A hidden message
On the night of August 2, 1793, Marie Antoinette was suddenly awakened in the Temple prison. Asked to dress, she is quickly separated from her daughter, Madame Royale, and her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth. Then she was transferred, under armed escort, to the Conciergerie prison. As soon as she arrived, Marie Antoinette was taken directly to the cell reserved for her. Two gendarmes, with orders not to take their eyes off her, guard her day and night. A half-height screen divides his cell : one side for the gendarmes, the other for the prisoner. The ex-queen, detained “in secret”, is totally isolated from the other detainees. At the end of August, a municipal officer introduces a mysterious individual to Marie Antoinette. The Chevalier de Rougeville drops a white carnation on the ground containing a hidden message. This is an escape plan that requires the Guardians to be “purchased”. The plan is very close to succeeding. On the night of September 2, Marie-Antoinette even came out of her dungeon… But at the last moment, Gendarme Gilbert ruined everything.
Executed in Place de la Concorde
From October, the noose tightens around the prisoner. The convention orders the public prosecutor of the revolutionary tribunal, Fouquier-Tinville, to draw up the indictment of Marie-Antoinette. Three main reasons are retained: Dilapidation of the funds of the Nation, intelligence with the enemy and conspiracy. The trial opens on October 14 in the morning. The « Liberty » Room of the Revolutionary Court is crowded, and its atmosphere overheated. In addition to the reproaches related to the treason and the squandering of the funds of the Nation, Marie-Antoinette is accused of incest on her son, the young Louis XVII. Indignant, Marie-Antoinette « appeals to all mothers » and to their compassion. On the 16th, at four o’clock in the morning, after 20 hours of uninterrupted debates, the verdict of death fell, followed by the execution at 12:15 p.m. in Place de la Révolution (now Concorde).
A sordid dugeon
The memory of Marie Antoinette Under the Restoration and according to the will of Louis XVIII, Marie Antoinette’s sordid dungeon was transformed into a precious oratory dedicated to her memory. On a small marble altar are engraved a dedication of Louis XVIII and an extract from the “testament” of the “queen-martyr”, found a few months earlier. Three paintings retrace the episodes of his incarceration. This small memorial was officially inaugurated on October 16, 1816.
Transformed into a museum
Throughout its existence, the Conciergerie has welcomed many members of royalty, but for various reasons. When it was created in the 6th century, the building was built as the royal residence of Clovis. Eleven centuries later, in the 18th century, the royal palace became a courthouse and housed the major revolutionary trials. Other women than Marie-Antoinette, like the revolutionary Olympe de Gouge, also stayed in this prison before being executed. Today, it is possible to visit the old cells of the Conciergerie, transformed into a museum.