I. A little prince charming

LOUIS XVII was born at Versailles, in his father’s palace, on 27 March 1785, in the evening of a glorious Easter Sunday. The child was baptised within an hour of his birth in the Palace of Versailles’ Saint Louis chapel, where he received the name of Louis-Charles and the title of Duke of Normandy. What a sign of predestination it already was to be born both to natural life and to the life of grace on the day of the Lord’s Resurrection!

By an odd coincidence, all the protagonists of the future tragedy were gathered around the baptismal font. Madame Elisabeth, the King’s sister, was the reflection of every virtue. She carried the newborn child in her arms, in the name of the Queen of Naples, Marie-Antoinette’s sister and the official godmother. The godfather was the Count of Provence, the King’s brother. Louis XVI, who was called Louis the Victorious since the Treaty of Versailles of 1783, by which France had taken her revenge on England, was accompanied by his six year old daughter Marie-Thérèse and by the Dauphin, Louis-Joseph-Xavier. The baptism was administered by the young Cardinal de Rohan, who concealed a depraved heart consumed with ambition under the exterior of a grand lord. The Duke of Chartres, who would become the Duke of Orleans after his father’s death, also participated in the ceremony, staying in the background. He was the future Philippe-Égalité who launched the Revolution from the Palais-Royal, with his staff of corrupt gentlemen and middle class freemasons.

Along with life, Louis-Charles received the benefits of a civilisation that had reached a high degree of perfection. His vocation as a predestined child sprang from the thousands of bonds and relationships that encompassed his fragile existence. He, in turn, would have to bear the heritage of the House of France, for better and for worse, even this secret fault, concealed from the majority of people, but which had wounded God’s heart: the refusal of his ancestor Louis XIV to have the Sacred Heart enter into his Court to be the “first to be served ”.

In the picture painted in 1787 by Madame Vigée-Lebrun, Louis-Charles can be seen on his mother’s knees. He is a big baby, in a lace dress and a round bonnet, full of life and energy. The Dauphin, standing at the right, his features already haggard, is pointing with his finger to the empty cradle of Sophie, the youngest child who did not live more than a year, while Marie-Thérèse, nicknamed “Mousseline”, tenderly bends over the shoulder of her mother, whose smile retains its charm while at the same time concealing the distress which grips her. In the imminent trial, her children will be her great consolation, especially Louis-Charles, whom she calls her “dear love”, and who displays an unusual precocity of character and feelings. (Vigée-Lebrun, Palace of Versailles; photo Lauros-Giraudon)

For the time being, he was « a superb child who gives signs of being able to survive and of being easy to raise, wrote his mother, some time after his birth. He is stronger than children normally are at this age. He gets stronger everyday, and he is remarkably cheerful. » Marie-Antoinette was no longer the adulated young Queen, so concerned about pleasing, and taking singular liberties with the Court’s customs. The jealousies and calumnies of the enemies of the throne focused on her, without the King, alas! paying any heed or taking harsh measures… But the Queen felt them more and more and, as a true daughter of the great Marie-Thérèse, Empress of Austria, she decided henceforth to devote herself entirely to her duties as mother and queen, finding in piety the strength needed for this conversion. Before her confinement, which promised to be difficult, she went to confession and received Communion. Perverse men, however, who circulated scurrilous satires about her, raised a barrier between her and the people. During the ceremony of churching at Notre-Dame de Paris on 21 May 1785, the crowd’s silence was oppressive, not to say hostile. The spell of the first years had been broken… The affair of the necklace broke on the following 15 August. Although the Queen was not involved in it, she was sullied by the scandal. Faithful to her queenly dignity for the Queen of France is untouchable! –Marie-Antoinette would fulfil the duties of her state right to the end, serving her family, her country, her Catholic faith, and showing everyone how a Queen of France could see everything, know everything, and forget everything.

