Monday, 4 March 2013

Reports of the death of Louis XVI

King Louis XVI of France was executed on Monday 21st January 1793. News of this act of revolution quickly (by the standards of the day) spread to its neighbours, far quicker than the official channels could manage. In Britain, The Times carried reports of the increasing rumours in London.

On Wednesday 23rd, The Times wrote

"It was yesterday strongly reported, that an express had arrived with an account of the French King's having been beheaded on Friday last: - That the people had collected in a large body to rescue him, but were kept off by guards."

Despite the overall theme of the gossip being true  (that Louis XVI was dead) the details were wrong and that was enough for The Times to doubt their veracity, as the paper continued:

"Another rumour prevailed, that Lord Lauderdale had brought a similar account; but we learn on enquiry, from a very respectable authority, that these reports are without foundation. Lord L. is said to have been in the Convention when the sentence was passed. His Lordship left Paris that evening, and arrived in town on Sunday last."

The following day, The Times commented again on the rumours, and now had some circumstantial evidence to back them up, even if they seemed unhappy about the uncritical acceptance of such rumours. The evidence regarding the fate of the King was a letter sent on Sunday afternoon that detailed the plans for the execution.

The report adds:

The letter concludes by saying, "that this intention was not publicly known, but that it was certain the King would be executed by the Guillotine in the Court of the Temple, by the light of flambeaux at five o'clock on Monday morning."

Lastly, on Friday 25th January, The Times carried an account of the execution of Louis XVI, according to an express that arrived Thursday morning, and a statement was made in the House of Commons on Saturday.

It's interesting to see how the news of the King's death spread from the Monday, when no one knew about the execution and papers were still reporting on the death sentence passed by the Convention, through the week's slow realisation that the execution had already been carried out.


The Times, Wednesday, Jan 23, 1793
The Times, Thursday, Jan 24, 1793
The Times, Friday, Jan 25, 1793
“Arrangements for mourning for Louis”, Reading Mercury, Monday 28 January 1793

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