Friday, August 10, 2007

The Fall of the French Monarchy, August 10, 1792



August 10, 1792 , the Feast of St. Laurence the Martyr, saw the fall of the French monarchy, the massacre of the Swiss Guards and the beginning of the Reign of Terror. Madame Royale gave a detailed account in her Memoirs of the royal family's flight from the Tuileries to the National Assembly, of the long, agonizing hours trapped in the stenographer's box, and the imprisonment in the Temple prison. Here follows the account of the teenage daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette:

Massacre at the Tuileries; Dethronement of my Father.
The Days from the 10th to the 13th of August, 1792.

After the fatal epoch of June 20, my family no longer enjoyed any tranquillity; every day there were fresh alarms, and rumours that the faubourgs Saint Antoine and Saint Marceau [together with those wretches who were called the Marseillais] were marching against the château. Sometimes they sounded the tocsin and beat the générale; sometimes, under pretext of a dinner of confraternity, they invited [and worked upon] the sections of opposite opinions to demand the dethronement of the king, which Danton, Robespierre, and their party wanted at all costs. After these many preludes, we heard with certainty on the 9th of August that the populace, armed, was assembling to attack the [Page 237] Tuileries; it was already evening. The troops who remained faithful to my father were therefore hastily collected, among them the Swiss Guard; and a great number of the nobles who were [still] in Paris arrived [in haste]. Imagine the situation of my unhappy parents during that horrible night; they remained together [expecting only carnage and death], and my mother had ordered my brother and me to go to bed.

Pétion arrived about eleven o'clock, exclaiming loudly against this new tumult. My father treated him as he deserved and sent him away; nevertheless, malignant people spread the news that Pétion was kept prisoner in the Tuileries; [on which] minds grew [embittered and] inflamed even to fury, and at midnight the signal was given to begin the dreadful massacre. The first shot fired killed M. Clermont-Tonnerre, a member of the First Assembly. For a part of the night the tumult went on outside the Tuileries, where fresh reinforcements of the National Guard were successively arriving; unfortunately, [far] too many came, for most of them were already seduced and treacherously inclined.

At six in the morning it was suggested to my father to visit all the posts and encourage the troops to defend him; but only a few cries of Vive le Roi! were heard in the courtyards, and what was worse, when he wished to enter the garden, the artillery-men, most wicked of all, dared to turn their cannon against their king; a thing not believable if I did not declare that I saw it with my own eyes.

My father, having thus indubitably recognized the bad disposition of the National Guard, saw but too well that no faithful subjects remained about him, except a few nobles who had come to us, a part of the servants of the château, and the Swiss Guard; they all armed themselves. M. Mandat, commandant of the National Guard in the Tuileries [a man of little enterprise but faithful], was summoned by [Page 238] the mayor to the Hôtel de Ville; there he was murdered by order of the municipality, who immediately appointed Santerre to replace him. Towards seven in the morning Roederer, head of the department, arrived. He asked to speak alone with the king; there, he threw himself at his feet and conjured him to save himself; he represented to him that furious brigands were arriving in masses, that he had too few persons to defend him, that he had no course left but to go, he and his family, and take refuge in the National Assembly. My father rejected the idea for a long time, but Roederer insisting, and the peril becoming urgent and inevitable, he at last resolved to go to the Assembly with his family, Mme. de Lamballe, and Mme. de Tourzel. He left all the rest of his people in the château, not doubting that as soon as it was known that he had gone, the tumult would cease and there would be no longer any danger for those he left there. 1

We crossed the garden of the Tuileries in the midst of a few National guards, who still remained faithful. On the way we were told that the Assembly would not receive my father. The terrace of the Feuillants, along which we had to pass, was full of wretches, who assailed us with insults; one of them cried out: "No women, or we will kill them all!" My mother was not frightened at the threat and continued her way. At last we entered the passage to the Assembly. Before being admitted [to the hall] we had to wait more than half an hour, a number of deputies still [Page 239] opposing our entrance. We were thus kept in a narrow corridor, so dark that we could see nothing, and hear nothing but the shouts of the furious mob. My father, my mother, and my brother were in front with Mme. de Tourzel; my aunt was with me, on the other side. I was held by a man whom I did not know. I have never thought myself so near death, not doubting that the decision was made to murder us all. In the darkness I could not see my parents, and I feared everything for them. We were left to this mortal agony more than half an hour.

At last we were allowed to enter the hall of the Assembly, and my father on entering said [in a loud voice] that he came to take refuge with his family in the bosom of the Assembly, to prevent the French nation from committing a great crime. We were placed at the bar, and they then discussed whether it was proper that my father should be present at their deliberations. They said, as to that, that it was impossible to let him stay at the bar without infringing on the inviolability of the sovereign people; and they declaimed speeches thereon which were full of horrors. After this they took us into the box of a journalist.