The year 1785 was still a time for festivities. King Louis XVI came back enchanted from his trip to Normandy, during which he was madly acclaimed. So he took his youngest child in his arms saying: « Come! my little Norman. I think that you are going to bring me good luck. »


The happy days seemed to be over, however. During the years 1788 and 1789, France was in a state of general unrest, which heralded the imminent insurrection. The States General were convened as the high court had suggested. On 4 May 1789, the opening session was preceded by a solemn procession, attended by Louis-Charles and his sister from the balcony of a house. When the Queen went past, shouts of “Long live the Duke of Orleans”, as well as insults could be heard.

One month later, in the night of 3 to 4 June, Louis-Joseph died. It was thus the little Duke of Normandy who officially became the Dauphin of France. The letter that his mother wrote on 24 July 1789 to Madame de Tourzel, entrusting the prince’s upbringing to her, paints a remarkable moral picture of the child which proves, if proof were needed, that Marie-Antoinette knew her children’s characters and how to correct them.

« He is like every strong and healthy child: very careless, very inconsiderate and violent in his fits of anger. He is, however, good-natured, tender and even affectionate, when his thoughtlessness does not get the better of him. He has an immoderate self-esteem which, if he is well directed, can turn to his advantage. Until he is really comfortable with someone, he is able to restrain himself, and even swallows his movements of impatience and of anger in order to appear gentle and kind. »

This pronounced character went along with a strong cordial affection: « He is very fond of his sister, and is kind-hearted: each time something pleases him, whether going somewhere or receiving something, his first reaction is always to ask for the same thing for his sister… He was born cheerful, his health requires that he be often out of doors, and I think that it is better to let him play and work in the garden, on the patio, rather than to take him further away for a walk. »


A PORTRAIT OF LOUIS-CHARLES IN A “SAILOR SUIT.” « Louis XVII, wrote the Baron Hue, inherited a heavenly countenance, a precocious mind, a compassionate heart and the seeds of the greatest qualities. » (Leblanc-Duvernoy Museum, Auxerre. Photo Lauros-Giraudon)

Seeing his passion for flowers – there was no lack of them at the Palace of Versailles! – the king gave him a little garden on the terrasse du Midi, and tools small enough for him so that he could cultivate it himself. In his absence, the gardeners would lend a hand, and Louis-Charles happily watched his flowers grow. He liked to make bouquets that he would place every morning on the Queen’s dressing table before she got up, in order, he said, to be able to merit her kiss. When he was prevented from doing so, he would sadly sigh:

« I am annoyed. Today, I was unable to merit Mother’s kiss. »

Is there a better example of what our devotion to the Virgin Mary should be like?

The love for his beloved mother, of “Mama-Queen” as he used to say, was the flower of this little prince charming, the heart of his heart.

« He is very faithful when he has promised something », observed Marie-Antoinette. She added: « But he is very indiscreet; he readily repeats what he has heard and often, without intending to lie, he adds on whatever his imagination suggests to him. This is his greatest fault, for which he must be corrected; otherwise, I repeat, he is good-natured and, by acting with tenderness and at the same time firmness, without being too strict, we will be able to do whatever we want with him. Strictness, however, would revolt him, for he has much character for his age. For example, since his early childhood, the expression “Forgive me” has always upset him. He will do and say anything we want when he is wrong, but when it comes to pronouncing “Forgive me,” he does so only with tears and great distress.” This indication is invaluable when we know what is to take place: his final forgiveness of his persecutors will be all the more meritorious.

« That is why when I scold them, [i.e., her children] I look sad and afflicted about what they have done rather than angry.


« Another day, at Bagatelle, in the Count of Artois’ enchanting garden, the child, carried away by his vivacity, started to plunge into a rose bush. Hue, his first manservant, who related the adventure, ran after him.

