The Death of Madame du Barry

The Comtesse du Barry
by Vigée Le Brun

Madame du Barry, mistress if the late Louis XV, grew terrified in the face of death, shrieked in the tumbril, begged the onlookers to save her, and struggled with the executioners on the scaffold. The painter Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun speculates in her memoirs that the mobs might indeed have relented had the victims not played their roles so well.

“Madame Du Barry … is the only woman, among all the women who perished in the dreadful days, who could not stand the sight of the scaffold. She screamed, she begged mercy of the horrible crowd that stood around the scaffold, she aroused them to such a point that the executioner grew anxious and hastened to complete his task. This convinced me that if the victims of these terrible times had not been so proud, had not met death with such courage, the Terror would have ended much earlier. Men of limited intelligence lack the imagination to be touched by inner suffering, and the populace is more easily stirred by pity than by admiration.”

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