The Lurid Death of Lamballe

2 rue Roi de Sicile, Paris 75004

This is a gruesome one folks, so if you are triggered by Jeffery Dahmer-esque murder and gore, I suggest you refrain from continuing…

You still with me? Ok, thats morbid, but glad you’re following! We all know Parisians can get a little feisty during the heat of the moment, and this has never been more true than during the French Revolution. If you think the history of the 40,000ish victims of the guillotine is dark, wait until you hear about the death of Queen Marie Antoinette’s BFF, the Princess of Lamballe, Marie-Louise Thérèse.

The Princess painted by Antoine-François Callet in 1776

Described as delicate and sweet, also bit dim-witted; she first befriended Marie Antoinette in 1770, and eventually became head of the Queen’s household staff. When the Revolution began, MA’s other close friend, the Duchesse de Polignac, took off running like a little bitch- but the Princess remained steadfast by Marie Antoinette’s side until August of 1792 when she was forced by revolutionaries to leave the Queen at the Temple Prison.

The Temple Prison, where Marie Antoinette stayed before being seperated from her family and friends and sent to the Conciergerie

Brought to the nearby Force Prison, which was known for its cruelty and less than desirable conditions, the frail and frightened Princess was put on trial in a makeshift courtroom on the 3rd of September. When asked if she was guilty of committing treasonous crimes against her country (by being loyal to the royals) she denied any wrongdoing. When the court then demanded she swear fealty to liberty and egality, as well as pledge hatred towards the royal family: she boldly proclaimed,

“Readily to the former; but I cannot to the latter: it is not in my heart. I have nothing more to say; it is indifferent to me if I die a little earlier or later; I have made the sacrifice of my life.”

Princess Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy
The Trial of Princess Lamballe

Judgments were made as either “Vive la nation!” in which the prisoner was freed, or “Take the prisoner away!” which was, well… immediate death by the mob waiting in the courtyard of the prison. Unlike several other members of the royal staff who were freed, an example was to be made of the Princess of Lamballe, and upon the words “Take Madame Away!”, her fate was sealed. What happened next is not exactly known.

The Princess of Lamballe at the Force Prison the day of her death, drawn by Gabriel

The 42 year old Princess was dragged into the courtyard, and witness accounts described her as raped, tortured, disemboweled, and beaten to death. Some went as far as to say her body was mutilated, her pubic hair sliced off and worn by one savage individual as a mustache, and her breasts bit off by ravenous teeth. Others say she was given an immediate blow to the head that made her unconscious, or perhaps it was a blade through her heart.

La mort de la Princesse de Lamballe, Maxime Faivre, 1908

What we do know for certain, is that at some point her head was cut off, stuck on a pike, and paraded through the Paris streets to the Temple Prison where the Queen was held. The mob wanted the Queen to kiss the lips of her dear friend, and rumored lesbian lover. The Queen did not see this horrific scene, but when she asked her jailers what the commotion was about, they replied “they are trying to get in to show you the head of the Princess of Lamballe”. The Queen allegedly fainted.

The mod on their way to the Temple Prison to take Lamballe to her Queen

The stories around her death are numerous, and horrific to say the least. Was her head really brought to a hairdresser to be styled during its route to the Queen? Did someone really cut off locks of her hair to sell them? Was a secret message written by Lamballe to the Queen hours before her death really hidden in her hair? There doesn’t seem to be much certainty. Even her body was never officially accounted for. Did she die a martre? Or as an overprivileged member of the royal court? I think we all can agree, that as far as friendships with royals go, the higher up you are, the further you have to fall…

The plaque reads “Here was the entry to the Force Prison (1782-1845), in this place 161 people were detained, and where the Princess of Lamballe was put to death during September 3-5 1792

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