon the shoemaker, who had already so frequently insulted the child's parents. He compelled the poor boy, who was subdued by the utmost terror of his keeper, to sign a paper against his mother, containing these charges. The princess royal, his sister, says, that the poor dauphin, who did not comprehend the nature of these charges, yet feit that they were meant to inculpate his mother; and that after signing them, he never spoke again! As for Marie Antoinette, the agonies which rent her soul at the tearing away of her child from her were so terrible, that the very gaolers who witnessed them, hardened as they were, could not refrain from tears.

Simon, to whom this poor child was intrusted, treated him in the most detestable manner. He used to lock him up alone, whilst he went down and took his own exercise in the garden. " Unexampled barbarity," exclaims the child's sister, the duchess d'Angoulême, "to leave an unhappy and sickly child, eight years old, in a great room, locked and bolted in, with no other resource than a broken bell, which he never rang, so greatly did he dread the people whom its sound would have brought to him. He preferred wanting everything to the sight of his persecutors. His bed had not been touched for six months, and he had not strength to make it himself; it was alive with bugs, and vermin still more disgusting. His linen and person were covered with them. For more than a year he had no change of shirt or stockings; every kind of filth was allowed to accumulate in his room. His window was never opened, and the infectious smell of this horrid apartment was so dreadful that no one could bear it. He passed his days wholly without occupation. They did not even allow him light in the evening. This situation affected his mind as well as his body, and he fell into a frightful atrophy."

It was on the 3rd of July that the unhappy child was taken from his mother, sister, and aunt, and put into the power of this vulgar monster. Soon after, his sister and aunt Elizabeth were removed also; and on the night between the 1st and 2nd of August, the stripped and isolated queen, more agonised for the fate of her children and sister-in-law than for her own, was conveyed to the Conciergerie, the anti- chamber to that of death. She was confined in what was called the council-chamber, said to be the most damp and unwholesome apartment of this most notoriously unwholesome prison. It was poisoned with the foetid effluvia of sewers. Under pretence of giving her a person to wait upon her, they gave her a spy - a man of horrible countenance, and hollow, sepulchral voice. This wretch, whose name was Barassin, was a robber and murderer by profession. Such was the chosen attendant of the queen of France! A few days before her trial this wretch was removed, and a gendarme placed in her Chamber, who watched over her day and night, and from whom she was only separated when in bed by a ragged curtain. In this melancholy abode Marie Antoinette had no other dress than an old black gown, stockings with holes, which she was forced to mend every day, and she was entirely destitute of shoes.

The pretence for this unnecessary and indecent surveillance was that there were attempts on foot to rescue her, and convey her out of France. Such attempts, no doubt, were contemplated; but none were of a nature to succeed. The Austrian minister, count Merci, is said to have endeavoured to bribe Danton to an exertion for her escape; Danton professed his willingness; and Danton, no doubt, was fond enough of money to have done it, if it had been possible, and he had felt secure of his own neck. But he knew too well the espionage on every side, and the certain death, from the slightest suspicion on this head, to engage in anything of the kind. The hope of succour was, indeed, in one instance, conveyed to her by an ingenious plan. Michonnis, a member of the municipality, one of the very few who felt pity for the fallen queen, was induced to admit to her presence a disguised emigrant, who presented her with a carnation, amongst the petals of which was concealed a small slip of thin paper, on which was written, " Your friends are ready! " But this stratagem was discovered by her vigilant keeper, and only sent the two m en to the guillotine, without giving the queen more than a tantalising hope. The watch over her was rendered more severe; gendarmes were constantly posted at her door, who were ordered not to answer if she spoke to them, on pain of death.

For about ten weeks Marie Antoinette was confined in this pestilent place - namely, from the 2nd of August to the 14th of October. This was not by the goodwill of Fouquier-Tinville, the accuser-general, who complained to the convention of the delay; but on the 13th of October, on a Sunday evening, she was presented with the indictment against her, and the next morning was taken before the revolutionary tribunal. There, everything which had been charged against Louis was also charged against her, with the addition that she had guided and influenced him; that she had always been inspired with a savage hatred to the people of France; had incited her husband to their slaughter on the 10th of August, and of having never ceased to plot, even in the Temple, against the republic.

