“You no longer mean anything to this Constitution that you have so unjustly violated, nor to the people you have betrayed in such a cowardly fashion”.

With that terrible charge against Louis XVI, Vergniaud ended his speech to the Assembly today. His eloquence was such that the deputies stood to cheer him warmly. This Girondist deputy has just clearly raised the issue of the monarch’s


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January 1792 - January 1793

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette  - The Denouement


The “stay-behind” aristocrats are Robespierre’s real enemies

Paris, 11 January 1792


This evening, at the Jacobins Club, Robespierre made up his mind to oppose Brissot firmly. Once again, he has attacked him over the issue of war. This morning the Minister of War, Narbonne submitted an extremely optimistic report on the military situation to the Assembly. The speech enraged Robespierre, particularly when the minister said:”When the national will is strong as it is in France, nobody can stand in its way.”. In other words, that meant that a conflict between the European powers and revolutionary France was now inevitable. Robespierre believes, however, that the true enemies of the Revolution are inside France rather than abroad. It is vital to quash quickly and efficiently the many

Cowardly Jacobins listen to Linotte announce war


royalist plots that are being hatched, he believes, at the Feuillants, at the court and among the people close to La Fayette and Narbonne. The Girondist Party, and Brissot in particular, are in a sense indirectly aiding these plots by pushing for war abroad. Given all this, it would be madness to entrust the conduct of a war to a government that is prepared to betray the nation and that should not be trusted.




Fersen’s secret advice to the Queen

14 Feb 92




Fersen is prepared to risk his life for Marie Antoinette. Although there is an arrest warrant out for him, he arrived in Paris yesterday with false identity papers. This morning he discretely entered the Tuileries, resolved to convince the Queen  and above all, Louis XVI that their salvation rests with his plan. The Swede urges the royal couple to escape, as they did last June but this

Time by faking their own kidnapping in order to try to start a war between France and the European powers. He believes this is the only way to save the monarchy. He knows the Queen is wrong to rely on the peace-loving Leopold to declare war. The King is backing away from his brother’s ideas, which are dreams of a restoration of absolutism. Due to his indecisiveness he has rejected Fersen’s plans.


Leopold II

Leopold II dead.

8 Mar. 92

The news has just been brought all the way from Strasbourg by special courier, the emperor of Austria, Leopold II died suddenly on March 1 in unclear circumstances. He will be succeeded by his son Francis II; but the new ruler has not inherited his fathers caution and pacifism.


The Girondists

The Girondists join the government

Paris 23 Mar. 92





This time the Girondists have done it. When the last Girondist minister was appointed, Brissot had pulled off a master stroke; he had led the party to power. On March 10th he had made a  crucial speech

backed by Vergniaud. With proof in hand , Brissot accused the Minister of Foreign Affairs, de Lessart, of treason. By denouncing the tacit peace agreement fostered  by de Lessart between Vienna and the Tuileries, Brissot was also criticising the Queen, who's approval was needed for any accord with Austria. Once de Lessart had been ousted, the entire government was forced to resign


Louis XVI discusses the guillotine

Paris 20 Mar. 1792

This evening at the King’s residence the talk was of medical and technical

matters: the guillotine was being discussed. Earlier at the Legislative Assembly, the debate was focused on a “Detailed

memorandum on the separation method” which had been drafted by Doctor Antonine Louis, a senior official of the Academy of Surgery. Since the proposals made by Guillotine in 1789 the Assembly had shown great reluctance to discuss such a grim issue, but now it must decide in what way “any person sentenced to death will have his head cut off”. Louis helped the debate by calmly giving his medical opinion. He simply explained why he sees the guillotine as the most suitable instrument of “separation”. Its angled blade “penetrates the neck along the side and exerts an oblique slicing action that surely works efficiently”.


Gustav III

Louis XVI and the Queen lose a useful ally, the King of Sweden.

Paris 15 April 1792

Louis XVI and his wife have received some bad news at the Tuileries: Gustav III of Sweden is dead. The news came in the night by a courier. The Swedish king had been attacked on ‘March 16th by a nobleman, Ankaestrom. He finally died on March 29th. In the letter he sent today to Marie Antoinette, Fersen was unable to hide his concern. “With his death, you

lose a strong supporter and a good ally, while I lose a protector and a friend”. The King of Sweden was one of the firmest backers of the restoration of absolute monarchy in France and a loyal supporter of French emigres. This tough but enlightened despot had planned to launch a naval operation against France, along with Prussia, now dropped by Gustav IV.


Louis XVI declares war on Austria

Paris 20 April 1792

An overwhelming majority of deputies has decided to declare war on Austria.   Louis XVI had himself told the Assembly that all French citizens “prefer war to seeing the dignity of the people of France being trampled and its security

threatened”. The king on the urging of Dumouriez, who wants to fight against the Emperor in order to negotiate with Prussia, has now decided to attack his own nephew, Francis II, thus violating the alliance that has linked France and Austria since 1756.  It was easy to find an excuse for war.