We had hardly entered this species of cage when we heard cannon, musket-shots, and the cries of those who were murdering in the Tuileries; but we were ignorant at the time of what was happening. We heard later how the massacre began. My father had hardly left the château before a party of wretches [already in the courtyards] began to attack with armes blanches [sabres and pikes] the Swiss Guard, who fired in self-defense. Nothing more was needed to push their fury to the highest point; those who were outside hearing the Swiss fire first, and taking them for the aggressors, spread the rumour that my father had ordered them to fire on the people. Soon, not only the courtyard gates but those [Page 240] of the château were forced, and these madmen rushed in, massacring all whom they found, especially the Swiss. [Then and there perished an immensity of faithful servitors of all ranks and classes. Among the victims were MM. de Clermont d'Amboise and de Castéja, de Viomesnil and d'Hervilly; the Maréchal de Mailly, MM. de Maillardoz and de Bachmann died later. All the old officers of the Guard called "constitutional," the two battalions of the Filles-St.-Thomas and the Petits-Pères distinguished themselves by an unbounded devotion, though, unhappily, fruitless. What could they do against a multitude maddened with drink and blood and fury?] The Tuileries then became a spectacle of horror; blood ran everywhere, especially in the apartments of the king and queen. Nevertheless, in the midst of these abominations some traits of humanity were shown; among these monsters were some who saved several persons, taking them by the arm and making them pass for their friends or relatives . The carnage lasted all that day on one side or the other; the number of brigands who perished was considerable, for those wretches killed each other in their blind fury. At night, the château took fire; fortunately, the flames lasted but a little while, and so ended those awful and too memorable scenes.

Meantime our terrors increased as these dreadful noises went on; but it was even worse when we heard the same sort of cries close to the Assembly. The members themselves were frightened, and in their fear they tore out the iron railing of the box where we were and forced my father into the midst of them; but this tumult was soon appeased. It was occasioned by the approach of a number of the Swiss Guard who had escaped from the Tuileries and were trying to come to the support of the king; they had almost forced the door of the Assembly when an officer said to them: [Page 241] "What are you doing? The king is in the midst of assassins; they will murder him if you advance." This reflection held them back and they surrendered; it was thus that these brave foreigners [ever faithful], to the number of about one hundred, escaped the massacre. As for those of their compatriots who did not perish in the Tuileries, they were taken to the Hôtel-de-Ville and there massacred with their principal officers. A forged order from the king was sent to summon the Swiss Guard from the barracks at Courbevoie; on their arrival in Paris they met the same fate.

Still kept on the box at the Assembly, we witnessed the horrors of all kinds which there took place. Sometimes they assailed my father and all his family with [the basest and most atrocious] insults, triumphing over him with cruel joy; sometimes they brought in gentlemen dying of their wounds; sometimes they brought my father's own servants, who, with the utmost impudence, gave false testimony against him; while others boasted of what they had done. At last, to complete the revolting scene, they brought in the Host and flung the sacred wafers on the ground. It was in the midst of these abominations that our entire day, from eight in the morning until midnight, passed [as one may say] through all gradations of whatever was most terrible, most awful.

The session ended by [a decree full of insults to my father, declaring the king suspended from his functions and ordering the convocation of a National Convention. They next wished to take up the fate of my brother; they proposed to appoint his governor, and even to make him king; but the latter motion was rejected, and that of giving him a governor was adjourned until the Convention should declare whether the Nation desired to still have a king]. At last they permitted us, about one at night to retire to one of the little rooms near-by, in the convent of the Feuillants; there we [Page 242] were left alone [without the slightest defense against the sanguinary rage of these wretches]. The next day, several persons belonging to my father's service came to us. We were forced to return again to the Assembly and spend the whole day there while they discussed what should be done with the king, and where he should be kept. The Place Vendôme, in which is the Chancellerie, was proposed for this purpose, on which Manuel, public prosecutor for the Commune of Paris, demanded, in the name of his constituents, to be intrusted with the responsibility of keeping my father and his family; and this being granted, he proposed the château of the Temple for our residence, which was decreed.

That day and the next were passed like the preceding day; we were forced to listen in the hall of the Assembly to the prowess of those who had distinguished themselves by their barbarities. At night we returned to our rooms, [where we were not allowed to enjoy in peace the hours consecrated to rest], a deputy of the Assembly coming an hour after midnight to search and see if we had men hidden there; none were found, for my father had been obliged to send away those who had come to him. On the 12th it was determined that we should be transferred to the Temple on the following day.

On the 13th we did not go to the Assembly. Towards three in the afternoon Pétion and Manuel came to take my father, and they made us all get into a carriage with eight seats, into which they got themselves [with their hats on their heads and shouting, Vive la Nation! ]. We drove through the streets leading to the Temple in great peril and loaded with insults; our conductors themselves feared the people so much that they would not let the carriage stop for a moment; and yet it took two hours before we could reach the Temple through that immense throng. On the [Page 243] way they had the cruelty to point out to my parents things that would distress them,–the statues of the Kings of France thrown down, even that of Henri IV., before which the populace compelled us to stop, to make us look at him on the ground. We did not observe on our way any feeling souls touched by our condition, such terror was now inspired in those who still thought rightly. And yet, in the midst of so many sights which might well break down the strongest soul, my father and my mother preserved the tranquillity and courage that a good conscience can alone inspire.

~ Memoirs of Madame Royale Share

1 comment:

alaughland said...

Soounds a little bit like having to drive through my neighborhood. I don't mean to make light of it....