« My Lord, I said to him, holding him back, just one of these thorns could take your eye out or tear your face. He turned round, and giving me a look as noble as it was resolute, said « Thorny paths lead to glory. »

This is often where the story ends, but what took place afterwards is instructive and shows the quality of the education given to the young prince. Having learned of the repartee, his mother had him brought before her, and this is what she told him:

« My son, you have quoted a very true maxim, but you have not applied it correctly. There is no glory in losing an eye just for the pleasure of running and playing. If it had been a question of destroying a dangerous animal, of pulling a person out of danger, or of risking one’s life to save another, that could be called glory; but what you did is nothing but thoughtlessness and imprudence. Besides, you must wait, my child, before talking of glory, until you are able to read the history of your ancestors and of French heroes such as Du Guesclin, Bayard, Turenne, d’Assas and many others who defended France at the cost of their blood. »

Then blushing, Louis-Charles took hold of his mother’s hand, kissed it, and said;

« Well then, dear Mama, I shall place my glory in following your advice and obeying you. »

He remained faithful to this resolution, not in words, but in deeds and in truth. This would be the continual mainspring of his inner joy and, in truth, of his holiness.


Portraits reveal to us a little prince charming: a large and bare forehead, gently arched eyebrows, large almond-shaped eyes of a delightful blue colour, chestnut blond hair framing an oval face. (Pastel drawing of the French School, Versailles Museum)

The sight of this predestined child, whose heart was turned toward his beloved father and filled with love for his Mama-Queen, could not leave people indifferent, at least those with well-disposed hearts. Alas! There were not many well-disposed hearts in that summer of 1789.

In a world that was subjected to anti-monarchical propaganda, the Dauphin already acted his role, without ulterior motives but to perfection, of rallying the people to their King. One day, he was operating a small mill that could grind enough wheat to feed a family. He then declared to the delighted inventor:

« Give this flour to the poor, and tell them that I myself ground it. »


For his part, the King believed that he would be able to disarm the opposition and hatred of his enemies by showing his kind heart and his love for his people. On 17 July, three days after the horrors that plunged the capital into a bloodbath, he thought that he had no choice but to go to Paris in order to put minds at rest. During this time, the royal family anxiously awaited his return. As his father was long in coming back, the Dauphin went up to the Queen to comfort her:

« He will come back, Mama! he will come back! My father is so good that nobody would hurt him. »

At the end of September, the Dauphin could even be seen between the borders of the Orangery presenting their flags to the companies of the regiment from Flanders that had come to take up garrison at Versailles in order to assure the King’s security. The little Prince was extremely fond of everything having to do with the military: uniforms, flags, parades and, most of all, regimental music, which overjoyed him.

However, a storm was brewing over the Monarchy. On 5 October, the Queen was at Trianon 1 with her children for the last time. On that day, did the child hear his mother sing a ballad? He was so fond of hearing her sing! One day he was so delighted, as though in ecstasy, that his aunt Elisabeth, surprised to see him so quiet, laughingly exclaimed: « Ah! This time, Louis-Charles is sleeping! » But he answered:

« Ah! Aunty, how could I possibly sleep when I hear Mama-Queen singing! »


Suddenly, a page came running, panic-stricken. Everyone had to return to the palace as quickly as possible: the people of Paris were advancing on Versailles! After a night of anguish came the horrible day of 6 October. For the first time, the Revolution burst into the happy life of the child who until then had known nothing but beauty, elegance and courtesy. Gory, hideous and obscene scenes took place under his eyes. The most aggressive images, the most violent sounds unsettled his very sensitive soul. What trauma!

The prince was awakened abruptly, hastily dressed, and taken by his father through the secret staircase, from the noon wing back to the King’s bedroom, in the centre of the palace. He then had to appear on the balcony, holding his Mama-Queen’s hand, before a vociferous crowd that had invaded the marble court. Then there was a long wait before the departure. But why were they leaving? The child did not understand. He was hungry, and wept. At last, the hideous procession moved off in the direction of the capital. What a horror! Louis-Charles saw, swaying on the end of a pike, the bloody heads of the bodyguards Deshuttes and Varicourt, whom he loved and who had been slaughtered while defending the Queen’s door, in order to give her time to escape from the enraged mob who wanted to « bring her head back to Paris and make ribbons out of her bowels ». How dreadful!

