The restoration came, and the orchard was purchased from M. Descloseaux. The bodies were transferred to St. Denis, with great pomp. The earth which had surrounded the coffins was preserved, as also were all remains of the Swiss Guards, and buried on the spot. Over it an expiatory chapel was built, with buildings adjoining, the whole forming a very beautiful structure. An inscription on the front informs the gazer of the principal facts I have enumerated. The adjoining garden is filled with cypresses.
The interior of the chapel is simple, but gives a pleasant impression. It contains two statues, one of Louis XVI., and the other of Marie Antoinette. Each is supported by an angel, and on the pedestal of the king his will is inscribed in letters of gold, upon a black marble slab. On the pedestal of the queen’s statue are extracts, executed in a like manner, from her last letter to Mme. Elizabeth.
There are several niches in the chapel which contain very fine candelebra, and on a bas-relief the funeral procession to St. Denis is represented.
I was struck while here (as indeed I was in many other places) with the fact, that the whole past history of Paris and France is written in her chapels and churches. The stranger cannot, if he would, shut out the fact from his sight. It glares in upon him from every street. The revolutions of France have imprinted themselves upon Paris in ineffaceable characters.
As I stood in this chapel, the sad history of Marie Antoinette came into my thoughts, and she stood before me as she stood before the crowd on the day of her execution. Her downfall, the wretched neglect with which her poor body was treated, and the obscure burial, were all before me. Only “seven francs,” for the coffin of “Widow Capet!” What a contrast to the pomp and ceremony of her second burial, aye what a contrast to her life!
I had seen enough for that day, and set out sadly on my way back to my apartments. The gayety in the streets, the bright and balmy air, could not take the hue of melancholy from my thoughts. For always to me the history of Marie Antoinette has been one of the most sorrowful I ever read. I have few sympathies for kings, and much less for kingly tyrants, but I could never withhold them from her, queen though she was. And I never wish to become so fierce a democrat that I can contemplate such sorrows as were hers, such a terrible downfall as she experienced, with a heartless composure.
[Illustration: Eglise de la Madeleine.]
The Madeleine looks little like a church to the stranger, but more like a magnificent Grecian temple. Its impression upon me was by no means a pleasant one, for the style of its architecture is not sufficiently solemn to suit my ideas of a place where God is publicly worshiped. It is, however, one of the finest specimens of modern architecture in the world, and is so widely known that I can hardly pass it over without a slight sketch of it.