Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène 1842
- Born: 3 May 1764 1842
- Died: 10 May 1794 at age 30 1842
Cause of her death was Beheaded by guillotine.1846
Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène of France (May 3, 1764 - May 10, 1794), commonly called Madame Élisabeth, was a French princess, the daughter of Louis, dauphin de France and Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, and the younger sister of King Louis XVI.
The princess was born at Versailles in 1764. Orphaned at the age of three, she was brought up by Madame de Mackau and resided in Montreuil, where she is said to have given many proofs of her benevolent character. Élisabeth was deeply religious and extremely devoted to her brother the king, refusing all offers of marriage so that she might remain by his side. Élisabeth and her brother the Comte d'Artois were among the staunchest conservatives in the royal family. Unlike the Comte, Élisabeth refused to emigrate when the gravity of the events set forth by the Revolution became clear; she was confined in the Tuileries with the king and his family. She accompanied them on their ill-fated escape attempt of June 20, 1791, was arrested at Varennes and returned to Paris with them.
Madame Élisabeth was present at the Legislative Assembly meeting when Louis was suspended. She was imprisoned in the Temple with the royal family. With the execution of the king (January 21, 1793) and the removal of her nephew, the young dauphin (July 3), Élisabeth was left alone with Queen Marie Antoinette and her niece Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte in the tower. The queen was taken to the Conciergerie on August 2, 1793, and was executed on October 16. The two royal women were kept in ignorance of Marie Antoinette's execution. On May 9, 1794, Élisabeth was herself transferred to the Conciergerie, and haled before the Revolutionary Tribunal. She was accused of assisting the king's flight, of supplying émigrés with funds, and of encouraging the resistance of the royal troops during the events of August 10, 1792. Furthermore, she was also accused of the outrageous crime of molesting her nephew, the dauphin. This false charge, extracted from the child under torture, actually helped invoke sympathy for Élisabeth from the people. Nonetheless, she was condemned to death and guillotined the following day.
All the men and women executed with Madame Élisabeth bowed to her and kissed her; she in turn blessed them. She was made to sit closest to the guillotine but was executed last and thus had to hear the blade fall on the heads of all the people before her. It is said that when she was strapped to the board, her shawl fell off, exposing her shoulders, and she cried to the executioner "For the sake of decency, Monsieur, cover me up", just as she was guillotined. Élisabeth, who had just turned 30 at the time of her death, was executed essentially because she was a sister of the king. However, the general consensus of the French revolutionaries was that she was a supporter of the ultra-right Royalist faction. There is much evidence to suggest that she actively supported the intrigues of her brother, the Comte d'Artois, to bring foreign armies into France to crush the Revolution. Despite this, her exemplary private life elicited much admiration. Elisabeth was much praised for her charitable nature, familial devotion and devout Catholic faith. There can be no question that she saw the Revolution as the incarnation of evil on earth and viewed civil war as the only means to drive it from the land.
Royalist literature often presents her as a Catholic martyr, whilst left-wing histories severely criticise her for extreme conservatism, which seemed excessive even to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Several biographies have been published of her in the French language, whilst extensive treatment of her life is given in Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette and Deborah Cadbury's investigative biography of Louis XVII. 1846