Notable Historical Trials III – King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

This chapter in the Folio Society’s collection of notable trials is more sad than interesting because even more than the Witch Trials or the trial of Joan of Arc. these two ‘show trials’ were not about trying to determine any kind of truth or even to demonstrate the truth.  They were strictly staged events.

At the King’s trial there was question after question like this:

Prosecutor:  You did X.

King:  I did not do X.

Prosecutor: You did Y….

No follow-up questions, no refuting with additional evidence, nothing.

The Queen’s trial was even worse, because she had no official duties at all.  One absurd line of accusation was that she, personally, fed wine to the Swiss Guards so that they would attack the mob.  The evidence was some empty bottles under her bed.

Even if she had done that, and the idea of the Queen hanging out with the soldiers passing out bottles is odd, to say the least — the number required to get the men drunk would hardly fit under a bed!  And of course, as Queen she could have far more easily just ordered someone to obtain and distribute wine to the men far more easily.

There was another incident where she was accused of unnatural vices with her son.  Apparently Robespierre was angry about that, because her denial actually won her some sympathy.

To the surprise of no one, the two were found guilty of whatever they were accused of and executed.  I doubt these trials convinced anyone anywhere that there was more justice than if the two had been executed without trial.

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