Pius VI


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Can America find a solution to French financial crisis?

There was  no other option: Necker did not hesitate to set up a dinner at his residence with Morris, a businessman and one of George Washington’s friends. He wants to open negotiations on the 24 million francs that are owed to France by America. France’s finance minister and Montmorin, its foreign minister, wanted the talks to be held in secret. This is because the foreign bankers, heavily involved in efforts to get the debt repaid, are already concerned about the political situation in France.They must not be upset further  by stormy debates at the Assembly. Morris has, however, refused to commit himself to a 10 million franc annual repayment over three years. He may be able to get 300,000 francs a month as from January, but this will not settle the deficit in the kingdom’s budget. The two loans issued in August have not been covered and the deputies , who in June gave the nation’s guarantee are unlikely to declare France bankrupt.

Paris 27 October 1789.


The Clergy’s property is nationalised.

Paris 2 November 1789

If there is to be a solution to the financial crisis, this is probably it: the clergy’s property has been put “ a the nations disposal”. The state will from now on be responsible for the

payment of priests and supporting religious establishments. The deputies have finally approved a proposal made on October 10th, by Tallyrand. The Bishop of Autun, as its former manager   is fully aware that the church’s landed property is worth nearly two billion livres. The sale of the land would increase the number of landowning peasants and repay the public debt. Abbot Maury has indignantly complained about what he sees as a violation  of the right to property as enshrined in the Declaration of human rights.


October 1789 - December 1791

Louis XVI loses control


Polignac causes trouble again.

Paris, 11 Nov. 1789

Kicked out! The King really is a most demanding landlord. When he moved into the Tuileries, he forced all the tenants to leave right away. At the Tuileries, just as at the Louvre, the rooms have been rid of their unwelcome and troublesome guests. The Duchesse de Polignac is an example. She has now sought refuge in Rome, but when she was staying at the Tuileries the good duchess had insisted on repairs and improvements being carried out on “her” rooms. She also demanded that several paintings belonging to the royal collection, be taken down.



King’s brother denies being involved in Favras Plot

Dec. 26 1789

Paris is in turmoil! During the night, posters appeared on walls accusing Monsieur himself, the brother of the King, of having plotted the escape of the royal family and the assassination of La Fayette

and Bailly in order to be named regent of the kingdom. The instigator of the plot, a certain Favras, allegedly a marquis and a former bodyguard of the prince, was arrested last night. To hire the manpower needed for the plan,  Favras had gone to see the banker Chomel to ask for two million francs, but Chomel turned him into the authorities. This morning there were rumours that Monsieur was about to be detained at the Abbaye jail, but unexpectedly Monsieur himself appeared before the Commune.


High price of bread causes new unrest.

Versailles  9 Jan 1790

For the past three days, there has been non-stop angry shouting and stone-throwing. The people of Versailles have been out on the streets to protest against the continuing rise in the price of bread. They are hungry and angry. This morning, they have gathered outside the city hall to demand the fixing of bread prices. Since the court and the deputies have left Versailles, the lackeys, artisans and innkeepers who depended on them for a living, are in trouble. The mayor has promised to issue a decree that will set a fixed price for bread. He also wants to designate officials who will requisition grain to ensure that the markets are well stocked.


The King seeks to fool assembly.

Paris 4 February 1790

“I will maintain constitutional freedom.” The King has spoken on Necker’s advice. Speaking to parliament, Louis XVI is trying to pass himself off as a leader of the revolution . The aristocrats present are amazed. Their surprise has helped to convince many of the king’s sincerity, but Lamath is not the only deputy who is suspicious. Haven’t some people been saying that the royal couple have been corresponding with Breteuil? He has emigrated to Brussels and is acting as a go-between for

foreign courts. Breteuil, who is the former head of the “combat” ministry set up in July after Necker’s dismissal, is the embodiment of the counter-revolution.


Boos greet demand by Robespierre

Paris 25 January 1790


There has been uproar at the Assembly. Standing at the rostrum, Robespierre has demanded that the “silver marc” decree be abolished. This law means that only the rich are allowed to vote. The lawyer from Arras ended his speech amid a storm of insults and booing. The great majority of deputies have rejected universal suffrage and refused to be moved by Robespierre’s calls in favour

of “The defence of the interests of the people”, but he knows that the people of the districts of Paris support him. His fellow deputies have not dared to reject his motion outright.


Freedom has not yet come for slaves

Assembly votes for slavery

Paris 8 March 1790

The main demand made by the white colonial settlers has just been met. The decree that was approved today by the deputies has everything to please them: they are granted the right to hold colonial assemblies; but this crucial vote goes even further. It recognises the existence of slavery in the colonies. The fact that the text was approved without a debate shows that the assembly is unanimous on the issue. The “Friends of the Black Man”, who until recently were in favour of “Blacks” emancipation, have gradually toned down their position


Ancien Regime’s abuses are over

Paris 21 March 1790

The Ancien Regime is well and truly dead! The three decrees that have just been approved by the Assembly mark the old system’s end. Today, the abolition of the salt tax marked the end of an outdated system that cut the  country up into as many regions as there were different tax rates on salt. This decree comes after the one approved on March 16, which destroyed a symbol of the arbitrary exercise of royal power: sealed royal orders. On March 15, the deputies also ruled for the equality of death duties. The “privilege of masculinity” and the law of primogeniture, upon which depends the death duties of nobles and of the commoners of Normandy and the Bearn, have been abolished.

