Louis XVI was 'brave' on the scaffold, wrote executioner

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The Independent Online

The last words of King Louis XVI - uttered only moments before a revolutionary guillotine removed his head - have come to light, more than 200 years after the monarch's ignominious death in Paris.

Although one of the most significant events at the dawn of the modern period of European history, Louis's execution for high treason has long been overshadowed by the beheading nine months later of his beautiful wife, Marie Antoinette.

Now, a first-hand account by a witness who should know better than anyone else - the monarch's executioner, Charles Henri Sanson - has come to light. Sanson, chief executioner in Paris during the bloody years of the French Revolution, penned a letter to convey what he called "the exact truth of what happened" weeks after he had presided over the beheading on 21 January 1793.

Writing to a revolutionary newspaper, Sanson - who oversaw nearly 3,000 executions - said Louis had shown considerable bravery and calmness of mind.

The Sanson manuscript is being auctioned by Christie's in June, and will be displayed between 30 May and 7 June in London. The letter is expected to sell for between £80,000 and £120,000.