In claiming sainthood for Louis XVI as a martyr to the faith, French Catholics are undoubtedly stretching somewhat the historical version of his execution. Louis was primarily a political victim; his life was a standing menace to the security of any thoroughgoing revolutionary regime and as such could not have been spared. But the case of the French Catholics is not so ill-founded as at first blush might appear.
If the Pope can be convinced that Louis died in order to remain a faithful Catholic, canonization, according to yesterday's press dispatches from Paris, awaits the ill-fortuned Bourbon. Certainly complete devotion' to Catholicism and to Rome, well illustrated by his dogged resistance to the Civil Constitution, contributed not a little toward Louis' condemnation. It can even be argued with assurance that religious motives contributed as largely toward his execution as toward the martyrdom of Joan of Arc.
Whatever the historical technicalities of the case may be, however, the best justification of the current claim for sainthood is to be found in the attitude of all French Catholics who for the past hundred and thirty years have cherished the memory of their unhappy king. For many years after the passing of the Terrorist government the "martyrdom of the sainted Louis" was a stock expression which in one form or another appears in the works of all ardent Catholic writers. Today it appears that devoted Catholics in France still look upon him as a saint. Whether or not the Pope sees fit to stamp this judgment with the seal of official approval can do little to alter the saintly character Louis XVI has acquired in the hearts of many of his countrymen.