[Abbé] Henry Essex Edgeworth

1745-1807 [confessor to Louis XVI; known as Edgeworth de Firmont]; b. Mostrim [now Edgeworthstown], Co. Longford; son of Robert Edgeworth, Anglican rector, and 2nd cousin Maria Edgeworth; ed. by Jesuits, Toulouse and Paris where his father moved after conversion by a French bishop; ord. Seminaire des Trente Trois, Paris; offered a see by the Catholic bishops but worked in obscurity among the poor in Paris; he was vested with the powers of the Archbishop of Paris on the latter’s flight in 1792, hence grand-vicaire (vicar-general);

became confessor to Princess Elizabeth, 1791, and called to attend Louis XVI [Louis Capet] on the scaffold on the eve of his execution, which took place on 21 Jan. 1793; he escaped in the crowd afterwards the more easily as he was wearing ordinary garb ordained by revolutionary law; took refuge in rue du Bac, and afterwards in the Marais with Lamoignon de Malesherbes, the king’s advocate - himself executed in 1794; reached Portsmouth August 1796, three years later after death of his mother and execution of Madame Elisabeth; lionized and offered a pension by Pitt, later accepted but refused the presidency of Maynooth; [var. an Irish see];

joined the household of Louis XVIII at Blankenberg, and travelled with the royal family, who were strongly attached to him; resided with them in Mittau, in Russia; died of typhus attending sick French prisoners during the Napoleon campaign in Russia, at Mittau, d. 22 May 1807, attended by a dg. of Louis XVI on his death-bed; his brother and correspondent Ussher Edgeworth received a copy of the epitaph written by Louis XVIII. ODNB DIW DIL DIB ODQ OCIL

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C[harles] Sneyd Edgeworth ed., Memoires de l’Abbé Edgeworth receullis par C. Sneyd Edgeworth (1815; [var. 1817]) M. V. Woodgate, The Abbé Edgeworth (Dublin 1935) 14+237pp. [RAF]; Letters ... with a memoir (1818); Vivienne Abbott, An Irishman’s Revolution: The Abbé Edgeworth and Louis XVI (1989).

Letter of 1792: ‘Almighty God has baffled my measures, and ties me to this land of horrors by chains I have not the liberty to shake off. The case is this: the wretched master [the king] charges me not to quit this country, as I am the priest whom he intends to prepare him for death. And should the iniquity of the nation commit this last act of cruelty, I must also prepare myself for death, as I am convinced the popular rage will not allow me to survive an hour after the tragic scene; but I am resigned. Could my life save him I would willingly lay it down, and I should not die in vain.’ (Letter to Mr. Maffey, a London priest, 1792; quoted in article in Catholic Encyclopedia - online; accessed 29.12.2012.)

Personal account: ‘All eyes were fixed on me, as you may suppose; but as soon as I reached the first line, to my greatest surprise, no resistance was made. The second line opened in the same manner and when I got to the fourth or fifth, my coat, being a common surtout (for I was not permitted, on this occasion, to wear any exterior marks of a priest) I was absolutely lost in the crowd, and no more noticed than if I had been a simple spectator of a scene which forever will dishonour France.’  (Quoted at the Abbé Edgeworth page of the “Irish in Paris” - online; accessed 29.12.2012.)

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M. V. Woodgate, The Abbé Edgeworth (Browne & Nolan 1945); cited in Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English (Vol. 1, 1980); see also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 4.

[ See Abbé Edgworth de Firmont at the “Irish in Paris” website; accessed 29.12.2012. ]

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J. M. Flood, A Memoir of the Abbé Edgeworth de Firmont, foreword by [J. Hoare] Bishop of Ardagh [Ecce Sacerdos Magnus] (CTS, n.d.), 35pp., pamphlet. Includes reference to the religious tolerance of the Edgeworth family, though intensely Protestant and staunch upholders of the ‘Garrison’, Maria writing, ‘The roman Catholic Bishop M’Gaurin, held a Confirmation the day before yesterday, and dined here on a God-send haunch of venison’ [Foreword].