Louis before the Assembly


The guillotine cuts off its first head.

Paris 25 April 1792

The condemned man placed his head between the upright runners down which flashed the weighted blade, neatly chopping off his head. The “separation “ of the highwayman Jaques Pelletier was carried out without a hitch, like the tests performed on 15 bodies provided by Bicetre hospital. The authorities did not know how the large crowd that had come to watch the execution on the Place de Greve would react. La Fayette was therefore asked to make sure no damage was done to the expensive machine.



“L’Ami du Peuple”, is banned again.

Paris 3 May 1792

The Girondists are starting to lose patience with the Cordeliers. In an unusually violent speech to the Assembly, Lasource has just lashed out at Marat. He called for legal action to be taken against the newspaperman who has dared to mock the government in “L’ami du Peuple” which was allowed to resume publication on April 15th.  The government had claimed

that the war would allow it to crush all the counter-revolutionaries still within France. The early military defeats had proved it wrong. The governments embarrassment has fuelled Marat’s attacks on it. Since Dillon was killed by his troops, Marat had slammed “traitorous” generals and urged soldiers to mutiny.


Funeral pomp in honour of the mayor of Etamps.

The Feuillants turn Simonneau into a martyr of liberty.

Paris 3 June 1792

The Jacobins have their own martyrs: the Swiss of Chateauvieux. The Feuillants are now also to have theirs: Simonneau, the mayor who was assassinated during a riot on March 3rd. A monument is to be erected in his honour on the Champs de Mars. The procession that has been organised for him by the deputy Quartremere de Quincy is very reminiscent of the feast held by the Jacobins six weeks ago.   Again there are many things to remind the spectator of the dead hero. Simonneau’s sash, wrapped in black, and a bust of him have been placed before the grieving family. Young women dressed in white and wearing crowns of oak leaves, who march behind Olympe de Gouges, are like the ones who took part in the patriot procession. Right at the rear of the procession there is a huge and somewhat threatening statue of the Law bearing the inscription “Liberty, Equality, Property”.


The King calls the Feuillants to power.

Paris 15 June 1792

The hesitant policies practised by the Girondists were their undoing. Louis XVI got rid of them at the first opportunity. Today, Dumouriez was the last of Brissot’s men to leave government. It All began with the letter sent by Roland to the King, on June 11th. It was a veritable republican manifesto demanding that the sovereign renounce his veto powers. Louis XVI had opposed the decree of May 27th, ordering the deportation of the non-juring priests, and that of June 8th proposed by the Minister of War, Servan, on the creation outside Paris of a military camp for 20,000 Federates.On the 12th, the King dismisses Roland, Claviere, Servan.


The gates of the Tuileries palace have broken

A mob from the suburbs overruns the Tuileries.

20 June 1792

The Assembly was right to be wary. Today marks the anniversary of the oath taken at the Jeu de Paume. It is also the anniversary of the King’s flight to Varennes. As if that were not enough, the population has been further stirred up by Louis XVI’s veto on the latest decrees approved by the deputies. For the past few days, wild rumours have been circulating;  people were saying that a plot

Was being hatched at the Tuileries and that the King’s guards wanted to murder patriots.

Woken abruptly this morning at 9 o clock, Terrier, the Minister of the Interior, asked the authorities to “order the troops to march to defend the palace”, but all that was done was to shut the main gates. By 10a.m. A  large crowd was already gathering, although it was so far only asking to march past the Manege Hall. People were calling for caution:”The blood of patriots must not flow to satisfy the pride and the ambition of the perfidious palace of the Tuileries.. But suddenly in the early afternoon, citizens begin to arrive from all the sectors, along with units of the National Guard armed with pikes, sabres and sticks, some 20,000 of them, led by Santerre and Saint Hugue. They wave threatening banners proclaiming “Liberty or Death”. The mob then goes into the Manege and passes through the Feuillants Alley to pour into the Tuileries. That is when some panicking municipal officials rush to the King’s rooms to beg him to open the gates. But it is too late, a roar rises from the gardens, the gates have broken.


The King dons a Red Bonnet, calms rioters

Paris, 20 June 1792

The rioters have succeeded in getting inside the Tuileries. With a loud crash, the palace doors are broken down with axes. The big cannon that the people from the Val de Grace have brought is dragged slowly up to the first floor and its heavy wheels wreck the fine wooden floor. The few National Guards left to defend the palace are powerless to stop the huge tidal wave of people. On the ground floor, groups of men brandishing pikes are noisily milling about, searching

for the Queen’s rooms One of them finds the way and they start to tear doors down. Marie Antoinette is sobbing and frozen with fear.

