Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! —Attorney General Jeff Sessions & conservative high students during a speech
Off with his head! Off with his head! Off with his head! —Queen of Hearts
“How many did they say?” “I do not understand you.” “—At the last post. How many to the Guillotine to-day?” “Fifty-two.” “I said so! A brave number! My fellow-citizen here would have it forty-two; ten more heads are worth having. The Guillotine goes handsomely. I love it. Hi forward. Whoop!”—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
On the way to the guillotine, she collapsed in the tumbrel and cried “You are going to hurt me! Why?!” Terrified, she screamed for mercy and begged the indifferent crowd for help. Her last words to the executioner were: “One more moment, Mr. Executioner, I beg you!” –Madame du Barry, on 8 December 1793.
Claude François Chauveau-Lagarde. That was his name, Marie-Antoinette’s lawyer. He tried to save her from the guillotine. He nearly lost his head, too.
He is my neighbor. Around the corner from my apartment and on the other side of the wall of the cimetière de Montparnasse, he rests in Division 1. The street near Chemin Circulaire in the cemetery, where he is buried, is named allée Chauveau-Lagarde. His marker says simply, “CI-GIT CHAUVEAU-LAGARDE AVOCAT DE LA REINE AU PROCES DE 1793.’
At a crucial, dramatic moment during the French Revolution, he was asked to defend several men and women who were charged for high crimes before the Revolutionary Tribunal and faced execution by guillotine. He had a title, which did not exist before the Revolution, of défenseur officieux, or public defender.
Among his ‘clients’ were several women who were major figures in their own right and at their deaths showed great courage, according to contemporary accounts. For example, he was the advocate for Madame Élisabeth (sister of King Louis XVI), Charlotte Corday (assassin of Jean-Paul Marat), Marie-Antoinette (the last Queen of France), and Madame Roland (a supporter of the French Revolution and influential member of the Girondist faction).
I learned about Chauveau-Lagarde, un défenseur au tribunal révolutionnaire, for the first time, when I visited the Chapelle expiatoire in the Square Louis XVI and saw the exposition Chauveau-Lagarde avocat de Marie-Antoinette. But wait, there’s more!