Thursday, June 10, 2004

Another Burial

Just prior to the burial of the former president of this republic, the heart of Louis XVII of France, the youngest son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette was interred on June 8 "in the royal crypt at Saint-Denis 209 years to the day after the boy died, aged 10, orphaned and imprisoned by the revolutionaries." It was his father, Louis XVI, whose assistance made this American republic possible.

The Daily Telegraph tells the story here but omits to mention that the Mass was neither in the traditional rite of Rome nor that of Paris but in the new Pauline Rite at the instance of the local bishop of, in the words of a French correspondent, "one of the tradition hating dioceses of France."

The little boy's fate in 1799 can be read here. It's not for those with a weak stomach.

He was seven when his father disappeared (no one told him why). After that, his mother aged visibly. "She looked at us sometimes with a pity that made us shudder," wrote his sister. The two children remained locked up with their mother and aunt in the impregnable tower of the Temple. Charles fell ill with fever and convulsions. He was eight when he was forcibly parted forever from his family, who could hear him crying hysterically for two days afterwards on the floor below.

. . . .

Once his mother had been convicted and killed, the child no longer served any practical purpose. He was walled up alone in a cold, damp cell with a tiny blocked-out window and a grille through which anonymous hands pushed bread and soup twice daily. The room contained nothing except a bed and a bell which, according to his sister, "he did not ring, so afraid was he of the persons it would call". There was no sanitation, and the stench soon became unspeakable. For eight months no one made the bed, brought him a change of clothes or cleaned the cell, which crawled with fleas, lice and rats. The prisoner's only human contact was a single visit from the cook, who asked why he had eaten nothing for three days. "Well, what would you do, my friend?" replied the child. "I want to die."

Liberty, equality, fraternity indeed.