A protestant is to head the Assembly

Danton clashes with the court

Robespierre leads Jacobins


Paris 15 March 1790. It is a great honour for  Jean Paul Rabaut Saint Etienne, a Protestant, to have been chosen to preside over the Assembly. Fourteen months after the Edict of Tolerance  was registered by the

parliament, the choice is a sign of the changing times. According to the rules currently in effect at the Assembly, the deputy from Nimes will only remain in his new post for two weeks, but there have been strong reactions to his nomination. The Catholic Party has done its best to block the election of this minister’s son, though he supports the monarchy.

Paris 19 March 1790. It is a turning point in the battle:  the Cordeliers have scored a point in their clash with the tribunal of the Chatelet. Their special assembly met and agreed on

an extremely violent text rejecting the arrest warrant issued two days ago against Danton. On 22 January, Danton had loudly spoken out on behalf of Marat in violation of the court’s ruling. The text has greatly impressed the other districts seeing it as a symbol of their opposition to City Hall

Paris 31 March 1790. The deputy from Arras has just been elected  the new president of the Jacobins Club. The group used to call itself the Society of the Friends of the Constitution.

It owes its new name to the Jacobin convent on the Rue Saint Honore, which it moved to in late November. The group is a successor to the Breton Club  which had been founded at Versailles shortly before the opening session of the Estates General  by the deputies of the Third Estate from Brittany


The “Red Book’s” secrets are revealed.

Paris 7 April 1790

The mystery has now become a scandal. Since the assembly had given to order on 28 September, everyone had been waiting impatiently for the publication of details of royal pensions, allowances and gifts. Camus, the president of the pensions committee, has been hinting that the that the King had been handing out secret funds that were only recorded in a mysterious account book known as the “Red Book”. Despite efforts undertaken by Necker to stop it becoming public, the document has just been published. It has revealed to careful readers that since the start of his reign the King’s secret expenses have tallied to 228 million francs, but what has really shocked the deputies is that the money was spent using the procedure known as “cash orders”. This means it was impossible to have any control over the money. The King’s favours, which were notably granted to his brothers, are only a tiny part of the 100 million francs given away each year without any form of control.


Massacre of Patriots at Montauban

Montauban 10 May 1790

In the southern provinces of France, known as the Midi, religious fervour and political feuds are turning the Revolution into a war of religion. After Toulouse and Nimes, violence has now come to Montauban. For the first time in this area, blood has been spilt between Catholics and Protestants. Today there was a battle between the patriots of the National Guard and the Catholic supporters of the “aristocratic” town council, who were backed by the army. The clashes left five people dead and 16 others injured. The local National Guard, against which a corps of counter-revolutionary volunteers has been set up, had gone  into a  federation with those of Cahors and Bordeaux and some of the Toulouse guards. Over the past few days there had been a growing number of clashes. This evening as 55 patriots were thrown into jail, many worried Protestants began to flee the town. The defeated National Guards have been called in to help, but may not get to Montabuan in time to avoid a bloodbath.


King and assembly share right to declare war.

Paris 22 May 1790

The deputies are past masters when it comes to a compromise . The text of the law just passed concerning the right of war and peace reads: “War may be declared only by a decree of the legislature after a formal demand by the King .”A compromise between monarch and Assembly; but why? In fact, the two sides have been clashing for over a week to decide who has the right to plunge France into war. The debates have been a tonic to the crowds in the hall of the Manege

So everyone has been able to follow at first hand the personal struggle between Barnave from the  Dauphine and Mirabeau, said to be in the service of the Court.




Hereditary nobility dealt deathblow

Paris 19 June 1790

The former Comte de Mirabeau is seething with rage! Journalists now refer to him by his ordinary family name, Riqueti. The deputies have just passed a bill to do away with hereditary nobility. Titles and family coats of arms can no longer be handed down from father to son.. This is the death blow to a once privileged class., but certain nobles have

actually been in favour of this measure such as la Fayette or the Vicomte de Noaillies, who exclaimed: “The  only distinction we recognise is that of virtue.



Marie Antoinette meets Mirabeau

St. Cloud 3 July 90

This morning Mirabeau had himself driven to the park of St. Cloud by his nephew disguised as a coachman. He told him to alert the National Guard if he was not back within an hour. He got back in the nick of time, out of breath, but overjoyed at having the pre-arranged meeting with Marie Antoinette. He was thus able to outline to her his plan for the monarchy. “What a great lady! How noble! But how unhappy! But I shall save her. Nothing will stop me. I would rather die!” he stated.


Surrounded by serpents and wolves, the clergy spit out their “anti constitutional venom on abolition of temporal powers

Civil constitution transforms Church of France

Paris 12 Jul 90

From now on priests and bishops are to be elected.! This is one of the measures resulting from the new civil Constitution of the clergy whose terms have finally been passed by the Assembly. By this law, the Church of France is completely reorganised. The electoral body is composed of all active citizens whatever their religion, the one reservation being that they should have been to mass




before voting. On the other hand the Church’s assets are placed at the nation’s disposal and the men of the cloth become civil servants.

Has the Assembly overreached itself in passing these measures? In the face of such measures, all the bishop-deputies in the assembly abstained from voting.


July 4, 1790: France celebrates Federation in Paris

The festival which took place on July 14th, on the Champs de Mars, was the culmination of a movement which sprang up in the provinces

On November 29, 1789, some 12,000 National Guards from the Vivarais and the Dauphine pledged a bond of mutual help and brotherhood.  This idea spread rapidly and it was the men of Brittany who made the proposal of a federation covering the whole of France.

The Assembly adopted the proposition on June 7th. and La Fayette undertook its organisation. It was to be a grandiose demonstration of solidarity based on the achievements of the Revolution, hence the choice of July 14th but it was also to serve to mask the growing differences between nobles and bourgeois, King and Deputies, extremists and moderates. For many , the Revolution was accomplished. The unity between Constitution and monarch was the final proof; but today, enthusiasm prevailed.

Torrential rain poured down all morning, drenching the huge crowd gathered on the Champs de Mars, but it would have needed Noah’s Flood to dampen the enthusiasm of the 300,000 spectators from Paris and all over France. Some were up before 3 a.m. To attend this festival of fraternity, the first since the new era of liberty.

France has never seen such an imposing gathering. The setting for the ceremony had been arranged to suit the occasion. What had simply been a piece of land used for military drill has today been turned into a huge esplanade nearly 1,000 metres long. On either side, banks of earth have been erected to support 30 rows of seats. At the far end, in front of the Military Academy, an enormous grandstand has been erected for the many officials and ambassadors who will attend.


Festivities continue without Royal Family

St. Cloud 18 July 1790

While in a festive Paris people continue to dance and drink to the reconciliation of King and Nation, the royal family have returned with relief to the castle of Saint Cloud where they are spending the summer. Far from Paris, they can rest and forget the anguish of the present, almost believing themselves back in carefree times of the past.

The King has resumed hunting and riding, of which he is passionately fond. His face has become pallid during


A dance arranged on the site of the Bastille

His long stay at the Tuileries, but it has now taken on its former colour and he seems in fine health. As for Marie Antoinette, she is happy to be organising as she did last year, concerts and plays with her best friends.

Pope slams King’s impious reforms

Paris  23 July 1790

Too late! Pope Pius VI’s letter to Louis XVI arrived one day too late and the King cannot go back on his decision. Yesterday, after long hesitation, he finally made up his mind to announce that he would not refuse to sanction the clergy’s civil Constitution. A scrupulous Christian deeply concerned for the salvation of his soul, he came to this decision only after consultation with the two most brilliant bishops at his service. Now scarcely 24 hours after this difficult decision, the Pope;s letter dated July 10 has been a big shock.


The capital’s snare traps girls from the provinces.

Paris 14 August 1790

In the big city, Agathe Viton will only see the dim lights of a drawing room. This young orphan from the provinces has not found the job of housemaid she was looking for. Marguerite Cousin who took her in at her boarding house soon found her a job. She must attend to every whim of the gentlemen waiting for her on the other side of the door. After all, why not? Her landlady has promised to feed and cloth her. So Agathe too will live in the sordid world of the “bawds”. These Brothel-keepers lure girls newly arrived in Paris with the promise of a job washing or mending clothes. In spite of a recent law against such activities, the police can do nothing.

The shop Trait Galant has become a meeting place for prostitutes. Even the garden of the Tuileries with its strolling, lightly-clad girls has become an open-air brothel.


Don’t shoot cries Lt. Desilles, falling to a hail of gunfire

Sanctions for Swiss at Chateauvieux

Nancy 31 Aug 90

The Marquis de Bouille, La Fayette’s cousin, has carried out the National Assembly’s orders to the hilt.

There are more than 300 dead bodies to prove it: the Swiss regiment at Chateauvieux has been brought to heel, as he intended. From August 16th, the Assembly, informed of the confiscation of the of the regimental funds by the soldiers in the garrison at Nancy, decided to restore discipline. A week later the Marquis de Malseigne was on the scene. Although officially charged with settling the dispute between the officers and troops, the Marquis quickly realised that there was practically no possibility of coming to an agreement with the soldiers. The mutineers refused to obey orders to leave town and even took Malseigne hostage. The Constituent Assembly then sent the Marquis de Bouille, who set off immediately. Refusing to negotiate with the mutineers Bouille called upon each regiment to nominate a certain number of soldiers to be hanged as an example. Two regiments complied The Swiss refused to pay such a price and brought about the “bloody end” to the “affair at Nancy. A shot fired from no-one knows where started the massacre. 33 Swiss were put to death and 41 condemned to penal servitude.


Sailors at Brest mutiny following Tulon example

Brest 17 September 1790

Ten months after the mutiny in Tulon, the port of Brest is seething with unrest.

On board the ships, the crews of the Patriote and the Leopard have rebelled against their officers. On shore too, passions are roused and the gallows erected by the crowd in front of the house of the assistant admiral superintendent, Monsieur de Marigny, bears witness to a climate of insurrection. Revolt is everywhere. Deliberately fomented by members of the Society of Friends of the Constitution, defiance of the officers has become widespread. It only needs the Revolutionary Club to take up the cudgels for the Swiss condemned to penal servitude at Nancy to  plunge everything into disorder.


Necker quits Paris, his career finished

21 Sept. 1790

Neither satire nor eulogy. Not one word. What a sorry departure for this man who was everybody’s hero only 15 months ago! Necker and his wife left Paris on 18 September, in an atmosphere of general indifference. Abandoned roads full of pot-holes, ruts which bogged down and delayed their vehicle... They were spared nothing. Even though he had a passport from

the King and another delivered by the Municipality of Paris, the former finance minister was right to be worried about the welcome awaiting him en route. At Arcis sur Aube, the crowd blocked his passage demanding his immediate arrest.


Royal Family

Louis XVI thinks about leaving Paris.

22 Oct. 90

The King is tired of the situation. He feels humiliated by his stay at the Tuileries , which was forced upon him by the Assembly. He also believes that he was forced to give his approval to the decree on the clergy’s civil Constitution. The only remaining  option seems to be escape. The King is convinced that, if he succeeds in fleeing from Paris, he will be able to recover his sovereignty. He is also certain that the army will obey him and that his people will once again support him. Writing to Bouille, his commander of forces in the east  this officer has prepared a plan that is supported by the Queen

The plan would be overseen by Fersen while Breteuil would negotiate with the Emperor of  Austria to get him to intervene militarily in favour of his brother-in-law

Tricolour is chosen for new French flag.