This was a truly diabolical outburst, a vision of Hell… The Dauphin saw and heard everything. Overwhelmed by fatigue, hunger and sorrow, however, he fell asleep, exhausted, after giving a last glance towards his beloved mother.


A portrait of Marie-Antoinette, drawn in pastels, began in 1791, resumed in 1792, and left unfinished (attributed to Kucharski, Palace of Versailles; photo Lauros-Giraudon).

« Everything is so ugly here, Mama », the child said when he awoke in the Tuileries 2 palace, where the royal family had settled in a terrible rush in the evening of 6 October. The Queen chided him softly: « My son, Louis XIV lived here and felt at home. We should not be harder to please than he. » Henceforth, however, they were the hostages and prisoners, if not of a hostile people, at least of a handful of leaders who incited the people and turned them against their King.

For his part, the Dauphin understood so many things!

Although so indiscreet by nature, he learned to display an exemplary discretion. At the same time, he turned things over in his mind, and his innate sense of the royal majesty made him feel cruelly the insults given to his father who appeared, in his childish eyes, to be such a good and wise King, only concerned with the good of his subjects. One day, he went up to the King and considered him in a pensive manner. His father asked him what he wanted:

« My Father, I would like to know why your people, who used to love you so much, are suddenly angry at you, and what you have done to make them so angry. »

Louis XVI put his son on his knees and gave him a little talk, saying that he wanted to make the people happier than they were, but that some wicked individuals were standing in the way and provoking the people’s anger. « We must not bear a grudge against the people », he concluded. This is true, but insufficient: our Father has often demonstrated to us that Louis XVI lacked the virtue of fortitude that makes true Kings. We will see that the child was endowed with this virtue, instinctively.

For her part, the Queen encouraged her son to always be kind towards the people who came to the Tuileries.

The thought of pleasing his Mama-Queen inspired all of his resolutions. Since the abbé d’Avaux, his teacher, had not succeeded in making him want to learn how to read, « even though he had the greatest facility for learning whatever he wanted », the Queen called for her son:

« My child, you will soon be five years old and you still do not know how to read! I will have you know that I am saddened by your laziness.

– Mama! I promise you that I will be able to read for your New Year’s gift this year!

And straight away, he went to his teacher:

« Father, I have to know how much time I have left before New Year’s Day, since I have promised Mama that I will know how to read on that day.

– One month, My Lord; we are in the last days of November.

– Well, in that case, my good Father, could you please give me two lessons a day, and I will apply myself in earnest!

On the morning of 1 January 1790, Louis-Charles triumphantly entered his mother room, and threw himself into her arms, saying:

« Here is your New Year’s gift, Mama! I kept my promise and I can read now! »

What a rich heart and what strength of character he had! With the education that he was receiving and the good examples he had before him, he would have made a magnificent King. Very sociable, he played his little role as soon as visitors came. If they happened to be people faithful to the King and the Queen, he would not rest until he had shown them his sympathy.

When the Queen took him to visit poor people in their garrets, his little heart was touched, and he became profoundly moved: « Mama! Mama! When will we come back? » He also put some money aside for poor foundlings.


The year 1790 brought its share of illusions, except for those like Madame Elisabeth, who understood the inescapable course of the Revolution. On 14 July, the King went along with the pompous and grotesque ceremony of the adoption of the Constitution on the Champ-de-Mars. He was acclaimed, as well as the Dauphin, whose grace and cheerfulness won every heart.

Everyday at 5 o’clock, after his lessons, he would descend the great staircase escorted by a company of the National Guard, and go to his small garden, which was just opposite the Flore pavilion, beside the Seine. On Sunday, he charmed the little crowd that came to see him. He handed out flowers, and made compliments. Some women explained their miseries to him.

« Ah! My Lord! one of them exclaimed, if I obtain this favour, I will be as happy as a Queen! »

Louis-Charles gave her a daisy and answered:

« As happy as a Queen? I know one who does nothing but weep! »

A regiment of children, named the « Royal-Dauphin » was created in his honour. The young troop came to present itself to its little colonel, very proud as well to sport his uniform, and to show him how they were able to manoeuvre.


