Amazon Deals

New at Amazon

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

French King Louis XVI was guillotined on this day in 1793. Here's Allan Sherman

If you're of a certain age it's inevitable to think of Allan Sherman when you hear Louis XVI (wiki) mentioned:

From Chambers' 1869 The Book of Days*:

The 21st of January will long be a memorable day in the history of France, as that on which an agonised nation, driven frantic by the threats of external enemies, threw down the bloody head of their king as a guage of defiance to all gainsayers. Louis Blanc's Histoire de in Revolution Francaise, tom. viii., published in 1856:
At ten minutes past ten, they reached the foot of the scaffold. It had been erected in front of the Palace of the Tuileries, in the square called after Louis the Fifteenth, and near the spot where stood the statue of the most corrupt of kings—a king who died tranquilly in his bed. The condemned was three minutes descending from the carriage. Upon quitting the Temple he had refused the redingote which Clery had offered him, and now appeared in a brown coat, white waistcoat, grey breeches, and white stockings. His hair was not disordered, nor was any change perceptible in his countenance.

The Abbe Firmont was dressed in black. A large open space had been kept round the scaffold,—with cannon ranged on every side,—while beyond, as far as the eye could reach, stood an unarmed multitude gazing. . . . Descending from his carriage, Louis fixed his eyes upon the soldiers who surrounded him, and with a menacing voice cried, "Silence!" The drums ceased to beat, but at a signal from their officer, the drummers again went on. "What treason is this?" he shouted; "I am lost! I am lost!" For it was evident that up to this moment he had been clinging to hope. The executioners now approached to take off a part of his clothes; he repulsed them fiercely, and himself removed the collar from his neck. But all the blood in his frame seemed to be turned into fire when they sought to tie his hands. "Tie my hands! "he shrieked. A struggle was inevitable:—it came.

It is indisputable, says Mercier, that Louis fought with his executioners. The Abbe Edgeworth stood by, perplexed, horrified, speechless. At last, as his master seemed to look inquiringly at him, he said, "Sir, in this additional outrage I only see a last trait of the resemblance between your Majesty and the God who will give you your reward." At these words the indignation of the man gave way to the humility of the Christian, and Louis said to the executioners, "I will drain the cup to the dregs." They tied his hands, they cut off his hair, and then, leaning on the arm of his confessor, he began, with a slow tread and sunken demeanour, to mount the steps, then very steep, of the guillotine. Upon the last step, however, he seemed suddenly to rouse, and walked rapidly across to the other side of the scaffold; when, by a sign commanding silence, he exclaimed, "I die innocent of the crimes imputed to me." His face was now very red, and, according to the narrative of his confessor, his voice was so loud that it could be heard as far as the Pont-Tournant.

Some other expressions were distinctly heard, "I pardon the authors of my death, and I pray Heaven that the blood you are about to shed may never be visited upon France." He was about to continue, when his voice was drowned by the renewed rolling of the drums, at a signal which, it is affirmed, was given by the comedian Dugayon, in anticipation of the orders of Santerre. "Silence! be silent!" cried Louis the Sixteenth, losing all self-control, and stamping violently with his foot. Richard, one of the executioners, then seized a pistol, and took aim at the king. It was necessary to drag him along by force. With difficulty fastened to the fatal plank, he continued to utter terrible cries, only interrupted by the fall of the knife.'
There's an excellent hyperlinked and searchable version of Chamber's Book of Days here.

Update - I received this received this from Terry Teachout (@terryteachout): 
Weirdly enough, I was thinking of the original song on which this parody is based just yesterday:

There's a super-hip record of the song by Peggy Lee and the George Shearing Quintet--it's my favorite.
Which I found and embedded below - start at 2:10 if it doesn't do it automatically. Interestingly, it's followed by Always True To You (In My Fashion) - one of my favorite show tunes.

I never realized that there was a song Sherman was parodying (other than La Marseillaise), although I should have - everything he did was a parody, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment