1794: Elisabeth of France, sister of the king

The 25-strong batch dispatched to the guillotine on the Place de la Revolution during the Terror on this date in 1794 included Princess Elisabeth, the sister of the late guillotined King Louis XVI.

Princess Elisabeth (English Wikipedia entry | French) was the staunch conservative* of her family’s generation and not afraid to advertise it.

Required by the revolutionary tribunal to identify herself, she retorted (since her brother’s death passed the succession to the imprisoned child Louis XVII), “I am called Elizabeth Marie de France, sister of Louis XVI, aunt of Louis XVII, your King.” The papers just reported that she said “Elizabeth Marie.”

This fate cannot have surprised her: her correspondence anticipates a bloody reckoning with the revolutionary “monsters from hell” from years earlier, and reflects the figure in the royal household pushing the king and queen on immoderate courses like their famous attempted escape. (Elisabeth posed as a maid with the fugitive party.) “The Assembly is still the same; the monsters are the masters,” she wrote in February 1790. “The king, and others, from the integrity of their own natures, cannot bring themselves to see the evil such as it is.”

Elisabeth was nevertheless quite attached to her brother and her sister-in-law, and swore an oath to keep with Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the royal couple’s harrowing attempt to ride out the revolution. She courageously quaffed the every terror that family endured all the way to the dregs; when the mob stormed the Tuileries on June 20, 1792, she was momentarily mistaken for the queen and thereby put in peril of her life. “Do not undeceive them!” she warned an associate who was about to save her by correcting the misapprehension.

Elisabeth’s correspondence shows her not “merely” self-sacrificing but a keen observer of events who pushed her brother to rein in the revolution by force … and pushed her exiled brother the Comte d’Artois** to do likewise. For Elisabeth, bloodshed would be necessary, and desirable sooner than later — in contrast to the national-reconciliation stuff the doomed king was still hoping for.

By the end Paris of the Terror probably didn’t really need any better reason to cut off Elisabeth’s head than the fact of her bloodlines — “sister of the tyrant.” There are enough little hagiographies out there concerning Elisabeth’s piety and loyalty, however, that some think she should eventually be proposed as a candidate for Catholic canonization.

* She might as well be: royals couldn’t save themselves even by going full Republican.

** The future King Charles X.

On this day..

5 thoughts on “1794: Elisabeth of France, sister of the king

  1. The princess was a very courageous woman. Sometimes i think female royals are better suited to reign as their male counterparts.
    Her beloved niece, Marie-Therese, later Duchess of Angouleme, was of the same brand. Made of the same (hard) wood my countrymen use to say.

  2. I arrived here via a search engine as I am researching ancestors and was searching for one Elisabeth Voice, born 1794. I soon realized that this was not the Elisabeth I was searching for, yet stayed to read of “Elisabeth of France’s” fate.

    So it came to pass that as one Elisabeth’s life ended, another Elizabeth’s life began.

    Thanks for the read,

  3. “Never realized there were monarchist blogs let alone monarchists.”

    Reminds me of a book I read years ago, where the author interviewed a descendant of the last King of Albania. Albania’s monarchy went by the wayside in the early 20th century but this one guy still thinks he’s the rightful king and has been fighting to get his throne back. The author asked him, “If you want to be in charge of Albania, why not run for public office?”

    And the would-be royal answered, “Because, a monarchy would be a government of the people.”


  4. I enjoy your blog as well as the links in the article.Never realized there were monarchist blogs let alone monarchists.As a sidenote the madamegullitone blog you link to gives a fictional account of elizabeth ( when the mob stormed the Tuileries on June 20, 1792)

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