Paris 21 October 1790

The royal fleur-de-lis is no longer in season! A few months after the fall of the Bastille, La Fayette offered the King the famous red, white and blue cockade. Since then, the tricolour emblem has been worn as a victory sign and has become a symbol of the Revolution. France’s national flag is also to be tri-coloured


Smokers must pay the price for pleasure.

Paris, 13 Nov. 1790

It would be highly unfair to force those who “take no pleasure from the habit”to carry the burden of 30 million livres in indirect taxes that tobacco raises each year for the state.

This is the argument that has been put forward by the Abbot Maury, against the advice of his colleagues who want the tax to be abolished. He states that the high price of tobacco helps stop women and children from becoming addicted to the harmful and unhealthy substance.

Breteuil entrusted with a secret mission

26 Nov. 1790

Louis XVI has placed his fate in the hands of his former minister. He is now thinking of leaving Paris to place himself under the protection  of the Austrians. He is in a hurry to flee because the religious crisis is getting worse daily. The King therefore has just written to Breteuil to ask him to open negotiations with foreign courts. The former diplomat, who sought refuge in Switzerland  in July 1789, after the fall of his counter-revolutionary government,

has been granted wide powers for his secret mission. “I have chosen to entrust you with the interests of my crown. I approve all that you may do to achieve the goal I have set: the restoration of my legitimate authority and my peoples happiness”, the King states in his letter. He is convinced he can legitimately resort to using foreign armies.


Fredrick /William II


La Fayette


of the  National


Louis XVI appeals to King of Prussia

3 Nov. 1790

Louis XVI has called for help from all the courts of Europe in a desperate bid to save the French monarchy. The King has secretly asked for assistance from Frederick William II  of Prussia, begging him to try to set up a “European congress backed by armed forces”.

What exactly does this mean? Does Louis XVI really want France to be attacked by foreign troops? Does he find an invasion preferable to the revolution? The answer is no.

The King will not hear of direct intervention. His moderation has, in fact, saddened the exiled nobles in Turin, who are busily working for a general uprising and trying to persuade foreign monarchs to go to war with France. The King simply wants a foreign coalition to be set up which would be sufficiently threatening to intimidate his subjects and force them to restore the monarchy.

“Bourgeois” National Guard  criticised

Paris 6 Dec. 1790

There was an unruly meeting a the Jacobins Club this evening. Robespierre spoke and strongly criticised the decree on the reform on the recruitment system used for the ‘National Guard.  Only active citizens, that is, those who pay taxes, therefore the richest, will in future be allowed to join. By abolishing its popular nature, the deputies seem to have wanted to set up a bourgeois guard corps, basically designed to protect people and property from angry crowds. They are in fact afraid to allow  the people to have weapons, though it was the  people’s guard


Marriage for love more popular

December 1790

Happiness seems to go hand in hand with the changes in society that have been brought about by the revolution.

Until now marriages such as the ones recently contracted by the Comte de Antraigues were nearly always more a question of interest than of sentiments. Money, inheritance or just survival on a day to day basis were considered far more important than love.  By marrying his beloved Lucille despite all the obstacles,


Lucille Duplessis

Camile Desmoulins has helped to show that in a more egalitarian society the wishes of the heart weigh more heavily . Since last year, there has been an extraordinary boom in the number of marriages. This can in part be attributed to the great changes that have been going on in the population of the country’s major towns. But what about divorce? In a society based on freedom, why shouldn’t divorce become a new option?


Near Notre Dame Bridge 1791

Huge population influx boosts poverty

Paris January 1791

With its 600,000 inhabitants, Paris is by far the largest city in France and can only be compared to London. The kingdom’s second largest city, Lyons, only numbers just under 150,000, while there are 85,000 people in Marseilles, Bordeaux, Rouen and  Lille. Moreover, the capital’s















population  is constantly growing. There are now some 20,000 christenings a year in Paris, a third of these being abandoned children. The number of deaths is slightly lower than this; but the difference in the total numbers of births and deaths is not enough to explain the city’s dynamic demography.





Inoculations used to combat smallpox.

France January 1791

Smallpox is a truly democratic disease. It has no respect for social standing and can strike kings or peasants, in castles or hovels. Some die from it, while others are disfigured for life. Some victims of this terribly contagious disease are left permanently blind.

Nowadays, deaths from smallpox are estimated at between fifty and eighty thousand in France each year. The disease had originally been brought to Europe by the Saracens in the sixth century. The country’s medical profession is more or less powerless and can do little to cure the open sores or ease the patients suffering.

A technique originating in Turkey and arrived in France via England, involves injecting pus taken from a smallpox sufferer into the arm of of the person who is to be protected. The procedure is being used mainly to protect children.


Food for the rich, food for the poor

Louvenciennes 15 February 1791

France is a place where people eat well, and it is relatively easy to find good food.: but if one is hungry, it is better to have plenty of money at hand. A simple meal consisting of noodle soup and a piece of lamb costs 16 sols.  Far more refined dishes can be found in city restaurants, which for more than a respectable price, serve oysters, meat and fruit pies and roasts.


Royal aunts harassed

During attempt to flee

Arnay du Lac 21 Feb.. 1791

The municipal officials who this morning carefully checked the passports of Mesdames at the gates of the village of Arnay du Lac were firm. Before allowing the King’s aunts  to continue their journey, they wanted

instructions from the Assembly. Ever since Mesdames had left their castle at Bellevue the day before yesterday, they had been living in fear. Yesterday, their carriage was stopped at Moret and it was only thanks to the intervention of a military unit that they were able to proceed. They were anxious to seek refuge abroad but gave as their excuse for leaving - to spend Easter in Rome, but this was treated with suspicion. They had hardly left their castle than it was broken into and looted.

