Following the Divine Lamb: The de la Biliais family is immolated by revolutionary Nantes

July 4, 2011

Lithograph of Jean-Baptiste Carrier by F.-S. Delpech

So utterly prostrate was [Nantes], that none dreamed of resistance. To withstand Carrier, or to be thought desirous of withstanding him, was to incur instant death. When everyone feared for his own life, no one was bold enough to attempt the defense of others; and when the Marats appeared with their summons, those who were called followed at once without delay or remonstrance. They found it easier to die than to defend their lives, and courage vanished, to appear again only on the scaffold.

A Breton by Charles Loyeux

At last the very dregs of the populace sickened of blood—the clubs themselves, from which Carrier had selected his Marats, began to weary of the guillotine. This result was chiefly brought about by the execution of the Biliais family. The head of the house, an old member of the Breton parliament, lived on his estate in the neighborhood of Nantes, occupied solely in works of charity. He was denounced and condemned, on the ground that he had harbored a priest. On hearing his sentence, he exclaimed, “May our Lord give me grace to die a good death!” Some days afterwards the same sentence was pronounced on his wife and two daughters, for having endeavored to keep the people in the Catholic faith. Already acquainted with the fate of M. de la Biliais, they heard their own with indifference; and the people, observing their calmness, supposed them to be acquitted, and felt an involuntary pleasure. The next morning they were marched out to suffer; and they went reciting aloud the prayers of the dying. On arriving at the scaffold, the mother desired only one favor—that she might die last, and feel sure that her daughters lost no more than their lives. Her prayer was heard.

George J. Hill, The Story of the War in La Vendée and the Little Chouannerie (New York: D. & J. Sadlier & Co. n.d.), pp. 127-128.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 89

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