Monday, August 11, 2008

Massacre of the Swiss Guards

August 10, 1792 saw the fall of the French monarchy. The Brunswick Manifesto, published earlier that month, issued a warning to the citizens of Paris that if the royal family were injured, the city would be invaded. The Manifesto only added to the unrest of the city, already agitated by Jacobin propaganda and the war against Austria. Hearing that the Tuileries palace was about to be attacked, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their family escaped across the gardens to the National Assembly, where they took refuge in the stenographer's box. Louis sent an order for the Swiss Guards to lay down their arms and retreat in order to save their lives. As British historian Nesta Webster says in her book Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the Revolution: "Could [Louis XVI] imagine...that the mob, not content with venting their fury on the Chateau, would massacre not only the Swiss Guard, men of the people who had remained at their posts, but even the luckless servants in the kitchens of the Palace? The horrors committed on this 10th of August were such as no human mind could possibly have conceived."

900 Swiss guards were brutally killed, many tortured, some roasted, mutilated, decapitated, with their limbs distributed throughout Paris. Children played ball in the streets with the heads of the brave Swiss, and the steps of the Tuileries ran with blood, like some gruesome altar of human sacrifice. People dipped bread into the blood of the victims. The massacre was only the beginning of the mass murder which already characterized the French Revolution; in September 1792, 2000 more people would be horribly killed, including priests, religious, small children, and the Queen's friend Princess de Lamballe. The statue of the Lion of Lucerne commemorates the fallen Swiss. Share