Whilst going through boxes in the Archives Nationales, Olivier Blanc came across dozens and dozens of letters written by men and women condemned to death a few hours or even a few minutes before their departure to the scaffold. These letters had been handed over to Fouquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, and never delivered.
I found reading these letters during my research for my adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel very moving and have decided to reproduce some of them here. If there really had been such a person as my eponymous hero, these are the people he would have been trying to help.
Etienne-Thomas Ogier de Baulay was a member of the minor nobility in the region of Brie. It was impossible for him to prove that he had not taken part in a plot to bring about an uprising. He was accordingly sentenced to death. He was 46 years old. His last letter was addressed to his wife:
From the Conciergerie, Saturday 1 February 1794, at 9 o’clock in the morning.
Ah! My good friend, my loving friend, I am writing these few words to inform you that today at midday, you will no longer have a husband. If I have done anything to harm you or treated you badly, I beg you to pardon me as I pardon you any ills that you may have caused me. Embrace Amédée for me and tell him never to forget his dear, loving pap.
I beg you always to take care of him, but I have no need to commend him to you, knowing your love for him and the good care that you have always lavished upon him. Farewell, my dead friend, never forget me a long as you live, farewell once again, I embrace you for the last time.