The French National Guard (called la Garde nationale by the French) was a militia that existed from 1789 until 1872 and was separate from the French Army. It favored the middle class and served both as a military and policing force. According to one newspaper, a French politician and diplomat, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, better known simply as Talleyrand, often told a story about how the National Guard originated.Share
According to Talleyrand, he and Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, a French Roman Catholic abbé, clergyman, and political writer, were walking through the gardens of Tuilieres prior to the French Revolution breaking out. Opposite the gate at the place de Louis XV (later the place de la Révolution and later renamed place de la Concorde), a little beggar girl, leading an old woman on crutches, approached Sieyès and solicited alms from him. He presented her with a sou, which in her zeal to seize, she dropped.
The coin rolled under a hoof of the charger mounted by a garde du corps (bodyguard for the King) who was on duty at the gate. The girl reached to retrieve the coin, but each time she stooped, “almost at the risk of her life, the soldier apparently glad to divert the ennui of sentry by an event of this kind, spurred the animal to one side.” To avoid being stepped on she was compelled to withdraw. The danger, however, did not stop her from attempting to retrieve the coin, and each time the animal stood still, she tried again without success. (Read more.)