In the first months of 1791, the net was tightening around the royal family, preventing it from going to Saint-Cloud to attend Easter Mass with a non revolutionary priest. In June, the King finally resolved to break the infernal encirclement and join his faithful troops in garrison in the east of France. The flight came to a sad end at Varennes. A new station of the royal family’s way of the Cross had begun. How moving it is to relive it through the eyes and heart of the little Prince. The role he played was not at the forefront, but he was present throughout it all, heard everything, and suffered with the sensitiveness of a six year-old child, not from his own sufferings, but from what his parents suffered.

On 20 June at 10 pm, the Queen awoke him in great secrecy:

« Get up; we are going to go to a fortress where you will command your regiment!

– Quick, quick! let's hurry! Give me my sabre and boots, and let’s be off! »

What a disappointment! He was dressed up as a girl. So he thought that they were going to play a comedy. As a precaution, he was made to lie down on the floor of the coach, and was told to keep silent. When Madame Elisabeth joined the royal family some time later so as not to raise suspicions, she accidentally stepped on him, but he refrained from crying out.

What a pitiful escapade: too much tardiness and too much foolhardiness, improvidence and indecisiveness! Ten times, the King could have forced his way through and joined his faithful troops. He did not want to do so… It was at Varennes, in the Argonne, that the royal family was recognised and arrested. In the tumult, Marie-Thérèse leaned towards her brother and whispered: « Oh Charles, you were quite wrong; this is no comedy!

– I have realised this for a while now! » the child, who had sized up the tragedy, replied.

The return to Paris was appalling, like a repetition of 6 October, but this time it was in oppressive heat, with the dust of the road and the stifling air. Once again they lived through the same anguish before this delirious mob, listening to revolting songs, death threats, and indecent heckling, a sinister excursion during which nothing could be kept hidden from the child. He saw and heard everything, and he understood that once again the wicked had prevailed. Hideous faces, oozing hatred, appeared at the door of the coach and hurled abuse. Pikes, guns, pitchforks and scythes intermingled. A shot rang out. It was the marquis of Dampierre who had come to greet his King. His head soon swayed at the end of a pike…

In Reims, the republican Barnave, the Assembly’s representative, ceremoniously took a seat in the coach. He asked the Dauphin:

« Don’t you feel sorry about coming back to Paris?

– Oh! I am fine everywhere, as long as I am with my Father and Mama-Queen… And also with my aunt, my sister and Madame de Tourzel.

The Dauphin’s whole heart is contained in this reply. But it also heralds the future trial, when he would be separated from the ones he loved…

The entry into the capital on 25 June, with a new share of humiliations and insults, was a real torture. The Dauphin could not cope with it anymore. During the following night, he had a horrible nightmare, imagining himself being surrounded by ferocious animals ready to devour him…


The Dauphin at the Tuileries (PMVP / Photo: Lifermann).

Life went on, under closer surveillance, more stifling than ever. The cheerfulness of the royal prince was, however, the light and the consolation of the family. He worked and became stronger.

For her part, Madame de Tourzel remarked:

« My Lord the Dauphin had the soundest judgement and he was born with an elevation of the soul that was natural to him. He detested lying, considering it to be contemptible; and he was endowed with such truthfulness that he was the first to confess to me the faults he had committed, without my having to ask anyone other than himself in order to find out. When he saw in my apartment people whom he knew to be attached to the King and the Queen, he always had pleasant and kind things to say to them. He had a lively and impetuous nature, and sometimes had rather strong fits of anger. When they were over, he was so ashamed that he was angry at himself. »

One day, his sister Marie-Thérèse spoke in his presence of a skilful petitioner who managed, by dint of flatteries, to extort a pension from a minister:

« The poor minister, he said, I have little esteem for crows that drop their cheese like that. 3 »

His repartees were marvellously relevant and spontaneous. After the return from Varennes, the Abbé d’Avaux, having resumed his functions as teacher, began his first lesson with these words:

« If I remember correctly, our last lesson was on the three degrees of comparison: the positive, the comparative and the superlative, but you have forgotten all this.

– You are mistaken! Louis-Charles replied. As proof of this, listen to me. The positive is when I say: My Abbé is a good Abbé; the comparative is when I say: My Abbé is better than another Abbé; the superlative, he continued while looking at his mother, is when I say: Mama is the most lovable and the most loved of all mothers. » And he threw himself into her arms...

His mother spoke Italian. That was no obstacle! He requested permission to learn how to speak this language. He took such a liking to it, put all his heart into it, that it was not long before he was able to read his dear Telemachus 4 in Italian and to converse with his mother.

To the marquis of Villeneuve, who was watching him while he amused himself with a small hare that played a drum, he said in an undertone: « I know that you are fond of us. That is why I can tell you this: my hare plays the drum for the King. He is a royalist. Do not say anything about it though! They would kill him! ».


Endowed with a keen sense of justice, the little Prince expected everyone to do his duty without weakness. One day in 1791, at the Tuileries, Monsieur de Chamilly, his second manservant, thought it prudent to yield to the entreaties of a group of mutinous soldiers, who had come right to the door of the apartments of the Prince to collect money. Having assassinated their officers, they had been sentenced to the galleys, before being granted an amnesty.

« My Lord, the Dauphin, related Madame de Tourzel, was furious and impatiently awaited the moment when we would be alone to say what he thought about it.

– Can you imagine, Madame, conduct as cowardly as that of Monsieur de Chamilly? What will the public say when it finds out that we gave to that nasty lot! If I were Papa, I would remove Monsieur de Chamilly from his post and I would refuse to see him again.

– You are, I told him, quite severe towards a good servant of the King, and one who is so deeply attached to him. He made a serious error, I agree, but for a good reason and without having reflected on the impropriety of his action.

– You are right, he said to me after a moment, but I would have said to him: You made a serious mistake. I forgive you for it this time because you are very attached to me, but do not do any such thing again because you will be shown the door! » He was six years old!

Instinctively, the gentle Dauphin took his place in the pure tradition of the Capetian Kings, sovereignly free to exercise their leniency inasmuch as, imbued with a sense of the divine origin of their authority, they first of all secured its exercise by force. Nothing could be further from the presumptuousness of his father Louis XVI, who thought it preferable to rely on his « good heart », instead of exercising his authority over the great men and repressing the rabble.


On 6 January 1792, on the feast of the Three Kings, the idea occurred to the royal prince to have his father make him a knight. The King consented to dubbing his son with his sword. But the date of 27 March was approaching, when he would be seven years old 5, the age at which he would be entrusted to a tutor. Candidates were queuing up for the post of tutor of the royal prince, among them Robespierre!

What was to be taught to the child-king?

The revolutionary press wrote without any circumlocution: « Will the tutor be able to fill his pupil with contempt for the purple to which he was born? Will he be able to bring him to the point of blushing at the word king, as one would at an insulting and defamatory term? » Such was the Revolution’s goal: to lead the child to hate and scorn his parents, to break his family ties, even the most sacred, in order to put him under the Revolution’s control!

For the moment, the King put an end to the tergiversations of the Assembly by appointing on his own authority his former minister of the Navy, Monsieur de Fleurieu. Actually, he and the Queen intended to continue personally the education of their son, to the great satisfaction of Louis-Charles.

The pace of events was increasing, however. In March, the decree against the priests who had refused to take the revolutionary oath, was followed in April by the declaration of war against Austria. The King’s personal guard, commanded by the duke of Brissac, was disbanded in May. This saddened the little Prince, scandalised him even. A King without a royal guard? This was nonsense!


The King exercised his veto over the decrees against the émigrés and the refractory priests. There were rumbles of rioting. « Days » were organised at the Palais-Royal 6 and in Jacobin clubs. On 20 June, the bawling battalions from Santerre invaded the Tuileries, marched past the King, then past the Queen, while insulting them in the midst of a general confusion. After this hideous procession that lasted more than three hours, the royal family found itself surrounded by those officers and guards who remained faithful.

