Friday, March 8, 2013

Fersen's Letters: On Louis XVI's Execution

"Oh, my gentle and good Sophie, it is only in you that I find consolation, and I feel more than ever the need of you and your sympathy and the value of your friendship."  Taube (Baron Taube,  Fersen's close friend, Sweden's Minister of Affairs and Sophie's lover) will give you all the details of the King's trial;  it makes one shudder, and my very soul is torn.  Tomorrow we shall know the latest eventualities, but my fear is great.  Poor unfortunate family!  poor King, poor Queen!   Why cannot I save them at the cost of my blood!  It would be happiness for me.  I should thank Heaven for it.  My position is awful, it is unbearable.  I, who would have gone to my death for her and her family, I can do nothing for them.  Monsters, scoundrels, issued from the dregs of the people, hold them in their power, are perhaps dragging them to torture.  The idea drives me mad.  I am condemned to powerless regrets.  I can only rage in impotence.  To think of all their goodness for me overwhelms me.  My God, why was I not about to die for them on that 20th June or 10th of August?  Nothing would have made me swerve from the duty to which I had sworn my life.  It was my glory and my honor.  My only aim was to prove it to the very end.  But I have no strength left to talk about it, and I do not know how I endure my present position.  The restraint I am obliged to practice augments the horror of it.  I am not successful in masking it entirely, and the people I meet see it only too well."  The letter continues along the same vein.

Then, days later,  "My dear Sophie - You doubtless already know that the King of France is dead.  The picture of Louis XVI mounting the scaffold never leaves me.  The assassination of two Kings (Sweden's Gustavus III and Louis XVI), whose kindness is ever present in my memory, and whose remembrance is dear to me, never ceases to fill my thoughts and fear for the fate of the rest of the unfortunate family pierces my soul with the most cruel sorrow.  Add to that the bad state of my father's health, the sorrow of being unable to go to him;  I feel a melancholy, a distaste for everything, that I cannot conquer."

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