Robert Damiens makes his appearance directly in The Shadows of the King – part 1 in only one double-page spread, although they are, graphically, amongst the most striking pages in the whole novel with their ingenious manipulation of space and time. His attempt upon the life of Louis XV and his subsequent torture and barbaric execution, however, plays a large part in setting up the atmosphere of violence, paranoia, religious extremism and score-settling against which the narrative is set and which was the historical reality of Paris in 1757. It gives Bechard cover for his grisly vendetta against Paris Duverney which is the driving plotline that underpins the story of part 1.
Below is the sentence pronounced upon Damiens by the Parlement of Paris:
The said Robert-François Damiens has been convicted of having committed a very mean, very terrible, and very dreadful parricidal crime against the King. The said Damiens is sentenced to pay for his crime in front of the main gate of the Church of Paris. He will be taken there in a tipcart naked and will hold a burning wax torch weighing two pounds. There, on his knees, he will say and declare that he had committed a very mean, very terrible and very dreadful parricide, and that he had hurt the King. . . . He will repent and ask God, the King and Justice to forgive him. When this will be done, he will be taken in the same tipcart to the Place de Grève and will be put on a scaffold. Then his breasts, arms, thighs, and legs will be tortured. While holding the knife with which he committed the said Parricide, his right hand will be burnt. On his tortured body parts, melted lead, boiling oil, burning pitch, and melted wax and sulfur will be thrown. Then four horses will pull him apart until he is dismembered. His limbs will be thrown on the stake, and his ashes will be spread. All his belongings, furniture, housings, wherever they are, will be confiscated and given to the King. Before the execution, the said Damiens will be asked to tell the names of his accomplices. His house will not be demolished, but nothing will be allowed to be built on this same house.
It is worth pointing out that the hurt received by the Louis XV was a very minor one, being described at the time as little more than a papercut.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.
27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
#characterisation #character #storytelling #damiens #execution