Mesdames Adelaide and Victoire


King’s brother suspected of escape plan.

Paris 22 Feb. 1791



King’s brother

Monsieur, the King’s brother, has the gift of being able to take advantage of the worst situations. This afternoon, a persistent rumour was heard in Paris; Monsieur was busy packing!

A crowd mostly made up of women went to the Luxembourg  palace to try and find out what was going on. Monsieur, smiling and calm as usual walked down the wide staircase to meet a

delegation of citizens. “Is it true that you are planning to leave the good people who you like so much?” they asked him. “Ladies, he replied,I never had the slightest intention of leaving. You know how much the King respects the Constitution. Well, I respect the King and the Constitution and I will never leave the King”. The people demanded that he accompany them to the Tuileries to repeat his promise, and he agreed willingly enough. Once at the Tuileries the National Guard had to disperse the crowd. It was a big triumph for Monsieur but people still have their doubts.


Prince de Conde & emigres review miniature army

Prince de Conde raises  army

in exile

Worms 23 Feb. 1791

There have been reports that an army of counter-revolutionaries is being formed in Worms.

The Prince de Condé is trying to put together an armed force in a bid to restore the authority of the French monarchy.

Condé who sees himself as the warlord of the emigres, has had an outstanding military career, at least for a prince. His moodiness and mediocre intelligence have, however, not allowed him to make the best of his expertise, but his subordinates like him and he looks after their well-being .b An aristocrat and a fierce defender of his privileges, Conde was one of the very first noblemen to emigrate from France to be in a better position to fight against the revolution.


La Fayette stops riot and royal plot.

Paris 28 February 1791

La Fayette has an extremely busy day: he has hardly finished putting down a people’s uprising at Vincennes when he had to rush back to Paris to disarm counter-revolutionary plotters.


This morning a riot suddenly broke out in the capital’s suburbs. Several hundred members of the National Guard, who were being commanded by Santerre, had gone to the dungeon at Vincennes to destroy the hated fort, which they saw as just as much of a symbol of royal opposition as the Bastille. As soon as he was told about about the march, La  Fayette quickly rounded up a few battalions leapt onto his horse and rushed to Vincennes. On arrival, he ordered his men to charge the rioters, several of whom were arrested. All in all, it was an efficient operation.






Marie Antoinette plots with Emperor

Paris 7 March 1791

Now more than ever the Queen is living up to the name of “the Austrian”, which was given to her by the court. Hoping to put an end to the revolution and to restore absolute monarchy, Marie Antoinette has been corresponding with her brother the Emperor. She has asked him to use his army to threaten France. A letter sent from Brussels by Mercy Argenteau, the former Austrian ambassador to Versailles, has been intercepted and sent to the Assembly. It reveals that Leopold II will only agree to take action against France if the other main European states help him.

He also wants reassurances that there is a strong and influential royalist party in France. Major powers don’t act without getting something for their trouble, so the Emperor wants both Alsace and Lorraine in exchange for  his intervention. The King of Spain wants part of Navarre, and the King of Piedmont wants some land along the Alps. This is enough to annoy Marat, a strong opponent of the “Austrian Group” at court.


Kings unite against the Revolution

Late March 1791.

The spread of the Revolution throughout France is causing serious concern among the crowned heads of Europe. They are forced to take steps to protect their nations. The Austrian Emperor and the King of Prussia have even settled their differences in order to unite against what they call the “revolutionary plague”. As for Gustav III of Sweden, he is dreaming of leading a vast crusade of monarchs to restore Louis XVI’s powers.


Gustav III


Mirabeau dies: poisoning suspected

Paris 2 April 1791

The people have been heartbroken since Mirabeau’s death. On March 28 he made a speech at the Assembly and it was obvious that he was in considerable pain - death was already written on his face. That same evening, exhausted by his efforts, he went to bed, never to get up again. His friend Dr. Cabanis sat with

him during his final hours. When he was delirious,with his eyes fixed on the window..

He died today at 8.30 a.m. As a silent crowd waited by his window. The news of his death at age 43 spread like wildfire throughout the kingdom. People are highly suspicious The possibility that he has been poisoned has not been ruled out.


National Guard prevent Louis XVI trip

Paris 18 April 1791

On this Holy Monday, just as the King and his family were about to leave for Saint Cloud, the National Guardsmen posted at the Tuileries palace refused to let the royal family go. A crowd soon gathered and sided with the resolute guardsmen. There were rumours that Louis XVI wanted to go the St. Cloud to pray alongside non-juring priests. People were also saying  the King would take advantage of his trip to escape.

La Fayette, who rushed to the scene of the trouble, tried in vain to talk some sense to his men. When he was unable to settle the problem, he advised the King to return to his rooms at the Tuileries. “It is up to you Sir, to do what is necessary to enforce your Constitution”.

Louis XVI still plays a double game.

Paris 25 April 1791.

After having told the Assembly how delighted he was to be a constitutional monarch, Louis XVI quickly wrote to Breteuil, his unofficial representative to the major European powers, to tell him to take no account of what he had said. The King and Queen have been doing their best to hide their true feelings by appearing to support the Constitution. The current unrest, in fact, does not displease them. The incident of 18th April has helped their cause at the foreign courts. It has shown that the King of France is no longer free to go where he pleases.


Louis XVI is housed and fed by the state.

