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Long Live Liberty

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Cartoonists extrapolated more and more on a new Louis as the Revolution went along. Here, a rather rumpled King, dressed more like a shopkeeper than a monarch, opens a cage to let liberty out. Many scholars argue that the King was already desacralized as much as a couple of decades before the Revolution. Still Louis is associated with liberty here, and this treatment was mild compared with the... Read More »

Louis Arrives in Hell

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In classical mythology, the journey to Hell involved crossing the river Styx. Revolutionary cartoonists often invoked this image when describing the fate of their enemies. This is no exception. See the boat on the left with the dog, Cerberus, who was the guardian of the gates of the underworld. Arriving here is the headless Louis, greeted by other prior monarchs. In the right corner is a glade... Read More »

Louis as a Drinker

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The arrest of the King prompted an outpouring of sentiment against Louis. Like his grandfather, Louis XV, whose early reputation as "Louis the Well–Loved" faded by the end of his long reign, Louis XVI now became the focus for all sorts of discontents. This image depicting Louis as incapable of governing himself, let alone France, reveals the depth of the scorn expressed.

Louis as a Drunkard

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This image of Louis, already altered by commoner attire and a Phrygian cap, added a raised bottle. This transformation could scarcely have been anticipated even a year or two into the Revolution.

Louis as No More Than a Man

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Part of the revolutionary undermining of the monarchy becomes evident in this profile of Louis XVI, shown here without his wig or finery.

Louis as Pig

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The Queen, never popular to begin with in France, also bore the brunt of popular anger in 1792, as seen in these images of the King, the Queen, and elsewhere the entire royal family, as animals. One wonders if this dehumanizing of the King and Queen might explain why they became such lightning rods for criticism and, moreover, why the entire royal family would eventually be excluded from any... Read More »

Louis Leaves His Family

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What links the many scenes we have of the King and his family is the modern sensibility on display in all of them. Of course, since dates are uncertain, we must assume that several images hail from the nineteenth century. Yet all confirm the sentimentality that the twentieth century so embraces. Interestingly, this may have been quite accurate, even though this sentimentality had not been as... Read More »

Louis XVI

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Here was the "body politic" of the old regime. Theoretically, France existed only as an entity in the body of the King. The citizens were his subjects; the geographical parts linked together only through the monarch. Robed and wigged, he was an emblem of a centuries–old regime.

Louis XVI and His Family (20 January 1793)

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Not shown in this or other scenes here is the fact that between the King’s two visits he ate a last meal. At this time he was denied, as was custom, a knife to avoid suicide. Louis was angered that his jailers thought he was so sinful as to take his own life.

Louis XVI, King of France, born 23 August 1754, beheaded 21 January 1793

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Louis quickly became a matyr to the royalist cause, as this and other memorials indicate.

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