Monday, August 10, 2009

The Pillage of the Tuileries

Madame de Tourzel was the governess of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's children during the turbulent days of the Revolution. In her Memoirs she records the terrifying events she witnessed with meticulous accuracy. Madame writes at length of the fall of the Monarchy on August 10, 1792. She did not have warm feelings for those who wrought and permitted the savage violence and massacres, so her politically incorrect language is understandable. The massacre of the Swiss Guard (and of anyone else who happened to be lingering at the Tuileries) was truly horrific. Madame records the Royal Family's nightmarish flight to the National Assembly, where they sought refuge and justice. However, it turned into one of their greatest ordeals, where they sat in the stenographer's box for hours and hours. Here is her account (abridged):

There was general consternation when the King was seen leaving for the Assembly; the Queen accompanied him, holding her two children by the hand. By their side were Madame Elizabeth and the Princess do Lamballe, who, as a relative of their Majesties, was permitted to accompany them ; and I walked behind Mgr. the Dauphin. The King was accompanied by his Ministers, and escorted by a detachment of the National Guard. I left my dear [daughter] Pauline with a heart half dead with fear as I thought of the danger she was about to run; and I commended her to the care of the good Princess de Tarente, who promised me that she would never leave her, but would share her fate.

We went sadly through the Tuileries on our way to the Assembly. MM. de Poix, d'Hervilly, de Fleurieu, de Bachmann, Major of the Suisses, the Duke de Choiseul, my son, and several others followed his Majesty, but they were not allowed to enter. At the door there was a crowd who made us fear momentarily for the lives of the King and Queen. A passage was at length made for them, and they were received at the door by a deputation sent by the Assembly for that purpose. The King crossed the hall accompanied by his Ministers, and placed himself by the side of the President; the Queen, with her children and suite, stood opposite. "I am come, gentlemen," said the King," to avoid a serious attack, thinking that I cannot be in greater security than in your midst." Vergniaud, who was presiding, replied, "You may rely, Sire, on the firmness of the National Assembly; its members have sworn to die in the maintenance of the rights of the constituted authorities."

....The concert of... seditious voices, joined with the noise of cannon and musketry, gave us all a fright. Each discharge of cannon made us tremble; the hearts of the King and Queen were lacerated; and we were plunged in profound sorrow as we thought of the fate that was, perhaps at that very moment, befalling those we had left in the Tuileries. The poor little Dauphin cried, thought of those whom he loved and had left behind in the Castle [Tuileries], threw himself in my arms, and kissed me. Several deputies noticed this, and the Queen said to them, "My son is tenderly attached to the daughter of his governess, who has remained in the Tuileries ; he shares the anxiety of her mother, and that which we too feel as to the fate of those whom we have left there." In spite of their ferocity, they could not help a feeling of compassion and pity as they looked at that lovable child, who, at so tender an age, was beginning already to feel the misfortunes in store for him.....

Several faithful servants of the King, having found means to gain access to the Assembly, went to the King in the reporters' gallery, and gave his Majesty an account of what was going on at the Tuileries. They told us that the women had got away without any accident, and my son assured me that Pauline was in safety. This certainty and his presence were a great consolation to my heart, although it was still deeply grieved by the fate of the many brave fellows who were devoted to the King and the royal family. Mgr. the Dauphin was charming on this occasion on account of the sympathy with which he displayed his satisfaction at knowing that his dear Pauline was out of danger. These gentlemen told us that the Suisses had got the upper hand for a moment, but as they were unsupported, and the crowd increased every moment, they had been compelled to retire; that a great number of them were killed, and that the general fury had extended to the attendants of private individuals, of whom several, and especially mine, had perished; and that it was impossible to help feeling that there would be many more victims, so great was the rage which animated the mob, who were by this time masters of the Castle....

While the Assembly was passing decree after decree, the Tuileries were given over to pillage. To the Assembly were brought the gold, the jewels found in the apartments of the Queen, and various other objects which were offered for its acceptance. A trunk full of assignats and a packet of letters were also brought there. The latter were sent to the Vigilance Committee, and many others to the Commune ; for when we were taken to the Hotel de Ville on our way to La Force, we saw a heap of letters in Tallien's office. The various effects were also taken to the Commune, and the assignats were deposited in the Archives. It is a remarkable fact that this army of bandits refrained from robbery in the Tuileries, and pitilessly put to death all persons surprised in the act of appropriating anything belonging to the Castle. The sole exceptions were in the cases of wines and liqueurs, of which not a single bottle was left. It smashed, broke, and scattered everything about, and there was an enormous amount of destruction which profited nobody.

Every inhabitant of the Tuileries lost everything he possessed; but the greater part of our effects were stolen by the Commissioners stationed in the Castle for the ostensible purpose of protecting them. These men and their associates made no scruple of appropriating anything they took a fancy to. Some linen and wearing apparel were eventually restored to us, but nothing of any intrinsic value.

All the people who brought offerings which they had looted from the Tuileries joined with them the most vulgar abuse of the King and Queen, and as they looked at them, it was easy to see how glad they were to be able to insult them at will. Such baseness was too far beneath their Majesties to make any great impression upon them; but what did touch them nearly, and broke their hearts with grief, was the sight of their most faithful servants at the bar of the House, for they had but too clear an idea of the fate that awaited them at the hands of these maniacs....

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3 comments:

Matterhorn said...

So horrible, tragic. But it needs to be remembered.

Julygirl said...

I read a note under a "What Happened on this day" column in my local paper that this was the anniversary of the 1792 event, and that in January, about 5 months later, Louis was guillotined.

lara77 said...

Fanatics and blood thirsty lunatics. These people who threatened the lives of the Royal Family did not want compromise; they wanted blood. The violence and savagery that began at the Tuileries Palace would reverberate down through the centuries of France's long bloody history.