Emigration, Lafayette, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, the Abolition of the Monarchy, the Champ de Mars Massacre, the Day of the Daggers, the Duke of Brunswick, the Flight to Varennes, The National Guard, the Storming of the Tuileries, the Tuileries Palace
Flight to Varennes
During the night of 20–21 June 1791, French King Louis XVI (1754 – 1793), his wife, Marie-Antoinette (1755 – 1793), their children, Louis-Charles (1785 – 1795), the dauphin, or heir apparent, and his sister Marie-Thérèse (1778 – 1851), the King’s sister Élisabeth of France (1764 – 1794) attempted to escape France. The Marquise de Tourzelle, the children’s governess, from 1789 until 1792, accompanied the royal family. As for the king’s brothers, Louis XVIII (17 November 1755 – 16 September 1824) and Charles X, they had fled. Despite their bourgeois clothing, the Royal family was recognized one stop before Varennes and arrested at Varennes. By 25 June 1789, they had returned to Paris. (See Flight to Varennes, Wikipedia.)
We know that Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette would be guillotined during the Reign of Terror, 1793 – 1794), as well as Élisabeth de France, the king’s younger sister. Moreover, Louis-Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans (13 April 1747 – 6 November 1793), of the House of Orleans, a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, would also be guillotined, on 6 November 1793. Consequently, hindsight invites approval of the Royal family’s attempt to flee what seemed imminent danger.
Hindsight is also forgiving. We can understand why Louis-Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans changed his name to Philippe Égalité. He was afraid. But did he have to vote in favour of his cousin’s execution?
But weighing against Louis XVI – Marie-Antoinette, mainly, was “collusion with the invaders,” a view supported by the flight to Varennes. (See The Trial of Louis XVI, Wikipedia.)
La Fayette and the National Guard
After the Tennis Court Oath, the National Assembly itself feared disorder. By and large, the French trusted Jacques Necker (30 September 1732 – 9 April 1804), but he had been replaced by the Marquis de Breteuil, on 11 July 1789. King Louis XVI’s faux pas led to immediate unrest.
Although 98% of the people of France were excluded from political power, which is the main cause of the French Revolution, the French Revolution has other causes. France was near brankrupcy and people lacked food. Why had the Assembly of Notables, summoned in 1787, refused to pay a land-value tax? However, a few paragraphs below, this post revisits the Assembly of Notables.
Unrest had followed the replacement of Jacques Necker, on 11 July 1789. The people trusted Jacques Necker. On 13 July 1789, fearing disorder, the National Assembly created a Bourgeois militia and, on 15 July 1789, Lafayette (6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834) had been elected to the post of commander of the Bourgeois militia, which would become the National Guard.
Gendarmes were required. Mobs stormed the Bastille (see The Storming of the Bastille, Wikipedia). Necker was reinstated on 16 July and would not leave France until 3 September 1790.
On 6 October 1789, were it not for the intervention of the National Guard, commanded by Lafayette, a mob may have killed members of the Royal family when Louis XVI’s family was forcibly removed from Versailles. (See The Women’s March on Versailles, Wikipedia.)
Emigration & the Day of the Daggers
The Royal family had been taken to the Tuileries Palace, in Paris, a royal residence. But Louis’ aunts, Madame Adélaïde and Madame Victoire, had fled to Rome, as though Royalists could not protect them and as though the Royals needed protection. On The Day of the Daggers, 28 February 1791, Royalists, carrying concealed daggers, tried to enter the Tuileries to save the Louis XVI and his family. Louis himself asked them to leave and those who would not leave were forcibly removed. The Royalists were dismayed.
The Champ de Mars Massacre
On 17 June 1791, a crowd of 50,000 gathered at the Champ de Mars to sign a petition asking for the king’s removal. The National Guard under Lafayette, opened fire. The crowd returned later in the day, led by Danton and Camille Desmoulins. The National Guard fired again, killing a many as 15.
On 20 June, the Royal family attempted to flee France, but were arrested at Varennes and taken back to the Tuileries Palace.