Paris 26 May 1791

Louis XVI is going to hand over all the assets of the crown to the nation. This wealth along with that seized from the clergy, will form a public collection that all will soon be able to view. This move is not, however, due to a sudden generous impulse on the part of the King. He was more or less forced to do so by the Assembly. The King is in fact getting rid of all the attributes of his former position in order to become a true constitutional monarch. The state will, in exchange grant him a “civil list”, or pension, of 25 million francs a year. He is also to be provided with a residence worthy of a sovereign, the Tuileries palace. The move just taken by the Assembly confirms that the King is nations chief civil servant, getting a sort of wage.


Louis secretly prepares his escape.

Paris 15 June 1791

Over the past few weeks there have been countless discrete meetings in the Queen’s apartments. The King has been convinced that he has become a prisoner of the nation. He has finally agreed to Marie Antoinette’s wishes: he will leave the capital in secret with his wife, sister,and his children. He plans to seize power in the provinces, where there are still troops that are loyal to him. He will do this without the help of the nobility. The King is certain that once he is free, he will once again find his “good people” and will be able to return to Paris in triumph. “As soon as my backside is back in the saddle...” he keeps repeating. The plan of escape has been drawn up by Bouille, who has insisted that the royal family go to the fortress at Montmedy, near the frontier.


June 20, Midnight: Louis

XVI is ready to flee

The King and Queen went to bed at 11.30 p.m., as the court etiquette requires. The King’s manservant has fallen fast asleep in the antechamber. Total silence reigns in the Tuileries palace. At half past midnight a large, heavy-set man, dressed as a valet, greets a simply dressed woman and the pair

climb aboard a carriage, which immediately sets off for the Saint Martin city gate. They are the King and Queen of France. The carriage’s other passengers are the Dauphin, the King’s daughter, their governess, Madame de Tourzel and Madam Elizabeth, the King’s sister. The coachman is non other than Axel de Fersen, the Queen’s confidant. The fate of the royal family is at stake

The flight has been discussed in royal circles ever since October 1790, but in fact it was the Queen who urged Louis XVI to take action, as the King had once again shown his usual lack of resolve.

Despite all the precautions of extra guardsmen in guarding the exits from the Tuileries and additional watchmen posted around the palace, the unexpected has just happened: the King and his family have managed to get out to the street by using an unguarded exit. The plan had been carefully worked out over several months. Secret passages had been built linking rooms, using two-sided cupboards. The route had been checked a hundred times by Axel de Fersen. Over the past few days, a man about the size of the King had made a point of being seen around the palace, so that no suspicions would be aroused at the critical moment.

Some surprising decisions have been made: the King chose to use a heavy, slow coach in spite of its six horses, in stead of one of the light carriages recommended by Bouille. Also, the bodyguards wore the easily recognised and hated Conde livery. Finally, the crucial passport stated there were five people travelling, although there were six fugitives.


June 21, 1791: The King’s flight

and his arrest at Varennes

All France had learned of the King’s flight by the time the royal family, which was arrested on the night of June 21st. To 22nd., neared  Paris on the evening of June 25th. Louis himself  had said that he had attempted “to get his freedom back and defy the Revolution”.

For two days, the people of Paris  more than others believed that the King had managed to reach the border, but several missed appointments led to the pitiful failure of the escape plan . During these crucial days, the King realised how isolated he had become. The soldiers who were to have escorted him onwards from Somme Vesle showed hostility to their officers. Everywhere town councils reacted firmly. At first fear spread through Paris and the provinces, but this quickly turned into a mobilisation of the people, who are already calling for the King’s deposition. Only a fear of uncontrollable unrest drove the moderates to save the monarchy.

It was 7a.m. Precisely at the Tuileries when the royal manservant Lemoine drew the curtains if the bed to wake up the King. The bed was empty! The alarm was quickly sounded and it was discovered that the entire royal family had disappeared . It was learnt later that the Comte de Provence had also fled. La Fayette was informed as he was wakened by the deputy d’André. Calmly, he gave the order for couriers to setoff on northern and eastern roads to look for the King claiming that he had been kidnapped. Around 9 a.m. The National Assembly held an urgent meeting, fearing that there would be a popular uprising. Some men working on the river docks had shouted treason.

Later La Fayette was insulted as he went to the city hall and accused of having allowed the King to flee to discuss security issues with Bailly the mayor. Panic was in the air. Some checked the sewers and underground passages. Others claimed that noblemen and non-juring priests were gathering and planned to attack Paris.

The Saint Menehould staging post where the royal coach intended to change horses was run by a certain Drouet, who, became suspicious that something was amiss. The clever innkeeper was said to have recognised the disguised King by comparing the royal portrait on a coin.

Drouet’s worst suspicions were confirmed when he met couriers from Paris who told him of the King’s “kidnapping” . He had set off after the convoy, although it was an hour ahead of him. At Clermont, he and his friend were told of the new route taken by the convoy as they were about to take the Metz road. As soon as both men got to Varennes, Drouet rushed to the village prosecutor and had a bridge blocked. It was the only road heading north. Meanwhile the gig and coach had set off again, even though the postillions hired at Clarmont had been unwilling to go further.

As the convoy reached an arcade standing across the main street, it was stopped by the National Guardsmen who had been alerted by alarm bells. The prosecutor, a grocer named Sauce, demanded to check identity papers, then ordered the passengers to go into his shop. Till then,  nobody was aware of the King’s and Queen’s true identities.

Soon after midnight Louis XVI was identified by the judge Destez, who had been to Versailles. All hope seemed to have vanished, but an unexpected opportunity arose when the Duc de Choiseul arrived with his mounted troops. Could he save the King? This was not to be, as Louis refused to resort to force fearing that the Queen and his children could be hurt.


