I’m currently writing about the storming of the Tuileries Palace on the 20th of June 1792, which acted as a precursor and, I suppose, a bit of a practice run for the terrible events of the 10th of August later that year when le merde hit the proverbial fan for Louis, Marie Antoinette, their family and remaining supporters.
I’m being guided by Madame Campan (although I am never sure quite how trustworthy she is) in my fictional depiction of events that day, which one of my characters is, with increasing uneasiness, witnessing right from the very heart of the action.
‘A few days previously about twenty thousand men had gone to the Commune to announce that, on the 20th, they would plant the tree of liberty at the door of the National Assembly, and present a petition to the King respecting the veto which he had placed upon the decree for the deportation of the priests. This dreadful army crossed the garden of the Tuileries, and marched under the Queen’s windows; it consisted of people who called themselves the citizens of the Faubourgs St. Antoine and St. Marceau. Clothed in filthy rags, they bore a most terrifying appearance, and even infected the air. People asked each other where such an army could come from; nothing so disgusting had ever before appeared in Paris.
On the 20th of June this mob thronged about the Tuileries in still greater numbers, armed with pikes, hatchets, and murderous instruments of all kinds, decorated with ribbons of the national colours, Shouting, “The nation for ever! Down with the veto!” The King was without guards. Some of these desperadoes rushed up to his apartment; the door was about to be forced in, when the King commanded that it should be opened. Messieurs de Bougainville, d’Hervilly, de Parois, d’Aubier, Acloque, Gentil, and other courageous men who were in the apartment of M. de Septeuil, the King’s first valet de chambre, instantly ran to his Majesty’s apartment. M. de Bougainville, seeing the torrent furiously advancing, cried out, “Put the King in the recess of the window, and place benches before him.” Six royalist grenadiers of the battalion of the Filles Saint Thomas made their way by an inner staircase, and ranged themselves before the benches. The order given by M. de Bougainville saved the King from the blades of the assassins, among whom was a Pole named Lazousky, who was to strike the first blow. The King’s brave defenders said, “Sire, fear nothing.” The King’s reply is well known: “Put your hand upon my heart, and you will perceive whether I am afraid.” M. Vanot, commandant of battalion, warded off a blow aimed by a wretch against the King; a grenadier of the Filles Saint Thomas parried a sword- thrust made in the same direction. Madame Elisabeth ran to her brother’s apartments; when she reached the door she heard loud threats of death against the Queen: they called for the head of the Austrian. “Ah! let them think I am the Queen,” she said to those around her, “that she may have time to escape.”
The Queen could not join the King; she was in the council chamber, where she had been placed behind the great table to protect her, as much as possible, against the approach of the barbarians. Preserving a noble and becoming demeanour in this dreadful situation, she held the Dauphin before her, seated upon the table. Madame was at her side; the Princesse de Lamballe, the Princesse de Tarente, Madame de la Roche-Aymon, Madame de Tourzel, and Madame de Mackau surrounded her. She had fixed a tricoloured cockade, which one of the National Guard had given her, upon her head. The poor little Dauphin was, like the King, shrouded in an enormous red cap. The horde passed in files before the table; the sort of standards which they carried were symbols of the most atrocious barbarity. There was one representing a gibbet, to which a dirty doll was suspended; the words “Marie Antoinette a la lanterne” were written beneath it. Another was a board, to which a bullock’s heart was fastened, with “Heart of Louis XVI.” written round it. And a third showed the horn of an ox, with an obscene inscription.
One of the most furious Jacobin women who marched with these wretches stopped to give vent to a thousand imprecations against the Queen. Her Majesty asked whether she had ever seen her. She replied that she had not. Whether she had done her any, personal wrong? Her answer was the same; but she added:
“It is you who have caused the misery of the nation.”
“You have been told so,” answered the Queen; “you are deceived. As the wife of the King of France, and mother of the Dauphin, I am a French- woman; I shall never see my own country again, I can be happy or unhappy only in France; I was happy when you loved me.”
The fury began to weep, asked her pardon, and said, “It was because I did not know you; I see that you are good.”
Santerre, the monarch of the faubourgs, made his subjects file off as quickly as he could; and it was thought at the time that he was ignorant of the object of this insurrection, which was the murder of the royal family. However, it was eight o’clock in the evening before the palace was completely cleared. Twelve deputies, impelled by attachment to the King’s person, ranged themselves near him at the commencement of the insurrection; but the deputation from the Assembly did not reach the Tuileries until six in the evening; all the doors of the apartments were broken. The Queen pointed out to the deputies the state of the King’s palace, and the disgraceful manner in which his asylum had been violated under the very eyes of the Assembly; she saw that Merlin de Thionville was so much affected as to shed tears while she spoke.
“You weep, M. Merlin,” said she to him, “at seeing the King and his family so cruelly treated by a people whom he always wished to make happy.”
“True, Madame,” replied Merlin; “I weep for the misfortunes of a beautiful and feeling woman, the mother of a family; but do not mistake, not one of my tears falls for either King or Queen; I hate kings and queens,–it is my religion.”‘ — Madame Campan.
Sorry for all the silences and not replying to stuff, but I’m grappling with the end of Before The Storm and also getting ready to move house! It looks like I might be offline for a week or so after we move (eek) so if anyone would like to write a guest post for this blog, this would be a perfect time!