Louis XVI - Last Words

Louis XVI - Last Words Famous Historical Events Famous People History Social Studies Trials World History Visual Arts

When he arrived at the place of his execution, Louis XVI spoke to the gathered crowd. They were the people he had once called his subjects.

Realizing that no matter what he said or did would change the minds of those who were there to end his life, he apparently said (in English translation):

I die innocent of all the crimes imputed to me. I pardon the authors of my death, and pray God that the blood you are about to shed will never fall upon France.

One of the earliest accounts of Louis’ execution, written in English, is Judgment and Execution of Louis XVI. King of France; With a List of the Members of the National Convention, Who voted for and against his DEATH ... by Henry Goudemetz ("A French Clergyman, emigrant in England"). Published in 1795, two years after the beheading, it tells the story of Louis' death and his last words.

The King walked, alone, up the steps of the scaffold. The guillotine - the instrument which would end his life - was positioned nearby. He would be publicly humiliated, before he died:

Far from opposing those who came to cut off his hair, and bind his hands, "Do with me," said he, "what you will, it is the last sacrifice."

He then made a motion with his hand to obtain silence. - "I die perfectly innocent of all the pretended crimes laid to my charge - I forgive all those who have had any hand in my misfortunes, and I pray that my blood may be of use in restoring happiness to France - And you, unhappy people!" ...... (Goudemetz, at page 233.)

Interrupting the King, who apparently intended to say more to the individuals gathered around the scaffold, Santerre - in charge of the execution - ordered a drum roll which would drown-out Louis' words:

At these words the unfeeling Santerre gave orders that the drums should beat, crying out to the King, "that he had not brought him there to declaim, but to die." At that instant his head was severed from his body! (Goudemetz, at page 233.)

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Dec 17, 2018

Media Credits

Image, entitled" Louis XVI at Madame Guillotine," depicting his death on January 21, 1793.  Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.



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