She rushes off with her children to seek shelter, running down a secret passage linking the King’s rooms to the Dauphin’s. Louis XVI, escorted by grenadiers, reluctantly agrees to appear before his people in the parade chamber. The mob is still ugly, but silent. The King starts speaking in a calm voice, asking what they want and proclaiming his loyalty to the Constitution. He dons the red wool bonnet worn by patriots that is handed to him and even drinks from a proffered bottle of wine. But he will not agree to withdraw his veto. The butcher Legendre then says to him; “You are false-hearted. Take care, the situation is grave and the people are fed up with being your toys”. The King watches as men and women of Paris file past him and snigger or insult him. Meanwhile Marie Antoinette is also being humiliated as she is guarded by Santerre, who points to the Queen as if she was a circus attraction. “This is the Queen, this is the royal Prince !” he tells the mob. .Outside the Prince can see a miniature gallows on which tiny figures of women have been hung “Beware of the gibbet!” say the notes attached. It is all over by 10 o’clock. The mob has left the palace, its gardens and courtyards, leaving piles of broken glass behind.


The provinces are not backing Parisians.

France, late June 92

Could the King’s revenge come from the provinces? From all over France, the Legislative Assembly is receiving protests against the action taken by the people of Paris during the events of June 20. Not only are the supposedly moderate departmental authorities expressing distrust about Paris, but so are the provincial town councils. The bourgeois are frightened. The citizens of le Havre are calling for “revenge upon the scoundrels who have violated the home of the hereditary representative of the nation”.   



The Assembly lashes out against

the King

Paris 3 July 1792

Future; if Louis XVI does not whole-heartedly defend liberty and the nation against the external threats facing France, he will be considered as having abdicated under the terms of the Constitution. Vergniaud has also demanded that the ministers be held entirely responsible for the current internal unrest caused by religious troubles.


France is declared to be in danger

22 July 1792

Calls to arms and noisy martial songs have been ringing throughout the capital.

The Assembly declared the nation to be in danger on July 11th, and the city council today began enlisting volunteers. A grandiose ceremony has been organised to make the event more impressive. For a day, the city has become a huge stage on which civic and republican heroism is playing the leading role.  Two large processions have been gradually winding their way along the streets. At the head of each one, a mounted national Guardsman carries a large banner bearing the words “Citizen - the Nation is in danger”.


Bourgeois volunteer

At the end of the day, the banners will be placed at the  city hall and on the Pont Neuf, where they will remain for the entire duration of hostilities.


Everybody must contribute to the war effort.

30 July 1792

The huge esplanade outside the Invalides has become a hive of frantic activity. No less than 258 forges have been working non-stop, producing 4 cannons every day. The work for the war effort has even spread to the Seine river.on which boats have been tied up near the Tuileries Gardens. Aboard, some 90 workshops are busily building badly needed rifles. There is a great sense of urgency. Over the past two years, the arming of the National Guard has caused a big drop in the number of weapons delivered to the army. Even the army’s takeover of the rifle factories has not resulted in each soldier having his own gun.


Paris city officials

The sectors demand Louis’ ousting

Paris 4 August 1792

The Assembly only has five days left in which to decree that the King has forfeited his rights. That is the deadline set today by the Quinze Vingts sector of the Saint Antoine district. If the deputies have not forced Louis XVI to abdicate by August 9th., the people of Paris will rise up. On July 25th the Croix Rouge and Mauconsiel sectors came to call on the Assembly to strip the King of his powers. They felt that this move was based on the Constitution, given the obvious treason committed by the monarch. The mayor Petion was chosen to take a petition to the Assembly.


The Sansculottists seize the Tuileries and oust the King

August 10, 1792



The fall of the Tuileries, after a three hour battle, left more than 1,000 victims. It has virtually ended the eight centuries old Capet dynasty. The King has been made prisoner and suspended form office. It is the decisive step towards his ousting which has been called for since June and demanded since August 3rd. By the sectors of Paris. Nothing had been sure when the alarm bells started ringing at midnight. The King was prepared for the clash. If he were to win, he would be able to play on internal disputes within the Assembly, and foreign armies, which he hoped would win, would have come to help him, but only the Swiss were there today to defend desperately a palace already deserted by the King against federates, Sanculottists, the sectors and the National Guardsmen of the poorer districts. The people of Paris were armed with patriotism, a deep fear of counter-revolutionary plots and aspirations to equality. They were victorious. The people are now represented by a Commune and able to impose a republic.

The ultimatum set by the sectors was due to expire at midnight. If the deputies did not strip the King of his powers, the people of Paris would take matters into their own hands. Alarm bells started ringing in the Saint Antoine district, on the right bank of the Seine, and in the Cordeliers on the left bank. These were the two gathering places for the armed columns that were to march on the Tuileries. In the poorer districts everybody grabbed pikes, while National Guardsmen were trying to form groups. There was a bit of trouble because not all of the Guards were in favour of the Sansculottists. Would they stop the people from marching? The 100 or so deputies still at the Assembly  were being extremely cautious. As for the mayor of Paris, Petion, he fled around midnight.