Marie Antoinette, only thirty-eight years of age, but looking sixty from the agonies and terrible anxieties of the last three years, and with hair white as snow, heard all the charges with apparent indifference, knowing that her doom was fixed, and that nothing would alter it. She had determined, at first, to say nothing in reply to questions from her judges, except, "You can assassinate me, as you have already assassinated my husband;" but she changed her mind, and replied by simple denials of the charges.

Amongst the witnesses summoned against her were Lecointre, deputy of Versailles, who had seen what had passed on the 5th and 6th of October; Hébert, who had been her gaoler in the Temple; and various clerks of the ministerial offices, and domestics of the old court. There were, too, D'Estaing, formerly one of the admirals in the American war, and then commandant of the guard at Versailles; Manuel, the ex-procureur of the commune; the venerable Bailly; and, lastly, Valazé, a Girondist. Nearly ail these were prisoners, with the certainty of the guillotine before them, yet they made no important disclosures. Some declared that the queen appeared highly delighted when the life-guards gave their banquet - a circumstance well known, and natural enough; others observed that she was dejected or vexed while being conducted from Versailles to Paris, and on her return from Varennes - equally natural, and by no means criminal; others deposed that there had been splendid and very costly entertainments at the palace; that the queen was averse to the decrees; and an old waiting- woman had heard the duke de Coigny, in 1788, say that the emperor had received two hundred millions from France to make war on the Turks.

To ail these charges the queen paid little attention, being observed to beat with her fingers on the arm of her chair, as if playing on a piano, and as if her thoughts were quite away in other times and scenes. But at length the infamous Hébert came for ward with his monstrous charges, wrung from the poor child, the dauphin. Robespierre had strongly denounced the production of these charges, so totally un- natural, improbable, and revolting, and forced on a child too young to be brought into court as a witness. In law, therefore, he was no witness at ail; and Robespierre declared that the charges were so foully absurd, that Hébert would only arouse a sympathy for the queen by them. Prudhomme himself declared them "a most infernal invention, intended to prejudice the women and destroy their sympathy for the queen, but only calculated to disgust ail parties." No matter: Hébert stood forward and delivered in the charges, which he had made the poor boy sign in presence of Pache, the mayor, and Chaumette, the procureur of the commune. They were that Charles Capet - meaning the dauphin - had given Simon an account of the journey to Varennes, and assured him that La Fayette and Bailly had co-operated in it. Then followed the other abominable fictions. When the queen was called upon to answer these charges, she remained silent; but being again urged to reply, she answered, with much indignation, " I have not answered, because nature refuses to answer such a charge against a mother. I appeal to ail the mothers that are here." This noble answer affected even the persons present at that vile tribunal.

With the rest of the witnesses there was an evident reluctance to inculpate her, though they knew the malignity they should excite by their conduct. D'Estaing, though she had been his enemy, instead of criminating her, spoke of the courage she had shown on the 5th and 6th of October, and of the noble resolution which she had expressed to die with her husband rather than to fly. Manuel, notwithstanding his former enmity to the court, declared that he had nothing to charge her with. Bailly, when brought forward, appeared much affected, and when asked if he knew the wife of Capet, bowed respectfully towards her, and said, "Yes, I have known madame." He had often warned the court, whilst he was in office, of its imprudence, and of the consequences it would produce; but he now declared that he knew nothing against Marie Antoinette, and that the declarations extorted from the young prince regarding the journey to Varennes were false. In consequence of this honourable conduct, Bailly, once the idol of the people, was violently insulted and menaced, and the consequences of his independent integrity were made to stare him in the face.

The only two facts of any weight advanced against her were those attested to by Latour-Dupin and Valazé. Dupin stated that Marie Antoinette had applied to him, when minister of war, for an accurate statement of the armies; and Valazé, that he had seen amongst the papers of Septeuil, the treasurer of the civil list, bonds for various sums signed by Marie Antoinette - which was very natural; and that he had seen a letter of the minister to Louis, requesting him to hand a copy of the plan of the campaign to the queen. These were immediately declared to have a most criminal aspect - as though the queen would not naturally be anxious to inform herself of the real position of affairs in such eventful times. Such were the paltry charges on which it was deemed necessary to try and seek the life of the late queen. Her calmness appeared to excite her judges only the more, and the président exclaimed, in fury, " You persist in denial, then? You deny everything? "

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 7

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