Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Insurrection of 10th August

We're back in France to look at the events of 10th August 1792, a day that rings through history. We've met revolutionaries,  been present at the fall of the Bastille and seen the leaders go to the guillotine and today we'll see a king imprisoned and hear the tale of a brutal massacre at the Tuileries Palace.


Painting of Prise du Palais des Tuileries by Jean Duplessis-Bertaux, 1793
Prise du Palais des Tuileries by Jean Duplessis-Bertaux, 1793

By summer 1792, France was a nation in turmoil; embroiled in the Revolutionary Wars,  Louis XVI was prevaricating with regard to his cabinet and had abandoned the Girondists in favour of a staunchly monarchist Feuillant cabinet. This decision was to prove badly misjudged as the people of Paris regarded their king to be wildly out of touch with the wishes of the populace and he further aroused their ire by vetoing a number of Legislative Assembly decisions. 


Portrait of Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet , 1789
Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet , 1789

The Assembly itself was at a dead end, caught in a series of endless discussions about the deteriorating situation in France and how to deal with the seemingly immovable monarch. As the politicians debated, the people grew restless and on 9th August the situation boiled over as a revolutionary Commune with Georges Danton at its head took control of the Hôtel de Ville and a mob gathered at the Tuileries. As the night drew on they were joined by revolutionary militias and the National Guard, this drastic solution fully supported by a new municipal Parisian government that was to be known as the “insurrectionary” Paris Commune.

As dawn broke Louis inspected his troops and found himself faced with a mixture of loyal support and utter contempt as members of his forces heckled him with revolutionary comments. As he retreated back to the palace a number of battalions turned their guns on Tuileries, where the loyal Swiss Guard stood ready to defend the King. Within hours thousands of insurgents arrived at the Tuileries and though the Assembly appealed for calm, the crowd were in no mood to be placated, nor to let politicians enter into further debate with the monarch. 


Painting of the Mob at the Tuileries by Henri-Paul Motte, 1892
the Mob at the Tuileries by Henri-Paul Motte, 1892

As the royal family and loyal ministers gathered within the walls of the palace the situation seemed dire, their only hope of safety offered by the promise of refuge in the National Assembly.  Faced with the fury of the mob and flanked by columns of troops, the fearful procession made its journey to what Louis and Marie Antoinette must have prayed was sanctuary. Following their departure the crowd finally swarmed into the palace, where they were fired on by the Swiss Guard. Vastly outnumbered, the Swiss Guard were massacred by the mob along with other members of the royal household and court who had found themselves unable to escape before the fighting began. 


Photograph of the memorial in the Catacombs of Paris, where many victims of the massacre are buried
Memorial in the Catacombs of Paris, where many victims of the massacre are buried

Buoyed by this victory, the insurgents followed the fleeing family to the Assembly; upon their arrival the King was sent to the Temple, supposedly for his own protection. Following this bloody night the city descended into chaos and six months later, King Louis XVI was dead, France set firmly on the road to the Reign of Terror.

Photograph of The Lion Monument to the Swiss Guard
The Lion Monument to the Swiss Guard
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.


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15 comments:

Budget Marie Antoinette said...

It's truly a terrifying and tragic few years of history.

Madame Gilflurt said...

It must have even utterly terrifying and heartbreaking to love through.

Julian Rixon said...

"The Assembly itself was at a dead end, caught in a series of endless discussions about the deteriorating situation in France and how to deal with the seemingly immovable monarch." If you replace the word "monarch" with the word "Taoiseach" then you could be talking about Ireland today! Though this does sound bloody terrifying!

Judith Starkston said...

I like your vivid portrayal of this key moment. You put us in the royal couple's minds.

Madame Gilflurt said...

A friend made the same comment!

Madame Gilflurt said...

Thank you; one can only imagine the terror they felt that night.

Princess of Eboli said...

Very good and interesting post!!!!! Thanks for the info!!!!!

Madame Gilflurt said...

Thank you!

Darin Lewis said...

Your reads are superb, you should be on the telly Madame, BBC4 and such like.

Madame Gilflurt said...

*Bobs a curtsey of thanks*

Margaret Chrisawn said...

I'm much more comfortable being in the minds of the Parisians who, like multitudes of other French men and women, had just had enough of the out of touch L16 and Antoinette. So I am celebrating today, the 10th of August, with some nice champagne and a fervent toast to the end of the monarchy in France--at least until the obese and ridiculous L18 waddles back onto the throne in 1814, and again in 1815..

Madame Gilflurt said...

I misread that as *some* fervent toast, which put an entirely different spin on it. Salut!

Leonard smith said...

Or to live through .

On the other paw , George Rude ( French keyboard accents dead ) is brought to mind since he nailed this time into my head such that it is unforgettable.

Sarah said...

Fascinating, thank you, could smell the gunpowder and hear the shots and the screaming of the mob and of the injured

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you!