Events were to happen quickly. By 3 o’clock, an insurrectional Commune had been formed at the city hall with sector delegates and against the wishes of the Paris authorities. Around 5 a.m. The Commune summoned Mandat and accused him of treason. He was arrested and butchered as he was being dragged off to jail. Mandat was replaced by Santerre, one of the leaders of the revolt. By 6 o’clock, the Federates and sector members from the left bank had managed to cross Saint Michel bridge without firing a shot, as the National Guard unit wanted to avoid bloodshed.

As the insurgents were getting ready for battle and waiting for reinforcements to arrive, the King inspected his forces around 6 in the morning. He was tired having stayed up all night. Louis Xvi is loudly cheered by a battalion, while other soldiers shout “long Live the Nation”. On the esplanade behind the palace, the King is booed and gunners scream insults: “Down with the filthy pig!” Eventually Roederer manages to convince the King to seek shelter at the Assembly. The Assembly greets the King perfunctorily and he is led to the record-keepers office. The Swiss guard had pulled back to guard the palace entrances as the insurgents reached the main staircase and tried to get in. During discussions all hell broke loose , a terrible barrage of shooting was heard. A hail of bullets from every door and window of the palace and from the barracks on the river side, slammed into the insurgents, dozens of whom were cut down. The insurgents fell back. About 200 Swill, taking advantage, rushed after the insurgents. Men from Marseilles and Brittany fought back, angered  by by the betrayal of the Swiss, who were pushed back. At the Assembly the King was told of the  bloodshed and issued a cease-fire order, but the messenger, General d’Hervilly, was unable to transmit it. Vicious hand to hand fighting raged on with pike and sabre. The Swiss were wiped out. The enraged attacker entered the palace around 1p.m. That was when the real bloodbath started. The surviving Swiss were stripped naked and castrated. Some were beheaded, others impaled on pikes or thrown out of windows. The nude and mutilated bodies of the Swiss were thrown onto dustcarts. People everywhere were brandishing severed heads. In the end  nearly 1,000 of the defenders of the palace had been killed. Among the insurgents 390 were left dead, 90 of whom were Federates. Louis XVI will spend the night locked up with his family at the Assembly, which has decided to replace the government with an executive committee. Danton is appointed Justice Minister.


Royal Family is taken to the Temple

13 August 1792

It is six o’clock. The mayor of Paris, Petion is waiting for the arrival of the royal family so that he can take them to the Temple, the new residence that has been chosen for them by the Assembly.

The King, the Queen and the children as well as Mdme de Lambelle and Mdme de Tourzel

Climb  aboard one of the court’s large carriages. In a second vehicle the six servants which the Commune has allowed the royal family to keep are seated. During the trip, a large crowd of onlookers insults the royal party as it passes. When they arrive at the Temple the royal couple is led to the Comte d’Artois’ former palace where  a decent meal awaits them. Petion has not yet dared tell them that they will not be living there, but in the sinister dungeon nearby. Louis XVI shows no emotion and is led to a small tower next door because nothing had been made ready for his arrival.


Louis in shirtsleeves is taken to the Temple


The deserter La Fayette is arrested.

Holland 19 August 92

This evening La Fayette is being  held prisoner by the Austrians, not by the Assembly, despite the charges it placed against him today. The events of August 10th, marked the final split between La Fayette and the Revolution. “The unrest in the capital is probably being financed by foreign powers trying to help the counter-revolution,” wrote the commander of the northern army in Paris the day after the fall of the Tuileries palace. He was asked to hand over his command to Dumouriez. His troops were no longer following orders. La Fayette then joined Alexandre de Lameth, who is also facing charges, and crossed the border with 21 officers from his headquarters. They chose to desert rather than face the guillotine.


La Fayette


Carousel Square

Royalist Newsman du Rozoy is executed

Paris 25 August 1792

All monarchist newspapers have been banned and their printing presses seized, but journalists had not been guillotined before. Du Rozoy, the director of the Gazette de Paris, who had been charged with collecting funds for emigres and trying to start a civil war, went to the scaffold today. His last words were “A royalist such as I should die well on the day of the feast of St. Louis”.


Unrest shakes the region of Vendee

Chatillion sur Sevre 22 Aug. 92

The National Guard once again arrived too late this morning. When they entered the town, Lt. Boissard and his men found that the district headquarters had been sacked. In the courtyard, all that was left of the Town’s administrative archives were a pile of ashes. The documents had been burnt by the insurgents. Not far from there, on the road to Bressuire, one could seethe rearguard of the 8,000 peasants armed with pitchforks, old guns and scythes, who for the past three days have been wandering around the region attacking representatives of the new political authorities. Their adventure ended this evening when Boissard caught up with them and opened fire with cannons


Abbye Jail first victims of bloodbath here

“Boldness yet more boldness....”

