Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The death and cult of King Louis XVI

Today is the 220th anniversary of the decapitation - the martyrdom - of King Louis XVI.

 Joseph Ducreux - Portrait of Louis XVI (1754-93) King of France, at the Temple

   King Louis XVI of France
A portrait done whilst he was imprisoned at the Temple by Joseph Ducreux


There is an account of the events of that terrible morning with descriptions and reminiscenses by some of those present which can be read here.

A fuller version of the extract from the memoirs of  the Abbe Edgeworth, the priest who accompanied the King to his death, can be read here.

The account of the King's death in The Times of January 25 1793 can be read here. It is prefaced by a very robust editorial, indicative of the British reaction to the French regicide.

In the latest version of this balanced online life of the King there is, towards the end, an account of the confirmation in 2012 of the survival of a relic of the King's blood in a gourd. It can be read here. There is more about the discovery in this article from the Daily Telegraph and in a piece from the BBC website here.

Prof. William Doyle has an interesting interpretive article in History Review about the significance or otherwise of the King's death in undermining the French monarchical ideal which can be read here.

 File:Louis XVI et Marie-Antoinette.jpg 

 The memorial to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette in St Denis which was erected after the Restoration of 1814-5 and their reburial in the Abbey in January 1815

Image: Wikipedia 

There is an illustrated online article about the Chapelle Expiatoire commissioned by King Louis XVIII in 1816 and completed under King Charles X in 1826 on the site of the King and Queen's original burial place here.

"Son of St Louis go up to Heaven" 

King Louis XVI Called to Immortality, Sustained by an Angel by François Joseph Bosio in the Chapelle Expiatoire

 Image: Wikipedia 

Although in 1820 the Church said that it was not possible to say that the King had been killed in defence of the Church rather than for political reasons his cult continued, and, following the political 
and constitutional disasters that affected the country after 1830, devotion to his memory and that of his Queen and son flourished in the later nineteenth century. I was struck on my visit in 1992 to  Sacré Cœur in Paris (built 1875-1914) to see in the mosaics of the sanctuary vault the figures of King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVII:
Merson,Olivier. "L'hommage a la France", mosaic in the choir of the basilica of Sacre Coeur church financed by public contributions meant to atone for the occupation of France during the War of 1870/71 and the horrors of the Commune. Size of the mosaic: 475 sq. meters.
The Homage of France - King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVII can be seen at the lower right of the picture.

Mosaic in Sacré Cœur

Image; lessing-photo.com

Today is one of the days on which I wear the fleur-de-lys badge I bought when in France in 2004 in my lapel as a mark of commmoration.

Vive le Roi!


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