The Dauphin understood more and more that in the person of his father, it was the overthrow of the monarchy that was sought.

In the night of 9 to 10 August, the tocsin began to sound, spreading terror throughout the capital. Two hundred gentlemen rushed to the Tuileries to defend the King.

 The King, however, refusing to shed blood, fled from the Palace of the Tuileries and took refuge in the Manège, the seat of the Assembly, « as a token of our love for the people », he said. What a pity! For at the same time, he abandoned the Swiss mercenaries and the gentlemen who were prepared to die for him. The Baron de Frémilly wrote in his Memoirs what our Father, one day, said to us more bluntly:

« A King who had courage and intelligence, who would have, for a moment, believed in himself rather than perpetually believing in others, would have been the master of the day. He would have had only to mount a horse and gallop down the ranks, electrifying them with his words... With the rabble vanquished, France would have been reconquered.

It was 6:15 in the morning. The royal family took refuge in the Manège in a dreadful uproar during which insults and the threats could be heard: « Down with the tyrant! » –« Death! Death! » like the crowds of Jerusalem stirred up by the high priests against Jesus. A grenadier carried the Dauphin in his arms, and said to him:

« Don’t be afraid, they will not harm you!

– Me, no! said the child, but my father. »

We admire the self-control displayed by such words in such circumstances.

It was over, the monarchy was dead.


On the evening of 13 August 1792, the royal family was taken under escort to the Temple, a square XIIIth century donjon, fitted out with corner turrets. While waiting for the rooms to be prepared, the King and his family were lodged in the little four-sided tower that flanked the large tower.

Their friends and servants would soon be taken away from them. They were given someone by the name of Tison, assigned to spy on them along with his wife, and, it is true, a few days later, Cléry, Louis XVI’s faithful servant. The guards spoke to the prisoners without removing their hats and blew the smoke of their pipes into their faces. Nothing was spared them: obscene songs, horrible inscriptions, perpetual searches, nocturnal awakenings… The King’s sword was taken away from him, another time his writing case. Walks in the court became a veritable torture. On 3 September, the head of the Princess of Lamballe, the unfortunate friend of the Queen, was waved in front of the windows of the tower. It was a moment of terror…

When the family entered the big tower in October, the women were placed on the third floor. Louis-Charles was taken from his mother and given to the King.

When reading these accounts, we can imagine how exhausting these days, weeks, and months of suffering in prison must have been. Now, what emerges from the declarations is the admirable example of virtue, patience, goodness, courage, and piety given by his relatives, which the prince would have constantly before him throughout yet another year.

The little Prince, the attentive witness of his dear mother’s very kind words and of his father’s resignation, engraved the lesson deeply in his memory. Since the events did not seem to have undermined his happy character, he was able to appear gay, even cheerful and curious about everything. Sometimes, retorts burst out, indicating that he was not deluded about their situation.

« Are you aware that liberty has made us free and that we are all equal? a civic official said to him one day.

– As equal as you wish, retorted the child, but it is not here that you will convince us that liberty has made us free! »


On 11 December, the King was totally separated from his family. His trial had begun. It would last six weeks. On Sunday, 20 January, Louis XVI was able to see his family for the last time. « At 7 o’clock in the evening, Madame Royal (Marie-Thérèse, the sister of Louis-Charles) related, they came to tell us that a decree of the Convention permitted us to go down to my father’s cell. We hurried to him and found him very much changed; he wept over our suffering, but not over his own death […]. He then gave my brother good religious instructions and urged him above all to forgive those who were putting him to death. »

To make certain, he had him raise his hand to swear to accomplish this last wish, and the Dauphin swore to do it. The next morning they would not see one another, but it is said that when the Dauphin heard the noise, he rushed towards the military police and the guards crying out:

« Let me through, gentlemenlet me through!

–Where do you want to go?