Paris 2 Sept. 1792 - noon

The enemy is marching towards the capital and will soon be at the gates of Paris. In the City, panic has reached a peak. Everybody is trying to get out as quickly as possible. Around noon, Danton, who has been Minister of Justice since August 11th, starts speaking at the Assembly. He is desperately trying to save the situation, to stop a panic flight which would leave the city deserted and defenceless in the face of the revolution’s enemies. He tries to give new hope and resolve to the citizens. “We need  boldness, yet more boldness and France will be saved!”. His words spread quickly through the city. Danton is now seen as the man of the moment, the man who cries defiance when others tremble in fear.


A terrible massacre after parody of justice.

2 Sept. Evening 92

People have already forgotten how the bloodbath started. The orgy of murder that swept over the people of Paris seems to have been set off in a sudden panic. The Commune had agreed with the Assembly to have the Capital’s alarm bells rung this afternoon to order the recruitment of 60,000 volunteers, needed to keep the invading enemy troops at bay. But there were worrying rumours sweeping through the capital: the traitors jailed in Paris cells were said to be plotting against the Revolution. A wave of panic soon spread among Parisians. Men did not want to leave for the front lines before having purged their city of the non-juring priests and royalists who had not yet been put to death by the courts. Marat and above all Freron wrote strongly worded articles calling on the population to execute prisoners summarily. The Commune and the Assembly, who did nothing to stop the killing, simply sent commissioners to ensure  that only those jailed for unpaid debts are spared the mob’s fury.

A wave of massacres spreads to the jails of Paris.

Paris 3 September 1792.

The murderers want to get rid of the capital’s scum. A mob has just rushed to the Bernardins prison, where it butchered around 60 men who had been sentenced to the galleys. The killers are not just murdering so called counter-revolutionaries. Most of their victims are the common criminals that Paris jails are full of. The murderers are not gangsters. Most of them are usually honest and hard-working shopkeepers who live near prisons and who have been swept up in a wave of collective madness. Some Federates had gone to the city hall to get 24 prisoners, including several royalist priests, and take them to the Abbaye prison. When they reached the Buci crossroads, they handed the 24 over to the mob, telling the people to kill them. The enraged crowd then wen to the Abbaye to kill more prisoners. Gangs of killers then formed, going from jail to jail. This morning the toll had reached nearly 1,000 dead. But the bloodbath is not yet over.


Prostitutes are killed at the Salpetriere

4 September 1792

The gangs of crazed killers, who had been turned back yesterday evening by units of the National Guard, came back today to the Salpetriere and found the way was clear. After knocking down the doors they rushed through the building armed with sabres and staves. They raped and killed all these who were in their way. The Salpetriere  is an

almshouse and jail which houses prostitutes, mad-women, women held on criminal charges and young orphaned girls. The men, soaked in blood, did not spare anyone. They left behind them 35 dead, including elderly women. Several young girls and children simply disappeared. When they had finished the killers went to Bictre in search of new  victims.

The French are victorious at Valmy.

Valmy 20 Sept. 92


French cannons fire at the Prussians

“We wont be able to beat them here,” the Duke of Brunswick said as he reluctantly decided to give the order for his troops to withdraw from Valmy. He was faced with the daunting sight of 50,000 French soldiers waving their hats on the end of spears, as deafening roars of “Long Live the Nation”  echoed through the valley below. The French had been determined to beat the Prussians and they had the advantage of

superior numbers. Kellerman did not have as many artillery pieces as Brunswick, although they were of better quality. Also, the Prussian troops were exhausted after several long, rainy marches through muddy terrain and they were fighting at a disadvantage on enemy territory.


The French Republic is proclaimed!

Paris 22 September 1792

Year 1 of the French Republic is starting. It was today that the term “republic” suggested by Billaud Varenne, was approved by the deputies. However, it was yesterday that the Assembly acted on a proposal made by Collot d’Herbois and unanimously voted for the abolition of the monarchy. This move in fact, simply gave a legal basis for an existing situation. Joyful cries of “Long Live the Nation!, greeted today’s move. “Morally speaking, kings are on the same level as monster are in the physical order”, Gregoire said. He added that “the history of kings is that “the history of kings is that of the martyrdom of nations”. Such eloquence was hardly necessary to convince members of the Convention. The 749 elected representatives are republicans at heart. The Feuillants and aristocrats have been dismissed or sent to prison. Democrats have got the upper hand.


