via Daily Prompt:
‘Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do,’ she repeated to herself again. Insult upon injury, it was a frost-bitten morning and she struggled to keep from fidgeting, exposed to the air as she was in her finest, on the open porch. She was only here as a token, a fact she accepted as unchangeable but nevertheless, stung. She was an image, an idea, to be projected but not truly seen. It was not that the delegates did not want to know what she thought, far from it. It was that they could not imagine she could carry thoughts! Her husband was dead. Nary an opinion could longer be with her, in their mind’s eyes.
‘Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do,’ she repeated. ‘The young all contain this burning now and it has consumed their rational minds!’ She wanted to ask the Lord why he’d brought this burning to the men of South, but she knew it would be insincere. She knew already why and where and how and now, she knew when. She knew, deep in her old bones which so ached on this freezing morning. Today was the day of reckoning. Begging Him to save them from what was coming was impossible. All that remained ahead was duty. Burning like this couldn’t be sustained.
‘Duty is what sustains us in hardship. Duty leads us through the shadow of loss.’, she chastised herself to keep from grimacing. She shifted slightly to relieve the pain of standing straight and still in full corset, petticoat and massive bonnet. Her gaze shifted down, checking the grasp of the flambeau she could no longer feel in the cold. The flame provided no warmth but fortunately, little smoke to choke and sting her eyes. She knew she must listen for the governor’s directions but sincerely, she could not. It wasn’t until she heard her poor uncles’ names that her attention returned.
“Those who came before us first felt, then fought for and only after truly knew the divine glory of sovereign governance. The men we revered, the men who said on that day – England, you have no care for us nor our conditions – we in turn have no care for your guidance, governance nor taxation! Those men, Washington, Jefferson, Adams – they would be with us today! Those men would know why we must deny the shackles the North has put upon us and take them off, with force if need be. Look upon us today, great men and see the justice in kind of our cause.” She turned when young man she did not know took her firmly by the arm to lead her carefully down the steps. Closer now, she finally took in the crowd, full of angry calls and twisted jubilation. She felt relief when they did not jostle her but parted and she moved forth far more stately than she felt.
‘This is a crowd of fools, a wedding party to disaster!’, her mind raced. If she’d seen sobriety and anger, she could accept it. She would know that they felt just cause. This was not that. This was hubris and sloth, grandstanding, greed and a dozen other causes. She felt the heat of the tears in her eyes but could not lift her hands to wipe them. She dared not blink or they would run over.
“In recognition of our cause, I present to you Princess Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray Murat, direct descendant of two great liberators: President George Washington and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Princess Murat will now fire the shot that will signify the dissolution of the union and the birth of Florida, Sovereign and Independent Nation!” Faced with the cannon before her, she removed her elbow from the hand of the young escort. Her eyes could no longer hold the tears and they fell freely from the brim as she turned to survey the crowd.
‘Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do,’ she repeated as she raised the flambeau and held it steady to the fuse.
Photo Credit: Avant, David. Portrait of Princess Catherine Willis Gray Murat – Tallahassee, Florida. 18–. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.