Louis XVI Guillotined: January 21, 1793
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It was Malesherbes who first reported the Convention’s decision to the king. Louis received the news with great calm. Only Malesherbes’ distress seemed to affect him. He sought to comfort the old man, who had once served him as a minister of state; but, said the king, “For myself, death does not frighten me; I have the greatest confidence in the mercy of God.”
Later that Sunday, January 20, an official delegation of the Convention—led by the minister of justice, Dominique Joseph Garat—formally informed the king that he was to die. They, too, were impressed by the king’s demeanor as he received the news; he seemed calm and at peace with his fate. Quel homme! Quelle résignation! Quel courage! (“What a man! What resignation! What courage!”) said Minister Garat of the king.
Imprisonment and suffering had seemed to transform Louis XVI. The dull, weakwilled, and imprudent man had now truly become a king. He commanded himself. Moreover, he gave no thought to himself but to the comfort of his loved ones who shared his durance. Over the weeks and months of their imprisonment, the royal family had suffered insult and many small cruelties from their guards. The king was never allowed to speak to anyone, not even to his wife, without the presence of a guard. When the royal family walked in the gardens of the Temple fortress, they endured the mockery of their captors. Yet Louis’s response was to forgive. “I pardon very willingly those who have been my guards for the ill treatment and cruelty which they have thought fit to use towards me,” he wrote in his will on Christmas Day. (more…)