–To speak to the people so that they do not put my father to death! In the name of God, let me through! »

God! So he thinks of Him. Yes, and more deeply than we can imagine, as is demonstrated by the reflection he made to his mother the following morning, when she came to awaken him.

« My son, we must think about God, she said.

– Mama, I too, have thought of God, but when I call up the thought of God, the image of my father always comes before me. »

The Queen had no illusions about the fate that awaited her: she would be the next victim. Nevertheless, with Madame Elisabeth, she took over from the King in teaching her son: writing, geography, history of France. Some of the civic officials were moved, although they dared not show it. One of them would testify: « It was impossible to see, without being moved, the young King, barely eight years old, leaning over his small table, carefully reading The History of France, to hear him explain what he had read, grasping with avidity the observations of his mother or his aunt. »


For a long time, the child had been aware of the odious role that the Tison couple were playing. One day it happened that the man and the woman, who had been reprimanded by an on-service commissary, attributed the altercation to denunciations made by Louis-Charles whom they called a spy and an informer. The Queen gently replied to them:

« I will have you know that none of us is the kind of person who strikes at people in the dark, nor am I one to tolerate such a thing » As for the little King, he energetically protested.

« Better than exhortations or lessons on morality, the little King had constantly before his eyes the example of the heroic virtues practiced by the persons whom he loved most in the world, living images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For the Heart of Jesus was there, in this prison, among the prisoners. Madame Elisabeth prayed to Him daily:

« I accept everything, I sacrifice everything to you, I unite this sacrifice to that of your dear Son, my Saviour, beseeching you to grant, through His Sacred Heart and through His infinite merits, patience in our trials and the perfect submission that is due to You for all that You will and permit. »

The child’s sound constitution was of little avail, so many shocks, tears, emotions, day and night, ended up sapping his body deprived of air and exercise, which were so necessary for him. Since the death of the King, there were no more walks in the garden due to the continual insults of the guards. The Queen watched her child wander from one room to the other, listless and weakened. The memory of his elder brother, who had died of tuberculosis, forced itself into her imagination and made her heart bleed. In the month of May 1793, Louis-Charles complained about « a stitch in his side that prevents him from laughing ». He was treated for this, but it was then that there germinated in the perverted minds of two military police officers, Chaumette and Hébert, the vile machination that they would use to have the Queen accused by her son.

Then came the fateful date of 3 July 1793, when the child was separated from his mother. The Queen resisted during an hour and a half, but in the end she was forced to give in. She then addressed to her son her last recommendations:

« My child, we are going to be separated. Remember your duties when I will not be with you to remind you about them. Never forget the Good God who is putting you to the test, nor your mother who loves you. Be good, patient and honest, and your father will bless you from the highest Heaven... »

Despite so many trials, so many fears, shed tears, heartrending visions that had crushed his heart for four years, the child had been able to support it all in the midst of a cherished family, united in daily sacrifice. They gave each other mutual support through prayer, devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, affection, and the practice of heroic virtues. He was immersed in such a climate of holiness that his being, already so naturally gifted, grew richer in graces and inner strength, formed in him by the Holy Spirit in view of the combats to come.

Overnight, this universe of shared happiness and sorrow collapsed, sounding the end of the joyful mysteries. The child, however, kept his treasure deep down in his heart, living on the memory of his family, of their faces, of their words, of their examples, of the promises that he had made to them. These would be his weapons in the duel that was about to begin with his torturer, and beyond him, with Satan himself.

He would come out of this duel victorious, because he was a victim.


The name of two palaces built in the park of the Palace of Versailles.

The palace which served as the residence of the sovereigns of France from 1564 until it was abandoned by Louis XIV who preferred the Palace of Versailles

Allusion made to a fable of Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695) The Fox and the Crow.

In the seventeenth century Fénelon wrote a treaty on education for the Prince, composed as a fiction and relating the adventures of Telemachus, the son of Ulysses.

At the age of seven a boy of noble birth was taken away from his governess and entrusted to a tutor

Residence of the Duke of Orleans and centre of revolutionary activity.