Royal readings – In her new book “Guillotinées”, historian Cécile Berly decided to look into the last days of Queen Marie-Antoinette and former favorite of Louis XV, Madame du Barry, (as well as Madame Roland and Olympe de Gouges).
The idea is original. Follow the last days of four women who are among the most famous of those who died under the blade of the guillotine during the French Revolution. This is the point of the new book “Guillotinées”, a new book by Cécile Berla, which is published this Wednesday 1ahem February 2023 (Pastés/Composés edition, on sale for 17 euros).
The author, a historian specializing in the 18th century, clearly evokes Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was beheaded on October 16, 1793. She connected her tragic fate – as far as the royal family is concerned – with that of Madame du Barry, a former favorite of Louis. XV, the grandfather of her husband Louis XVI.But also to those of the revolutionary muse of Madame Roland and the woman of letters today considered a pioneer of feminism, Olympe de Gouges. Instead of talking about them one by one, Cécile Berly decided to divide her 176-page work into five chapters called “arrested, imprisoned, tried, condemned, under the guillotine” and to evoke all four in turn at each of these key moments of their sad end of life.
I try to understand the emotions of these women
As she explains in her epilogue, Cécile Berly has been thinking about this book for a long time. She thus wanted to “accompany” these four women “in this unprecedented experience of being imprisoned while awaiting trial by a special court, promised almost certain execution” and “to understand their emotions, if anything. let it be possible. It was a dramatic event that drove her to action: the assassination of university professor Samuel Paty on October 16, 2020. “The decapitation of one of our contemporaries freed the pen, not without paradox. To try to banish fear, writing is an effective filter. To say words to the unspeakable is a challenge: to reveal one’s own pain and learn to live with it despite everything,” he confides.