Royal Family return to Paris

Royal Family’s dramatic return to Paris

Varennes-Paris 22-25 June 1791

“They must go! They must go!” screams the crowd gathered by Sauce’s shop. Since the National Guards have arrived from Paris to arrest the King on behalf of the Assembly, there is no longer any question of the royal fugitives being allowed to continue their trip. The people of Varennes feel a

surge of panic at the thought that at any moment Bouille the “butcher of Nancy”, could arrive with his men to help Louis XVI. The King is trying to stall, in the hope that his saviours will come in time to free him. The King, Marie Antoinette and the royal children all need to rest, but the Varennes town officials are as worried as the crowd and want to see the royal party leave as soon as possible.

All of a sudden, Louis XVI opens a window as if he is about to speak to the population, which is worried about possible reprisals. The move is greeted by silence, but the King does not say a word. The shouts start up again and the King closes the window.  It is all over. Louis XVI has given up hope. He and his family will go back to Paris. The Queen, tears flooding down her cheeks, takes her tired children's hands and starts walking down the stairs. Dazzled by the bright light, the King blinks and climbs aboard the coach that the crowd had already hitched up and parked outside the grocer’s store. The carriage sets off, as an escort of peasants armed with rifles, sickles and scythes runs alongside.

Fearing that clashes could break out, the Assembly has ordered the convoy  to drive through the less busy outer streets. At Bondy, then at Pantin, tension is rising. The coach is moving slowly, surrounded by an increasingly threatening mob. Women rush forward to hurl insults at the King and Queen, but when the convoy enters the capital there is an eerie silence. On the walls there are notices saying “Whoever claps the King will be beaten, whoever insults him will be hanged”. A journalist of the Bouche de Fer  says: “Keep your hats on, he is about to stand before his judges.” The crowd have been waiting for hours in driving rain to see the dazed royal party drive by.


Assembly and clubs argue over  King’s fate

Paris 25 June 91

The King’s flight has caused consternation among the deputies, particularly as it came at a time when most of them thought that the worst of the Revolution was behind them. Their masterpiece, the Constitution, that they have nearly finished drafting, has been endangered by a sovereign whose trickery seems obvious now that the document he left behind has now been discovered. Many members of the Constituent Assembly , who are opposed to a return of the Ancien Regime  while being deeply hostile to the establishment of a republic, are supporting  the unlikely theory of the King’s “kidnapping”, so they have simply temporarily suspended Louis XVI’s powers, hoping that he will easily exonerate himself before a pro-monarchy committee.

Led by Robespierre, the deputies of the left are not prepared to support such a transparent move. At the Jacobin’s club the deputy from Arras has clearly stated his desire to set up a true democracy,


Philippe d’Orleans refuses the Regency.

Paris 26 June 1791

A totally unexpected event has just rocked political circles. In a statement that he has just had published by the newspapers, Philippe d’Orleans has solemnly refused  the Regency. Future prospect for the King’s cousin had looked good. The escape of Louis XVI had given him high hopes. According to the Constitution, the Duc d’Orleans was, in the absence of the King’s brothers, a potential regent. He had been triumphantly received at the Jacobin’s club on June 24th, and had been dubbed “the first Frenchman”. When the King returned to Paris, both Danton and Laclos had urged

him to demand the Regency, while Louis XVII was under age. There was nothing to stop him, but nobody had taken his weakness and lack of true ambition into account.


Monsieur manages to flee and becomes leader of the emigres.

Brussels 29 June 1791

On the same day that Louis was arrested at Varennes, his brother, the Comte de Provence, was able to cross the border into the Austrian Netherlands. He had also left Paris secretly on the evening of June 25  and was luckier than his elder brother. Monsieur now has settled in Brussels, where he has been joined by the Comte d’Artois. The latter is, however, more popular among the emigre community than the Comte de Provence and this could have harmed his brother’s position. Monsieur is seen as too liberal by many emigres. To solve this problem, Monsieur had the idea of making a speech to exiled French noblemen in which he lavished praise on the Comte d’Artois  


Republicans massacred  on the

Champs de Mars

Paris 17 July 91

Nothing will ever be the same again: a lot of blood was spilled today. The deputies, who feared a riot, had ordered the National Guard to keep public order.

The people of Paris had been called out to the Champs de Mars to sign petitions drafted by the Jacobins and the Cordeliers, which demanded the deposition of Louis XVI . The dramatic events began unfolding early in the morning . Two men were found hiding under the alter erected in honour of the Nation, upon which the petitions had been placed.  The restless crowd immediately grabbed them and cut their throats, claiming that they were royalist agents.  News of the murders stunned the Assembly. Its speaker, Charles de Lameth, immediately sent a message to the city council demanding action. The deputes issued a decree stating that the petitioners were all criminals guilty of “insult to the Nation”.  Robespierre who wanted to stay within the law, sent Santerre to withdraw the Jacobins petition. This however left the Cordeliers petition, which large numbers of Parisians were about to sign. La Fayette and his men were just arriving on the Champs de Mars when a gunshot was fired at them. The commander of the National Guard remained calm and did not give the troops the order to retaliate, but as soon as they were told of the incident the deputies panicked and demanded that the city hall do something. Troops poured into the Champs de Mars from all sides shoving aside the men, women and children who had come to sign petitions. Suddenly another gunshot rang out. That provoked the troops into charging the crowd. When the smoke cleared, several dozen bodies were found.

King suspended from office until he ratifies the Constitution.

Paris 16 July 1791

The Assembly has just shown the people that it can act firmly, but the decision it has just approved is only superficially sever. Acting on a proposal by Demeunier, the deputies have decided that the King’s powers will be suspended until the drafting of the Constitution is completed and he has agreed to ratify it.  The decision means the King no longer has any say in legislative matters, but it also has no effect on the monarchy’s authority as  it is only a provisional measure.It is essentially aimed at calming the anger aroused among the people by yesterday’s decree on royal inviolability.