People of Lille hold celebrations amid the ruins

The Austrian siege of Lille has ended

Lille 7 Oct. 1792

The defeat of an ally is never good news. When Duke Albert of Saxe Teschen was told about the retreat from Valmy of the Prussians led by the Duke of Brunswick, he decided it was time to end the siege of Lille, which had begun on September 26. The fighting in and around the city had been extremely difficult, but the people of Lille remained steadfast right to the bitter end.  An intense seven day long bombardment did

succeed in breaking the resolve of the town’s garrison, commanded by General Raul, or of its mayor Andre and his officials. The inhabitants’ will to resist redoubled when the Archduchess Marie Christine, the “Governor of the Netherlands” and Queen Marie Antoinette’s sister, aimed the cannons at the town herself to encourage the Austrian Soldiers.


Danton is ordered to explain his fortune

25 October 1792

People are wondering where all Danton’s money has come from. He owns a house in Arcis sur Aube and the priory lands at Saint Jean du Chesne. He has however, sold his legal practise for 69,000 livres and gets an annual income of about 100,000 livres. But people are asking whether he is not involved in some kind of shady fraud with public funds. On October 6th he submitted to the Convention a detailed accounting of his expenses since he left the ministry. However, a deficit of 200,000 livres has come to light. The former Justice Minister

said he couldn’t give details about his secret ministerial expenses. Despite this, the Roland couple and their friends are sure Danton is guilty. They criticized his financial dealings and asked him to explain the discrepancy. He was helped out by the ministers Lebrun, Monge and Claviere, who said that Danton had provided them with details of expenses. People are not convinced.


Dumouriez triumps at Jemmapes.

Belgium 6 November 1792

“War is absurd, but victory is magnificent.” The Austrian forces led by the Duke de Saxe Teschen will have plenty of time to think about this paradox as they pull back. A major battle has just taken place on the boggy, damp Belgian lowlands. Early this morning the French forces saw through thick fog the six awesome redoubts that had been set up by the enemy on a wide watery prairie. The

Soldiers of the French Republic are mostly badly dressed and ill-trained. They are far from being battle-hardened troops. Under a hail of gunfire and the roar of cannon volleys, they had to attack the six fearsome forts which were claimed to be impossible to destroy. The Austrian soldiers did not give up easily and continued to fire down on the assailants. The French pressed on regardless singing loudly the Marseillaise. The French were victorious because they outnumbered their opponents and because they knew when to take the offensive.



French troops advance through   Belgium

12 November 1792

The advance of the French forces has been unstoppable and their reputation travels ahead of them. The Republican troops’ glory has been boosted by their victory at Jemmapes. The high command has decided to move Dumouriez’s men forward on two fronts: some of the troops are heading for Antwerp, while other head for Liege via Charleroi and Namur.


Roland discovers King’s secret correspondence

The “iron strong-box” is discovered

Paris 20 November 1792


There was a major upheaval at the Assembly today; Roland, the Minister of the Interior, told the stunned deputies that a locksmith named Gamain had asked to meet him to convey information of vital importance to the nation’s security. Gamain, who had been wracked by guilt for several months, had finally decided to admit that he had built a secret hiding place for the King in his rooms at the Tuileries, a large locked box hidden behind panelling that could be moved on its hinges. Secretly Roland then went to the palace and opened the strong-box. Inside he found a great many papers. These did not prove










that the King had been in collusion with any foreign powers, but they did show that he had not been telling the whole truth since 1789, that he had sided with the counter-revolutionaries and attempted to bribe deputies, in particular Mirabeau. The Convention now has grounds to charge the King. The discovery of the documents means his trial can no longer be put off.


Louis XVI readies son for Monarchy

Paris Nov. 1792

Louis XVI, who believes in divine providence, has convinced himself that the Dauphin, now seven years old, will one day reign over France. Ever since he has been locked up in the Temple, the overthrown King has been preparing the young prince to become a monarch. He often tells him about the misfortunes of kings, including the story of Charles I of Britain who was beheaded in 1649. The awestruck child listens closely to his father. Louis XVI used to be far too busy for such lessons, but now he patiently gets his son to read, count and write,.

and gives him a grounding in geography, his favourite subject. The King even draws maps for the boy, telling him about far-away places and Captain Cook’s travels.




Royal Family lives in the Temple prison.

Paris, November 1792

In the dungeon of the main tower of the Temple, the royal family lives a strange life under the very watchful gaze of their municipal guards. Louis XVI and his wife, their two children and the King’s sister. Madame Elizabeth, have no idea what is in store for them. They are housed in two  four-roomed flats

One above the other. They are not grandly furnished. The King lives alone in the upper flat, there are huge bars on the windows and shutters keep the fresh air out.

