Tuesday 23 December 2014

Marie Antoinette's Prayer Book

My post on the execution of Marie Antoinette continues to be one of the most popular here at the Guide, as do all posts concerning the unfortunate queen. On several occasions I have been contacted by people who enquire about the prayer book in which Marie Antoinette penned her final words and whether it still exists.

I am pleased to report that it does indeed still exist, though it has not weathered the years well. Printed in 1757, the book remained with the queen during her incarceration and as she waited for the sun to rise on the day of her death, the condemned woman penned a few final, pitiful lines in the small book book. 

"My God, have pity on me! My eyes have no more tears to cry for you my poor children; adieu! adieu!"

The book was later claimed by Robespierre and after his death was found tucked in with his private papers and concealed beneath a a hidden compartment in his bedchamber, a personal keepsake of the end of the monarchy.

Marie Antoinette's Prayer Book inscription
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Sue Bursztynski said...

Dreadful man! Ironic that he ended up dying the same way he had condemned others to die. Just imagine that souvenir lying around in his home all that fine! If he'd been around now, he would have sold it on eBay - or at Sotheby's.

Or maybe just kept it secret...

Mark Patton said...

I think Hilary Mantel captures him perfectly in "A Place of Greater Safety" - he started out as an idealist, who actually campaigned against the death penalty, but slipped into the worst kind of moral corruption, almost without noticing, a man focussed entirely on the external world, either incapable of reflecting on his own actions, or unwilling to do so.

Queen of Snark said...

Just as so many folks wring their hands and weep over the fate of Antoinette and cloak her in saintly, gracious, and loving qualities she never possessed, even more vilify Robespierre in particular and others associated with the Terror. claiming they were evil incarnate and capable of every abomination known to man. Neither view is correct or the truth, because the truth is somewhere in the middle. I'm sorry to disagree, but I don't believe Mantel captures anything "perfectly," including Thomas Cromwell.

Linda Fetterly Root said...

And I agree in part with Mark and in part with Margaret. I consider Maria Antoinette on of many unfortunate women who found themselves in a political marriage to a weak myopic man . And I am not a fan of Mantel. Robespierre is not a tragic figure any way I look at him. He was an opportunist whose ruthlessness came back on him. I shed no tears.

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you all got your most perceptive comments. Any post about Marie Antoinette or Robespierre always excited such interesting and heartfelt debate, truly divisive figures!

Queen of Snark said...

I should know better than to present a dissenting view where all can read it and pile on. I feel sometimes as if I am about to be run out of town on a rail! Not here, though, and thank you for that.

Antoinette was very much like Alexandra--strong-willed and opinionated on certain issues, the most critical being their absolute determination to convince Louis XVI and Nicholas II never to give up a single iota of their absolutist power and privilege. Both women referred to their husbands' more liberally-minded advisors and ministers as the equivalent of scum and traitors, when both husbands seemed willing to give in a little to avoid losing everything. As you know, it didn't turn out well for either couple, and for that, look in large part to the wives' influence.

Robespierre's major weakness or fault was his inability to understand idealism does not work in the real world, and because he so much wanted the "perfect Revolution" that would attain some Utopian benefits for all, he saw traitors to that ideal under the bed and behind every door. He's not a tragic figure to me, but I do think it's unfortunate in many ways that he was not more politically grounded.

Sue Bursztynski said...

There does seem to be a tendency to beatify Marie Antoinette, doesn't there? She has entire blogs dedicated to her. I'm no fan of hers, but I also don't think I would have felt safe in Revolutionary France. There would have been too many people willing to dob you in for saying anything they didn't like. It was a police state, really.

Unknown said...

Those words give such a contrasting insight into the woman represented so harshly otherwise.