Madame Élisabeth, 10th May 1794

10 May 2010

On this day in history, Madame Élisabeth, the youngest sister of the deposed and executed king Louis XV was guillotined on a scaffold erected on the Place de la Nation in Paris. The Princess was aged just thirty years old, having had her birthday only a week earlier on the third of May.

As the guillotine did its work, Élisabeth kept her gaze resolutely forward, showing no sign of fear and reciting the De Profundis as she waited her turn. Finally, there was no one else left and the executioner came for her. She refused his hand and instead went by herself up the steps to the scaffold.

Just before they tied her to the grisly plank of wood that would tilt her beneath the guillotine’s blade, her fichu of fine Indian lawn slipped from her shoulders, revealing the silver medal of the Immaculate Conception and tiny pocket book, which she had tied around her neck with a silken cord.

We are told that one of the executioner’s assistants, Desmarest, tried to remove the fichu, probably to steal it for his own but that Élisabeth stopped him, crying: ‘In the name of your mother, Monsieur, cover me!’ These were to be her last words.

It is said that as the blade fell down, ending the life of Madame Élisabeth, the square was filled with the beautiful scent of roses.’

I have already written at some length about the final days and execution of Madame Élisabeth here.

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