Flood has found a rare copy of Memoirs of the Abbé Edgeworth containing his narrative of the last hours of Louis XVI by C. Sneyd Edgeworth (1815), and Letters of Abbé edgeworth to his friends between 1777 and 1807, ed. by Rev. Thomas England (1818), mostly addressed to Dr Moylan, Bishop of Cork [who encouraged him to accept Church preferment in Ireland]; both in King’s Inns Law Library. King Louis XVIII composed the epitaph at Mittau, D.O.M. [see infra].C. Sneyd Edgeworth’s appraisal of the Abbé steadfast loyalty to his faith and the French royal family is quoted fully in conclusion.

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Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, Vol. II, Chap. viii (Chapman & Hall 3 vol. edn. [n.d.]), ‘A confessor has come; Abbé Edgeworth, of Irish extraction, whom the King knew by good report, has come promptly on this solemn mission. Leave the Earth alone, then, though hapless King; it with its malice will go its way, thou also canst go thine. A hard scene remains, the parting with our loved ones (p.92.) ... The executioner approaches to bind him, he spurns, resists; Abbé Edgeworth has to remind him how the Saviour, in whom men trust, submitted to be bound ... Abbé Edgeworth, stooping, bespeaks him, “Son of St Louis, ascend to Heaven”. The Axe clanks down; a King’s Life is shorn away [...].’ (pp.94-95.)

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Oxford Dictionary Quotations [bio-dates as above] selects ‘Fils de Saint Louis, montez au ciel,’ attrib., no documentary proof at all. ADD, he expressly denied having spoken the sentence attributed to him in legend [as quoted in ODQ, infra], and these were probably made up by a journalist [DN, &c.]

Shell Guide (1966), Mostrim [Meathas Troim], Longford, Fir Mount, 2 miles north [of Edgeworthstown Hse], was for a time the home of Abbé Edgeworth, who attended Louis XVI at the scaffold as his confessor. DIB bibl. cites

Dictionary of Irish Writers, eds, Brian Cleeve and Ann Brady (Cork/Dublin: Mercier/Lilliput 1967-85) adds Memoirs eds, C. Sneyd Edgeworth (1815); Letters from Abbé Edgeworth to his friends, 1777-1807, with memoirs of his life (1818), edited by Rev. Thomas Richard England (b. Cork; 1790-1847), who partly wrote the memoirs

Belfast Public Library holds Memoirs of the Abbé Edgeworth (1815), by C. S[neyd]. Edgeworth.

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Epitaph of Abbé Edgeworth
(composed by King Louis XVIII, at Mittau, D.O.M.): Hic Jacet Reverendissimus Vit Henricus Essex Edgeworth de Firmont Sancti Dei Ecclesiae Sacerdos. Vicarius Generalis Ecclesiae Parisiensis qui Redemptoris Nostri Vestigia Tenens Oculus CAECO PES CLAUDO PATER PAUPERUM. Maerentium Consolator Fuit. Ludovicum XVI. Ab Impiis Rebellibusque Subditis Morti Deditum ad Ultimum Certamen. Roboravit, Strenuoque Martri Caelos Opertos Ostendit. E Manibus Regicidarum Mira Dei Protectione Ereptus, Ludovico XVIII. Eum ad Se Vocanti Ultro Occurrens, Ei Per Decem Annos, Regiae Ejus Familiae, Necnon et Fidelibus Sodalibus, Exemplar Virtutuum, Levamen Malorum, Sese Praebuit. Per Multas Et Vari Regiones Temporum Calamitate Actus, Illi, Quem Sulum Colebat, Semper Similis Pertransiit Benefactiendo, Plenum Tandem Bonis Operibus Obiit Die 22 Maii Mensis ANNO DOMINI 1807. aetatis vero suae 62. Requiescat in pace.