The Convention decides to try the King

Paris 6 Dec. 1792

After a rowdy debate lasting several days, the deputies decided that Louis XVI would have to appear before them to answer to the crimes they have accused him of since they read the documents found inside the secret strong-box. However, the legislators spent a long time arguing over whether or not the King should be arraigned. The Girondists, who up till now have done all they to avoid such a move, believe an arraignment risked provoking other European monarchs at a time when peace negotiations were in the offing. But they were forced to acknowledge that a trial had become inevitable. The Montagnards want the Temple’s royal prisoner sentenced. They support a democratic revolution and have close ties to the sansculottists and the Paris Commune.  For them, a refusal to declare the ousted King’s guilt would be tantamount to a disavowal of the events of August 10th.


William Pitt  prepares Britain for war

London 13 Dec 1792


Pitt in the Commons

Britons can be extremely stubborn people. After two months of non-stop effort, Prime Minister, William Pitt has finally succeeded in getting the House of Commons and the House of Lords to support his preparations for war against France. The French victories at Valmy and Jemmapes have upset the balance of power in Europe. Now that the French control the Austrian Netherlands, the port of Antwerp looks likely to see an

Economic boom. Vienna had always been opposed to this, not wanting the port of Antwerp to compete against London. Moreover, Batavian patriots in Holland are calling for French republicans to enter their country.


The Kings trial: charges are read

Paris 11 December 1792

Louis XVI is brought to trial

An increasingly large crowd was fighting for room this afternoon in the public gallery of the Manege auditorium. An omnious silence greeted the King’s arrival. The monarch was led in by Santerre. Everybody was trying to get a close look at the man who had ruled France for 18 years, but who is now simply known as Louis Capet. He is charged with “having committed a multitude of crimes in order to establish his tyranny and by destroying the freedom of the people of France”.

The King cut a far from impressive figure. His plump body was clothed in a simple brown broadcloth coat worn over a white waistcoat. His face was covered with several days growth of beard, as he has been forbidden the use of a razor. He is short-sighted and squints to see better. In fact he looks like a a tired and ill bourgeois who has just been dragged from his bed. He . calmly listened to the charges being led out. They were based on the report drafted by the deputy Lindet on behalf of the special committee in charge of the trial.

Throughout all this, the King did not bat an eyelid. However, his main tactical blunder was to behave, not a s King, but as an accused man, thus playing into his opponents hands. Louis Capet did , however, face embarrassing questions, basing his arguments on his rights as as an absolute monarch or on the rights granted to him by the Constitution.


The King’s Trial: the defence speaks

Paris 26 December 1792

At nine o’clock this morning, the King appeared for the second time before his judges. “Louis, the Convention has decreed that your testimony will be heard today,”. The speaker said as soon as the King walked in. Then Raymond Romain de Seze spoke.The lawyer is pleading not guilty on behalf of his client. He spoke for three solid hours amid a deep silence. His purely legal argument was flawless when he spoke of the inviolability of the King’s person. He took the analysis to its limits: not only has the King been stripped of the inviolability conferred on him by the Constitution of 1791, but he does not even have same rights as any French citizen. “I look among you for judges, but only find accusers. Is Louis to be the only Frenchman for whom there exists no law and no procedure? Is he to have neither the rights of a citizen nor the prerogative of a king?”

Louis XVI’s legal team


De Malesherbes


De Seze



His words troubled the deputies. Taking advantage of this, de Seze then discussed the deeds with which the monarch is charged, starting with those that took place prior to the Constitution before coming to those that came after, which he said were covered by the inviolability. He justified the King’s every action, sometimes resorting to specious arguments. “Citizens, I am not finished, but I pause before History. Remember that it will judge your verdict and that its judgement will be that of the centuries,” he finally said. After the lengthy speech, de Seze sat down, completely exhausted, Louis XVI asked for a fresh shirt for his lawyer as his was drenched with sweat. “He  has done a good job,” the King said. Then he asked to be allowed to speak. He told the deputies that he had a clear conscience. “My heart is torn to see that the charges against me give the impression that I wanted to shed the blood of the people and above all that I am held responsible for the misfortunes of August 10th.

“I was convinced that the many demonstrations of my love for the people that I gave time and time again and the way in which I behaved were proof enough that I never feared to take a risk to save their blood and get rid of such impressions”. He added. Neither de Seze’s speech for the defence, nor the King’s statement, however, seemed to convince the deputies, who resumed their debate after the former monarchs departure. Many of them have been offended to hear someone defend the King and to watch Louis dare to absolve himself of all the crimes he is charged with.


The King’s trial: people to decide?

Paris 4 January 1793


The independent moderate legislators of the Plaine group today voted against the Girondist call that the people be allowed to decide the King’s fate.

