The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVIII
"The blood of kings brings good luck!"

DURING THE NIGHT the council of the commune, sitting in a state of fear, was debating the novel business of executing and burying a king. Charles Henri Sanson, the executioner, asked, "I must know absolutely how Louis is to leave the Temple--in the ordinary tumbril? And what is to be done with the body?" It was a difficult problem to solve. The commune could not transport the king of France in a tumbril used for common criminals without cheapening the solemnity of the occasion; and there was no special tumbril for monarchs. Mayor Chambon, a physician by profession, refused to lend his coach for such a ghastly purpose, but Étienne Clavière, the minister of finance, had no objections to loaning his. As for burial, after some hesitation the commune decided that the body should be consumed in a grave of quicklime in the cemetery of the Madeleine de la Ville I'Évêque, a few minutes' walk from the place of execution.1 When it came to the business of selecting delegates to attend the decapitation, all the councilors except an ex-priest named Jacques Roux showed their repugnance.

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1
The cemetery of the Madeleine should not be confused with the Madeleine church. The latter is on the Place de la Madeleine, looking down upon the Place de la Concorde. The cemetery of the Madeleine is a small square on the rue d'Anjou (8e), near where the Boulevard Malesherbes runs into the Boulevard Hausmann; the Gare St. Lazare is only two blocks away. The whole square ( "Square Louis XVI") is taken up by a chapel in memory of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

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