23rd July 2021

Recently I was thinking of Agathe. She was one of my great-great-great-grandmothers (we each have 16, of course!). Why? A few days ago the people of France celebrated ‘Bastille Day’, the anniversary of the start of the French Revolution in 1789. In November that year Agathe was born in Paris. With her parents and siblings she lived in central Paris throughout the turbulent years of the Revolution. They have left no account of what they experienced, but as a child growing up there she must have witnessed some of the horrific events of those years. They lived on a main road and may well have seen the tumbrils going past on the way to the guillotine. I suspect their sympathies lay with the royalists – a later daughter was named Marie Antoinette – the name of the Queen who had been executed. They survived, although her father died in mysterious circumstances when Agathe was only 12 years old.

Of course she is by no means the only child to have had to endure all sorts of hardships and horrors. Even today we repeatedly hear of fresh examples, some far away, some nearer home. What can we do? In practical terms most of us not much, except, perhaps, support charities that offer practical help. When children were brought to Jesus he blessed them. Maybe for most of us that is all we can do – ask God’s blessing – and not forget them.

And what of Agathe? At the age of 23 she married, at 25 came to England, had four children, was widowed at 30 and died in Kent at the age of 75.

David T Roberts