On July 14, 1789 French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, a prison that served as a symbol of the unjust treatment of the French citizenry by the monarchy, thus sparking the French Revolution. King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were dethroned during the revolution, tried and found guilty of treason, and executed by way of the guillotine.
Historical & Special Collections (HSC) holds many volumes relating to Louis XVI’s trial for those researchers interested in the ultimate demise of France’s last monarch.
One volume, The Trial at Large of Louis XVI. Late King of France. Containing a Most Complete and Authentic Narrative of every Interesting and Important Circumstance Attending the Accusation — Trial, Defence, Sentence — Execution, &c. of this Unfortunate Monarch. (Hollis 004039665) is available online through Making of Modern Law, Trials 1600-1926. HSC has contributed a number of titles to this online resource, which is available to users with a Harvard ID and PIN. Included in this text is King Louis XVI’s defense of his fleeing Paris with his family – the primary impetus of the treason charge. He writes “….the motives which induced me to quit Paris: – They were, the threats and outrages committed again[s]t my family and my[s]elf, and which have been circulated in different publications; and all the[s]e in[s]ults have remained unpuni[s]hed. I thence thought it was neither [s]afe nor proper for me to remain any longer in Paris; but, in quitting the capital, I never had an intention of going out of the kingdom (pg. 20).” The account of Marie Antoinette’s trial (Hollis 013967138) is also available through Making of Modern Law.
Researchers interested in this historical moment can also find two portraits of Chertien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, one of the lawyers to King Louis XVI during his treason trial, in HSC’s visual collections and made available on VIA. Malesherbes came out of retirement in order to defend the King, whom he had served in his younger years. Despite being generally well-liked and respected, Malesherbes also met the same demise as the King and Queen, beheaded at the guillotine in 1794.