Damiens’s Testimony to Parlement

During the course of his trial, Damiens was interrogated over fifty times by the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris and by the King’s prosecutors. The interrogators were concerned above all to determine if Damiens had accomplices and if so, what group was behind the attack. In this passage, Damiens testifies that his action had been prompted by "preachers of the Parlementary party," meaning those who criticized the excessive power of the court and the bishops. Attributing his actions to dissatisfaction with the state of the kingdom, Damiens then asks the King to show his concern for the hard–pressed French people by pardoning him.


He said his name is Robert-François Damiens and he is a forty-two-year-old servant living in the City of Paris.

When he was questioned about telling when he had made plans to kill the King, he answered he planned on doing it three years ago and because of the Archbishop's bad behavior.

When asked if somebody had inspired his plan, he said he had been inspired by everybody around him.

When asked if he had told somebody about this project, either in Paris, in Artois, or in a foreign country, he said no. He had wanted to say it but would not say it here.

When asked if he had said to Playouft instead of Poperingue that he could not adapt to this country and that he would come back to France and said: "Yes, I will come back there, I will die there, and the Greatest of the earth will also die," he admitted he said these words. . . .

When asked if any secular or legitimate Priest had inspired this dreadful plan, he answered that nobody had inspired him to it, but he had heard many ecclesiastics talk dangerously.

When asked about the dangerous things these ecclesiastics were talking about, he answered that he heard them saying that the King was risking a lot for not preventing the Archbishop's actions. . . .

When asked what he had understood in this following statement: "What a pity that your Subjects had tendered their resignations, they were the only ones who created this conspiracy," he answered that the conspiracy could not come from the Parlement, but from the Archbishop who started it by refusing sacraments. . . .

When asked why and how long ago he had stopped making religious acts, he answered that he used to do them in the different places when he was a servant but he stopped three or four years ago, since the Archbishop's turmoil.

When he was told that the Archbishop's actions could never have made a man like him commit this crime, he answered that he had nothing else to say except that if the Archbishop had not refused some Sacraments, these things would not have happened.

When asked if he, his family or friends had been refused Sacraments, he answered no.

When asked about the idea he has concerning Religion, he answered that no one should refuse Sacraments to good people who pray in Churches every day, from morning to evening.

When asked if he thinks that Religion allows one to kill Kings, he answered that he had nothing to say about it.

When he was told that his silence proves that he thought that it is was allowable for him to kill Kings in some cases, he said he had nothing to say. . . .

When asked if he had any regret of having committed this dreadful crime and had any desire to save his soul, he said he regretted it and that he hopes God will forgive him.

When asked how he thinks God will forgive him, since he does not want to confess his accomplices, he answered he does not have any accomplices and cannot tell their names. . . .

After having read all this, the prisoner persisted in saying his answers were real and true, and he also persisted by not wanting to answer, and he signed his name, Damiens.

At this time, the prisoner was tied up.

When asked who had suggested him this crime, he answered the Archbishop did, because of his bad actions, and he added: forgive me.

When asked who his accomplices were, he said he was alone.

When asked who was talking to him under the vault of the Versailles Chapel, he answered that it was the one he told us about.

When asked about the people he had seen in Paris, he answered no one.

When he was told this is only the beginning of some hard time, and he could stop everything by telling the names of his accomplices, he screamed: "Ah, this Archbishop, what a rascal!"

When asked about what he was promised or what money he had received, he answered that no one promised or gave him anything. The Archbishop's refusal to give Sacraments was the cause. . . .

***

He was told he could not have committed the crime he was accused of, that he was pushed into doing it by other people. He was summoned to tell us the names, nicknames, positions, and addresses of the people who had pushed him into killing the King.

He answered he could not give a precise answer to this question. He only declared that he had met priests in Arras and Paris who belonged to the Parlement, and the poor treatments these same Priests have received and the poverty of the French people had convinced him to kill the King. However, he said that if the King wanted to spare his life, he will give more detailed explanations.

He was summoned to tell us the names, nicknames, positions, addresses of the priests and lay people with whom he talked about Religion and other topics. He answered he would never tell their names, even if he was thrown in Hell or in a blazing fire.

He was asked if he had said . . . that the Dauphin had to be warned and that he should be careful, or go out because the same thing that happened to the King could also happen to him. He answered yes.

He was asked if he had said that six months after his death, more important events will occur, and that the Dauphin will perish along with many other people. He answered yes.

He was asked if he knew the persons who will be involved in these actions. He answered he will only tell their names to the Chief Provost, after the King promises to pardon him. He only asked to have his life spared and not to be chained. He knows he deserves to die . . . [but] he submits to the King's will from whom he asks forgiveness.

Source: Anonymous, Pièces originales et procédures du procès, fait à Robert-François Damiens (Paris: Pierre Guillaume Simon, 1757).