Stories of the French Revolution - Walter Montgomery




Egalite Orleans

Our young readers will not remember Louis Philippe, except it may be from some picture or book which they may happen to have; but he was the king of the French before the reign of the late Emperor Napoleon, and he was driven from his throne (never an easy one) by a revolution which happened in 1848. When he could no longer live safely in France, he went to England and there ended his days. He was the son of a royal duke, the Duke of Orleans, who lived during the times of the Revolution, and who, though a royal duke, was, or pretended to be, a lover of all the great changes which then took place. The name of the "Revolution Duke" was Louis Philippe Joseph. He was born in 1747, and was known, during his father's lifetime, as the Due de Chartres. He was a handsome man, and clever, but he was not a good man. It was his bad life which made the king and queen unwilling to have him at their court, and it was their dislike of him which made him hate them, and cast in his lot with their deadly enemies. The duke had an immense fortune,—it is said he had 300,000 a year,—and this corrupted him, and made him nothing better than a mere lover of amusement. He did try to be a sailor at one time; but his courage seems to have oozed out of his fingers' ends in a battle at Ushant, when some say he hid himself in the cabin, and was laughed at as a man who did not like cannonballs. He was very fond of driving a coach-and-four, and he loved racehorses, and gave great sums to English jockeys to mount them. But even his great income was not able to pay all he owed, and he had to sell the Palais Royal gardens to raise money for his creditors. Very early in the Revolution he showed that he was against the king, and on one occasion, when he had opposed the wish of his Majesty, he was sent away to a sort of easy kind of prison; but not for a long time. Louis was tender-hearted, and soon set his cousin at liberty; and the duke came out of bonds again, but with no kinder feelings toward his king.

When the States-General made their first procession at Versailles, it was noticed by many that the Duke of Orleans stepped before those of his own rank and tried to appear as one of the Commons, and for this feat he was rewarded with cheers; and when the Clergy and some of the Nobles joined the Commons, the duke was among them; and as soon as there was a left side, or party, in the Assembly favorable to the greatest changes, there the duke sat, as though he were one of them.

In the insurrection of women, when the king was insulted in his own house, and afterward brought a sort of prisoner to Paris, where was his blood relation, the Duke of Orleans? He was still making himself, by many grand promises, the idol of the people, in order that if Louis were dethroned he might be put in his place. People in England soon saw through the duke, and despised him; when they fully knew what he was up to, they shunned him as if he had the plague. A famous authoress, named Hannah More, saw him in Vauxhall Gardens, when nobody would speak to him or notice him in any way.

When the duke's money was all spent, he became the more anxious to play his cards well, so as to climb into power; and he thought he could not do better than sit among the thirty members on the left, and go as far in the Revolution as any of them. But it was plainly to be seen what he was after. When the debates were going on about the regency, he was observed anxiously walking up and down the passages of the Parliament House; but his hopes were doomed to be crushed, and no man pitied him, for he was loved by none. When he was disappointed, he seemed disposed to be sorry for the king's misfortunes; and one Sunday he went to a court levee, having sent word beforehand that he was far from being the king's enemy, as it was commonly said of him. At this levee, however, the duke was shamefully treated, for the courtiers flocked round him and elbowed him to the door; and when he retired to another room, where a table was laid with silver dishes and such-like, voices were heard saying, "Take care of the plate!" as if the duke were a common burglar. On that occasion he never got within sight or speaking range of the royal family; and when he was fairly driven down the staircase to the outer door, some of the courtly group actually spat on his head. All this ungentlemanly treatment was unknown to the king at the time, and when he heard about it afterward he was greatly offended. But the Duke of Orleans attributed it to him, and he hated him from that day forth with a deeper hatred than ever.

When the National Convention was chosen, the duke was one of the sixty members of the former Parliament who were elected. As now all ranks and titles were swept away, the duke was no longer a duke, and he therefore asked his Paris electors to give him a new name worthy of the glorious age they lived in. One of them therefore suggested the name Egalite,—that is. Equality,—and the duke thenceforth sat among his friends as Philippe Egalite. But in spite of all his loud professions, and all he had given up for the Republic, Philippe Egalite was never trusted by the stern men with whom he sat and voted. These men always suspected him as a dangerous "mingle-mangle" of royalty and republic. His face, they say, grew more and more gloomy, as though he knew he were treading on a very uncertain path, which might lead him any day to the guillotine.

When the great hour came for deciding how the king was to be dealt with, and some were for banishment and some for death, Philippe mounted the tribune and spoke his word of fate thus: "In my soul and conscience I vote for death." At the sound of his voice a groan and a shudder ran through the hall. Philippe hit his mark; he helped to slay his kinsman, but in killing him he destroyed himself. When the other vote had to be taken, "Shall there be delay or not in the king's death?" here again the unnatural kinsman voted, "No delay!" and the next one who voted, to show his disgust, said, as he mounted the tribune, "Since Philippe says no, I, for my part, say yes."

When Louis was put to death on Monday, January 21, in the Place de la Revolution, Philippe Egalite was near the scaffold. He sat in his cabriolet by the guillotine, and when the last act in that sad drama was over the wretched duke drove away. On the 6th of April that same year, as he was sitting at the whist-table in his palace, he was "wanted" by the Convention. One of their bailiffs came for him, and he was obliged to go. He was examined, and found guilty of crimes against the Revolution; and he was sent to the Castle of If, near Marseilles; and his "Palace Egalite," once known as the Palais Royal, became the Palais National.

Nearly seven months afterward he was brought to Paris, and found guilty of "Royalism" and other crimes. In the mind of many he was guilty because he had voted in his soul and conscience for the king's death. On the 3rd of November he reached Paris, and on the 6th he was doomed to die at once. After he heard the sentence he partook of a very good breakfast, and then awaited his terrible fate with great coolness. He was carried to the place of execution, dressed with uncommon elegance; but he found none to pity him in all that great crowd through which he went. Every mouth, rather, was opened to pour out its cursing and bitterness; and as he went by his once elegant home, the people took hold of the horses' heads, and made the death-cart stop awhile, that the duke might see it and be pained by its changed appearance. There, in great letters (each blue, white, and red), he could read these words: "Republic, one and indivisible; Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death. This is National Property."

Duke of Orleans

THE DUKE OF ORLEANS GOING TO EXECUTION.


Looking on his old home thus given up to the people whom he hated, Egalite died; and with much coolness and unconcern, for he was a brave man, and might, perhaps, have been a great one had he been differently placed. But by foolishly and wickedly pandering to a furious mob, he earned (as all who do so will) their deadly contempt; and they were right so far in despising him, for he was a double-faced man,—and as such, a man to be despised, though not to be visited with the extreme penalty of the law.