MARIE ANTOINETTE IS EXECUTED
 THE Assembly soon found that they had not ended their troubles by beheading their king.
England showed her horror of the deed by ordering the French ambassador to leave
London, an act which would probably be followed by war. Russia ordered all Frenchmen
to leave her dominions within twenty days. Austria again invaded France.
But worse than her foreign foes were those France had at home, where the members of
Convention were quarrelling among themselves.
To quell these disorders a Committee of Public Safety was formed, and on this
committee sat Danton, Marat, Robespierre.
These men, along with six others, had the power of imprisoning and putting to death
any one whom they suspected of even venturing to dislike the Republic.
The Convention was meanwhile holding its meetings in the hall of the Tuileries.
Among its members there were some who were not such keen Republicans as were the
members of the Committee of Public Safety. It would be well, said Danton, to get rid
of these weak persons.
So the Tuileries was surrounded by troops, and the members suspected by Danton were
dismissed from the Convention, and many of them were afterwards beheaded.
These Republicans who were not so fierce as the Jacobins were called Girondists.
Some of the Girondists escaped from Paris to the
pro-  vinces, and prepared to
return in force to the capital to fight against the Jacobins. Many of the scattered
Royalists joined the Girondists and so strengthened their own cause.
Marat, who had been one of the most determined to see Louis XVI. beheaded, was now
overtaken by a speedy vengeance.
Charlotte Corday, a beautiful young French girl, had often heard of the cruelty of
Marat. She believed that her country would be saved if Marat was dead.
And so, brooding and brooding over the thought, she at length made up her mind that
she herself would free her country from the cruel tyrant.
In July 1798 she left her home and travelled to Paris.
Marat was ill and was forced to spend much of his time in a hot bath to ease his
pain. Charlotte, when she reached his house, was told that he was too ill to see any
But having determined to see the Jacobin, Charlotte Corday would take no denial. She
went a second time to Marat's door and begged to see him, saying that she had
important secrets which she must tell to him alone. Marat, in his bath, heard what
the girl said, and called to her to come in.
Charlotte did not hesitate, she loved her country too well.
Eagerly she entered the house, and being admitted to Marat's presence, she told him
the names of some pretended traitors. Then, as he turned aside to write down their
names, she pulled her dagger from its hiding-place and stabbed, as she verily
believed, the tyrant of France.
Marat screamed for help, and Charlotte Corday, who had not tried to escape, was at
once arrested and soon after executed. She showed no fear as she was taken to her
death, going to it calm and smiling, as one who had done her duty.
But Charlotte Corday had not accomplished what she had hoped by the death of Marat.
His removal only left
 room for Robespierre and his terrible Council of Ten to
begin the Reign of Terror.
This Council of Ten began its reign by imprisoning those suspected of disloyalty to
In a few days the prisons were full, and to make room for others the guillotine was
kept constantly at work.
Prisoners were taken for trial before the Committee of Public Safety. But as had
happened earlier in the year the trial was a mock one, batches of seventy or eighty
prisoners being taken at the same time from the prison to the place of execution.
No one dare trust another. A friend might at any time accuse his friend, a servant
his master. Spies were in every household. Innocent and guilty suffered together,
while noble ladies were thrown into prison with those who had been brought up in
Marie Antoinette had been in prison ever since she had been taken to the Temple with
Louis XVI. Her captivity was now drawing to a close.
She had changed greatly since sorrow had fallen upon her. Her hair, which had once
been golden, was now quite white, much of her beauty, too. was gone, but she had
grown quiet and patient, and no murmur at her treatment ever crossed her lips. She
had her little son and daughter with her, and the poor queen spent her days teaching
her children and working beautiful embroidery.
But in July 1793 her children were taken from her, and the dauphin was given into
the charge of a rough and cruel shoemaker called Simon. Then, indeed, the queen
thought that her heart would break.
At first she would watch hour after hour from the window of the Temple, that she
might catch a glimpse of her little son as he was taken for his daily walk. Before
long, however, she was removed from the Temple to a dark and gloomy prison. Here no
candle was given to her, and even her needlework was taken away. Thus with
 no work for her hands, no occupation for her tired heart, the long days slipped by
slowly and unheeded.
In October 1793 she was summoned before the Council of Ten and condemned to death.
It was with little sorrow that she heard her sentence. Life had ceased to be of any
worth when her son was taken from her.
Never was Marie Antoinette more a queen than when she stepped upon the scaffold and,
quiet and brave, laid her head upon the block. In another moment her sufferings were
After the queen's death, Elizabeth, the sister of Louis XVI.,
Philip of Orleans, who had voted for the king's death, and thousands of others, known and unknown, were
hurried to the scaffold.
To add to the misery of the people, if that indeed was possible, the Jacobins now
gave orders that prayers should no longer be offered in any church, that Sunday
should no longer be observed. And in the cathedral of Notre Dame, where the people
had ever gone to worship God, the Jacobins ordered an image of the Goddess of Reason
to be set up and worshipped. When, as well as all these changes, the names of the
days and months of the year had been altered, the Jacobins believed that a new world
had sprung into being.
The Council of Ten was growing weary of bloodshed, all save one, and that one was
Robespierre. Little by little the other members began to fear this terrible man, to
think that if he lived much longer even their lives would not be safe.
Lest, therefore, he should cause their fall, the Council resolved to accuse him as a
When they tried to arrest him Robespierre resisted, and, rather than submit to be
taken prisoner, he attempted to shoot himself, but the bullet only entered his jaw.
After a mock trial, such as he had himself given to others, the tyrant was condemned
and taken to the guillotine. With Robespierre's death the Reign of Terror came to an
 few days later the Convention ordered the prison doors to be opened,
the prisoners to be set free.
But there was one little prisoner to whom the opening of the doors could do no good,
and this was the dauphin, Louis XVII., as some few people called him.
As you know, the little prince had been taken from his mother and given into the
charge of a shoemaker called Simon.
The child, who had always been loved and cared for, was now cuffed and kicked,
taught to drink and swear, until his health was ruined and his mind was wellnigh a
After about six months of such cruel treatment Simon gave up his post, and
Robespierre sent no one to take his place.
The little dauphin was left in a cell, unwashed and neglected. Often he had barely
enough to eat. When Robespierre was put to death, some of the less fierce
Republicans remembered the little prince, and he was put under the care of
respectable people. Even now, however, he was kept as a prisoner and treated
harshly, though not with the cruelty Simon had used.
In May 1794 the child became seriously ill, and a doctor was sent to visit him. His
nurses paid him but scant attention, while his sister, who lived in the same house,
was not allowed to see her brother.
It is said by some historians that the prince died in June, that at the end
happiness stole into the child-heart and he heard "heavenly music and the voice of
his mother." But others tell us that the child escaped from his gaolers and lived
quietly for many years after he was believed to be dead.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics