Page 177. " the last king, Louis Fifteen "
Portrait of Louis XV (1763)
Public DomainPortrait of Louis XV (1763) - Credit: Louis-Michel van Loo

 Louis XV was king of France between 1715 and his death in 1774. However, because he was only five when he succeeded to the throne, one

Philippe d'Orléans (1717)
Public DomainPhilippe d'Orléans (1717) - Credit: Workshop of Jean-Baptiste Santerre

of his relatives, Philippe d’Orléans, acted as regent between 1715 and 1723.  In 1725, Louis married Marie Leszczyńska, a Polish princess, but he was notoriously unfaithful with mistresses such as Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry.  As his reign progressed, Louis XV became increasingly unpopular, and an attempt was made on his life in 1757.

Louis XV was succeeded by his grandson, Louis XVI, who was beheaded by guillotine in 1793 during the French Revolution.


Portrait of Madame de Pompadour (c.1750)
Public DomainPortrait of Madame de Pompadour (c.1750) - Credit: François Boucher


Page 177. " The name of that prisoner was Damiens "

Robert-François Damiens (1715 –1757) was a French domestic servant at the college of Jesuits in Paris, who attempted to assassinate King Louis XV of France in 1757.  His motivation for the attempted execution was never clear - historians often describe him as mentally unstable, or he may have been driven by religious fervor. 

On 5 January 1757, as the king was entering his carriage, Damiens rushed forward and stabbed him with a knife, inflicting a slight wound. He made no attempt to escape, and was immediately arrested.  He was then tortured at length, condemned as a regicide, and sentenced to be drawn and quartered by horses. He was the last person in France to be executed in this manner. 

He was tortured first with red-hot pincers; his hand was burned with sulphur, and molten wax, lead, and boiling oil were poured into his wounds. He then had his arms and legs harnessed to horses, to be torn apart.  When he failed to break in a satisfactory manner, his joints were cut with an axe.  His torso was then burnt at the stake.  Apparently the whole spectacle lasted four hours.