The Assembly of Notables, revisited
A Constitutional Monarchy might have saved the French monarchy, had Louis been better informed. The delegates to the Assembly of Notables were prepared to institute changes. If accurate, I believe it is, the following quotation is very revealing:
Yet what was truly astonishing about the debates of the Assembly is that they were marked by a conspicuous acceptance of principles like fiscal equality that even a few years before would have been unthinkable….Where disagreement occurred, it was not because Calonne had shocked the Notables with his announcement of a new fiscal and political world; it was either because he had not gone far enough or because they disliked the operational methods built into the program.
(See Assembly of Notables, Wikipedia.)
The Notables knew that France was nearly bankrupt and that insolvency would bring not only the downfall of France but also their own downfall. It was to their advantage to pay taxes. Louis XIV’s Conseil d’en haut, the King’s Council, was very small, but it consisted of bourgeois. Moreover, they met en haut, i.e. upstairs, next to the King’s chamber, at Versailles. The King did not fear them. Louis XIV feared no one except the princes du sang, the Princes of the Blood.
The Storming of the Tuileries: the End (10 August 1792)
After the flight to Varennes, Marie-Antoinette‘s idea, Louis XVI was closely guarded in the Tuileries, home to the National Assembly and, later, the National Constituent Assembly. The National Legislative Assembly was the legislature of France from 1 October 1791 to 20 September 1792. He had “betrayed the French.” The Storming of the Tuileries, on 10 August 1792, would undo the King. Britannica uses the word “irresolution.” The National Guard had turned against the Royalty and they were joined by sans-culottes and the fédérés, marseillais (from Marseilles), militants mostly, who had come to Paris for the Fête de la Fédération, 14 July 1791. Lafayette, their commander, fled France.
As I wrote above, weighing against Louis XVI, or Marie-Antoinette, was “collusion with the invaders.” (See The Trial of Louis XVI, Wikipedia.) The Monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792. (See Proclamation of the abolition of the monarchy, Wikipedia), a day after the Battle of Valmy, when the French defeated the Duke of Brunswick (20 September 1792) and the day before the First Republic was declared, on 22 September 1792.
On 13 August 1792, the Royal family was imprisoned in the Temple, a fortress built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. Louis XVI was executed on the grounds that he was a traitor. The King had tried to flee France, but could he tell that leaving France could be construed as treason, the worst of crimes. Yes, French revolutionaries feared intervention from Royal families outside France and the flight to Varennes led to The Declaration of Pillnitz (27 August 1791). Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor (5 May 1747 – 1 March 1792), its main author, was Marie-Antoinette’s brother who may have wished to rescue his sister who had attempted to leave France. But he died on 1st March 1792. Yet, the flight to Varennes did seal the Royal family’s fate. King Louis XVI had attempted to flee France and the Duke of Brunswick, the author of the Brunswick Manifesto (25 July 1791) did attack the French, but he was defeated.
One can understand the King’s fears, but can one understand the Reign of Terror?
I apologize. This post is too long. I have now shortened it, but it is still long.
Love to everyone ♥
Abbey Sieyès’ The Third Estate (6 August 2018)
Cleric, Knight and Workman (31 July 2018)
The Tennis Court Oath (8 February 2014)
The Church of France & French Revolution (cont’d) (6 May 2014)
The Church of France during the French Revolution (2 May 2014)
Sources and Resources
Britannica, various entries
Wikipedia Timeline of the French Revolution & other entries
Chronology of the French Revolution (online)
Proclamation of the Duke of Brunswick or Brunswick Manifesto (online)
Major Events in the French Revolution (sutori.com)
Hilaire Belloc’s French Revolution (Internet Archive)
Thomas Carlisle’s The French Revolution is Gutenberg’s [EBook #1301]
M. Mignet’s History of the French Revolution from 1789 – 1814 is Gutenberg’s [EBook #9602]
Below are the names of members of the Royal family who were executed and the date on which each one died.
House of Bourbon
Louis XVI: 21 January 1793, aged 38
Marie-Antoinette: 16 Otober 1793, aged 37
Elisabeth de France: 10 May 1794, aged 30
House of Orleans
Louis-Philippe II, duc d’Orléans: 6 November 1793, aged 46
Gabriel Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine (words & translation)
© Micheline Walker
16 August 2018