France finally has a Constitution

Paris 3 Sept. 1791

The kingdom of France now has its first Constitution. The long awaited document has finally been approved by the deputies.

Every single law voted into force since 1789 is either explicitly included in the crucial text or at least summed up in it. It sets out the way the nation’s powers are organised. First there is royal power. It has been reduced to its#simplest form: the only means of action left to the King is the right of a three year suspensive veto over decrees issued by the Assembly. The monarch is now just the country’s first public servant.

Even the right to declare war and to conclude international treaties  now belongs, in the last resort, to the deputies. These are the representatives of the nation, although significantly they are only elected by some of the citizens.

Louis XVI to have a constitutional guard corps.

Paris 3 Sept. 1791

It seems that the King’s failed escape attempt has not caused irreparable damage to his prestige. Only two months after the King’s return from Varennes, the Assembly has decided to reorganise the royal household’s military corps.  Louis XVI’s 1124 personal bodyguards had been dismissed in June 25th., and the Assembly has just assigned him a personal guard unit made up of 1,200 infantrymen and 600 cavalrymen . The chief task of the “constitutional guard” is to ensure the King’s security both inside and outside the palace. The moderate majority at the Assembly has been aligning itself with the King, due to its fear of republicans.


Louis swears allegiance

Louis swears allegiance to the Constitution

Paris 14 September 1791

No royal throne had been set up for Louis XVI at the Assembly. The King walked forward slowly past the deputies, who were standing bare headed, until he reached an ordinary chair. As he was about to start saying the oath of allegiance to the Constitution,

Everybody sat down. Slightly bemused, the King sat down as well, although he seemed to have been deeply humiliated by the deputies lack of respect. Loud cheering and cries of “Long Live the King” did not help much. Louis XVI is past caring! Many a deputy is wondering whether the King is really sincere, if he really accepts the principle of the nation’s sovereignty which is embodied in the Constitution. He is said to be horrified by the text.

Is the French Revolution over?

Paris 1 October 1791.

With a feeling of job well done, the members of the Constituent Assembly wound up their work yesterday; but have they really succeeded in consolidating what was achieved by the revolution? Does the fact that France now has a Constitution mean that political unrest will come to an end?The few who believe this have conveniently forgotten all about the rage of the non-juring priests in the west of the country. Neither are they aware of the fact that, on the very evening they were swearing allegiance to the Constitution, the King was writing to foreign leaders saying that he did not feel bound by the text. The revolution is still being threatened from nearly every side.


King makes inaugural speech to new Assembly.

Paris 7 Oct. 1791

Could the new deputies be more royalist than the King himself? Louis XVI was certainly happy that the new Assembly dropped its decree of October 5th, which ruled that there would be no throne in the chamber, that the term “Majesty” would no longer be used, and that deputies could sit down and put their hats back on as soon as the King entered. the deputies felt that they should show some respect to to their sovereign. “Sire, we need to be loved by you,” the moderate speaker of the Assembly, Pastoret, told the King on behalf of his colleagues. In his inaugural speech, Louis XVI told the assembled deputies that it was time to get to work. The Revolution is over, he said. Now that the country had a Constitution it needed legislation. The King then outlined the major areas where action was needed, finance, justice, education, trade and industry.


Faced with Mr. Veto the peoples only option was Force

on a text of which he does not approve. Therefore, he has just vetoed the decrees of October 31st and November 9th. That ordered the emigres, and specially his own brother, to come back to France. He refuses to sanction laws which, once they have been voted on by the Legislative Assembly, can only come into force when they have been signed by the King, as is stipulated by the Constitution. The King has therefore chosen to make use of the few powers he still retains.The monarch’s opposition to the Revolution, which has now become constitutional is plain to see.

Trial of strength starts

between Louis and the


Paris 11 Nov. 91

This time, they have gone too far! The King has forced himself to swear on oath of allegiance to the Constitution that meant nothing to him, but he absolutely refuses to place his signature


New actor appears on the scene: the “Sansculottist”


“They are just sans-culottes” or men without breeches, the aristocrats sneer at the extreme republicans. “Yes, we are the sans culottes,” the patriots retort proudly. Gone are the golden breeches and the silk stockings. No more perfume or fancy clothes. The friends of the Revolution now wear simple breeches held up by braces, a short jacket known as the carmagnole, an scarf around the neck, a Phrygian or liberty cap and always carry a  long pike. Their clothes have become symbolic of the new order. Their simplicity echoes

the principle of equality. The Sansculottist does not use the term Monsieur” but that of “citizen”. The traditional formal forms of polite address are abandoned and the novel habit spreads quickly among the people. The Sansculottists are basically people of the street.


Must there really be a war?

Paris 12 December 1791

Robspierre and his followers want to avoid a conflict at all costs.They firmly believe that a war would endanger the Revolution’s success. If there is a victory, the King will once again have an obedient army and will recover his prestige and power. If there is a defeat, it will spell the end for revolutionary aspirations and the monarchy would be restored anyway. Robespierre is convinced that it would be ridiculous to try to attack the European sovereigns while the war against the enemies of the Revolution at home is not over. Not being a deputy, the former lawyer from Arras can only express his views from the podium of his club. That is where those who oppose him within his own camp, who are grouped around Brissot, argue against him. The Jacobins of Paris are split over the war issue. But most of the affiliated clubs and provincial societies are backing Robespierre’s pacifist theories.


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Mirabeau dies

End for symbols of nobility