Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Basilica St Denis, June 2010

11 June 2010

On the 21st January 1815, the remains of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were moved from their resting place close to the Madeleine in Paris to the Basilica St Denis, there to lie for eternity alongside the bodies of their ancestors.

Their bodies rest in the crypt below the main church, but above there stands their beautiful memorial statues by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot. The statues that commemorate the royal couple here at St Denis are very different to those at the Chapelle Expiatoire and have a regal dignity and solemnity.

I really like that Marie Antoinette is shown wearing clothes from the early nineteenth century, although it makes me sad that she wasn’t there to preside over the changing fashions.

I don’t know, and nor do I wish to know, why her breasts are so shiny in comparison to the rest of the statue.

Beautiful but so sad.

The statue of Louis XVI bestows the maligned and ridiculed King with a dignity that he was denied in real life.

I felt very moved standing in front of the memorials to Louis and Marie Antoinette. As with the Chapelle Expiatoire you can’t help but be moved by the sad fates of the unfortunate King and Queen and it is impossible not to wish that their story had had a very different end. It is a comfort though that they ultimately ended up at St Denis just as they must always have assumed that they would do before the outbreak of revolution.

To see the actual final resting place of Louis and Marie Antoinette, you have to descend to the chilly and gloomy crypt of the Basilica, where the remains of dozens of Bourbons lie.

Louis XVI’s tomb in the crypt, where he is buried alongside his wife and brother Louis XVIII. There are also memorials to Mesdames, Louis XVII and Madame Elisabeth.

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