The vote was taken on the urging of Barere, the representative of the Haute Pyrenees department. Although they had not been convinced by de Seze’s defence speech, most of the Plaine deputies were opposed to pronouncing a death sentence on a man who was the kingdom’s absolute ruler for many years and who is still seen by many as a sacrosanct and unassailable personality. Regicide is an unforgivable crime and there are well-hidden feelings of guilt. On December 27th the Girondists had suggested that the people should be asked to decide Louis XVI’s fate, feeling that it would be safer in the long run to spare the King. Verngiaud stressed that the nation was sovereign and only it could decide what punishment could be inflicted on the former monarch.    Robespierre spoke out strongly against plans for a people’s verdict on December 28th “In my heart of hearts, I have felt the republican nature wavering in the face of the guilty man’s humiliation before the sovereign power”. He told the Assembly, adding, however, “But, citizens, the final proof of devotion to the nation is to stamp out these natural feelings for the sake of a great people and oppressed humanity... Clemency that aids tyranny is an abomination.” For Robespierre as for the Montagnards, the people’s

verdict is simply a “means of bringing despotism back through anarchy”. Today, in an extremely tough speech, Barere brilliantly outlined all the legal and political arguments and demanded that the proposal to call for the people’s verdict be dropped.



The King’s Trial: the death sentence.

Paris 17 January 1793

Since dawn, all of Paris has known that the King has been sentenced to death  by a majority of 53 votes. The news spread like wildfire through the city, which is strangely silent. It is almost as if Paris is in a state of total shock. Three days ago, the Assembly decided on the three questions the deputies should try to answer: the first was about the King’s guilt, the second about the issue of the  people’s verdict and the third was about what the punishment should be. An overwhelming majority replied “yes” to the first of the questions. On behalf of the French people, Louis was declared guilty of “conspiracy against the liberty of the nation and the security of the state”.

The plan to ask the people for its verdict was rejected by 424 votes against 287. But it was yesterday that the deputies had to respond to the crucial question, “what punishment does Louis deserve?.”. Finally at eight p.m. The roll-call of deputies began and each was

Called to state his verdict. “Death”. Throughout the night, that fateful word was spoken 387 times in the large, cold and badly lit hall. At dawn all the votes were counted, although the final result was hardly in doubt. But among the deputies who voted for death penalty, 26 had asked for further debate to decide whether the sentence should or should not be suspended. It is supposed to be carried out the day after tomorrow. It is now up to Malesherbes to give the dreadful news to the condemned man.


Last Portrait

King’s Trial: reprieve is rejected

20 Jan 1793

At 3a.m. This Sunday, the tired deputies wound up a long session after having approved a final decree concerning Louis. The former King is to be executed. Within the next 24 hours, they decided. As for the “appeal from the nation against the judgement handed out against him by the Convention”, which has been submitted by the King’s defenders, it was ruled to be invalid. These decisions were not easily reached by the Assembly. The Montagnards said at the outset that they were firmly opposed to any such move.

The Girondists were split on the issue; Barbaroux was against, but Buzot Condorcet and Brissot were for. However Barere found the decisive words: “Republics are only born out of effort, we must be up to facing the governments of Europe.” The roll-call started right after Barere’s speech. Those who were in favour of an immediate execution won, getting a total of 380 votes against 310


Louis XVI’s heart-rending farewell to his family

20 Jan 1793

Since Malesherbes informed him of the fateful verdict, Louis has been preparing for his death. This evening he was allowed to see his wife, their children and his sister. He has been separated from them ever since December 11th. The moment they walked into his room, they rushed sobbing into his arms. Then the King sat down between the Queen and the princesses and the Dauphin stood by his father. They remained close to each other for nearly

Two hours, whispering and weeping. Finally, Louis XVI tore himself away from his loved  ones and promised that he would be seeing them again tomorrow. Speaking later to a priest he said “What a meeting I have just had! How much I love them” the deeply upset King exclaimed.


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10.22 a.m. Louis XVI is guillotined


Paris, 21 January 1793

Nothing has moved in Paris and yet, this morning the regicide desired by the nation’s representatives took place. At 10.22a.m. The guillotine blade fell on the royal neck. An hour earlier leaving the tower of the Temple, Louis, who had just taken

communion from Abbot Edgeworth de Firmont, had turned down an opportunity to bid a last farewell to his family. “Tell them I wanted to spare them the pain of so cruel a separation, and how terrible it is for me to leave without their final embraces”.


Marie Antoinette is Executed

Paris 16 October 1793

The day was just barely dawning when the Queen heard the young servant girl Rosalie enter her cell at the Concierge. She had come to tell her the time had come. Right up until the end of the two exhausting days of her trial, the Queen had hoped that she would be spared the guillotine. Her guilt, her betrayal, her

plots with foreign leaders were obvious to all, but were never fully proven.She climbed down from the cart and was strapped down onto the wooden plank. It then tipped and the blade fell. One of the executioners assistants bent down to pick up the head with its white hair and brandished it for all to see.