- Henry Essex Edgeworth
Henry Essex Edgeworth (1745 –
22 May 1807), also known as L'Abbé Edgeworth de Firmont, was a Catholicpriest and confessorof Louis XVI. [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05283a.htm Henry Essex Edgeworth] - Catholic Encyclopediaarticle]
He was born in
Edgeworthstown, County Longford, Ireland, the son of Robert Edgeworth, the rector of Edgeworthstown. His mother was a granddaughter of Archbishop Ussher. When he was about four, his father converted to Roman Catholicism, resigned his living and emigrated to Toulouse, where the boy was brought up by the Jesuits. In 1769, after his father’s death, he went to Paristo be trained for the priesthood. On taking orders he assumed the additional surname of de Firmont, from the family estate of Firmount near Edgeworthstown.
Though originally studying with a view to becoming a missionary, he decided to remain in Paris, devoting himself especially to the Irish and English Roman Catholics. Through his father and the
Archbishopof Parishe became vicar-general of the diocese of Parisand friend of the royal family and stayed with them during the French Revolution.
In 1791 he became confessor to the princess Elizabeth, sister of Louis XVI, and earned the respect even of the "
sans-culottes" by his courage and devotion. By Madame Elizabeth he was recommended to the king when his trial was impending; and after Louis’ condemnation to death he was able to obtain permission to celebrate mass for him and attend him on the scaffold, where he recommended the king to allow his hands to be tied, with the words: “Sire, in this new outrage I see only the last trait of resemblance between your Majesty and the God who will be your reward.”
It is said that at the moment of the execution, the confessor uttered the celebrated words: “Son of St Louis, ascend to heaven”; but this phrase was never spoken. The "abbé" himself does not quote it, either in his memoirs or in a letter written in 1796 to his brother, in which he describes the death of the king. Moreover, Edgeworth declared to several persons who asked him about it, that the words were not his. In spite of the danger he now ran, Edgeworth refused to leave France so long as he could be of any service to Madame Elizabeth, with whom he still managed to correspond.
At length, in 1795, his mother having meanwhile died in prison, where his sister was also confined, he succeeded in escaping to England, carrying with him Elizabeth’s last message to her brother, the future King Charles X whom he found in
Edinburgh. He afterwards went with some papers to Monsieur (Louis XVIII) at Blankenburg in Brunswick, by whom he was induced to accompany him to Mittau, where he died of a fever contracted while attending some French prisoners.
Edgeworth’s "Mémoires", edited by CS Edgeworth, were first published in English (London, 1815), and a French translation (really the letters and some miscellaneous notes, etc.) was published in Paris in 1816. A translation of the "Lettres de l’abbé Edgeworth avec des memoires sur sa vie" was published by Madame Elizabeth de Bow in Paris in 1818, and "Letters from the Abbé Edgeworth to his Friends, with Memoirs of his Life", edited by TB England, in London in 1818.
See JBA Hanet-Clery, "Journal de ce qui s’est passe", etc. (Paris, 1825); AH du D de Beauchesne, "Vie de Madame Elisabeth" (Paris, 1869); JCD de Lacretelle, "Précis historique de la Révolution française" (Paris, 1801–1806).
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