You've got to feel bad for Louis XVI. Sure, he was a disaffected, effete ruler who married a cake-obsessed Austrian and managed to cause the French Revolution, thereby obliterating the French monarchy and losing his head in the process. Still, I'm sure he had the best intentions, and must have been a bit disappointed with how the whole thing turned out. Particularly the guillotine bit at the end.
As the mobs were closing in, Louis made a final plea to the French people. This 16 page document, entitled "Declaration to all the French", defended his kingly power, attacked his enemies, and pleaded with the citizens to cease their revolutionary antics. Not long after he wrote his declaration, Louis was arrested while attempting to escape and his last-ditch missive disappeared.
Until now. The original copy of Louis' plea has been located in The United States, in a private collection. Ironic, since it was the American example that helped foment the French Revolution in the first place. For the first time, historians can read the ill-starred king's impassion arguments, in his own handwriting. An example:
"French people and above all Parisians... return to your king. He will always be your father, your best friend."
Poignant stuff. Scholars were also surprised to
discover a previously unknown, and hastily added, coda:
"P.S. Please, please, please don't cut off my head."
OK, maybe not. But that's what I woud have written.