The royal Flight to Varennes (French : Fuite à Varennes) during the night of 20–21 June 1791 was a significant episode in the French Revolution in which King Louis XVI of France, his queen Marie Antoinette, and their immediate family unsuccessfully attempted to escape from Paris in order to initiate a counter-revolution at the head of loyal troops under royalist officers concentrated at Montmédy near the frontier. They escaped only as far as the small town of Varennes, where they were arrested after having been recognized at their previous stop in Sainte-Menehould.
This incident was a turning point after which popular hostility towards the French monarchy as an institution, as well as towards the king and queen as individuals, became much more pronounced. The king's attempted flight provoked charges of treason that ultimately led to his execution in 1793.
The escape failed due to a series of misadventures, delays, misinterpretations, and poor judgments.Much was due to the king's indecision; he repeatedly postponed the schedule, allowing small problems to become big ones. Furthermore, he overestimated popular support for the traditional monarchy, mistakenly believing only Parisian radicals supported the revolution and that the populace as a whole opposed it. Perhaps most fatally, he felt he enjoyed the favor of the peasantry and other commoners, the very people who then foiled his plan and detained him.
The king's flight was traumatic for France, inciting reactions ranging from anxiety to violence and panic. Everyone was aware that foreign intervention was imminent. The realization that the king had effectually repudiated the revolutionary reforms made up to that point came as a shock to people who had seen him as a well-intentioned monarch who governed as a manifestation of God's will. Republicanism quickly evolved from being merely a subject of coffeehouse debate to the dominant ideal of revolutionary leaders.
Louis XVI's indecisive response was one of the causes of the forcible transfer of the royal family from the Palace of Versailles to the Tuileries in Paris on 6 October 1789 after The Women's March on Versailles. The relocation seemed to have emotionally paralyzed the king, which left many important decisions to the politically untrained queen. On 28 February 1791, while the Marquis de Lafayette was handling a conflict in Vincennes, hundreds of royalists came to the Tuileries to demonstrate in support of the royal family, only to be expelled from the palace by National Guards.
The intended goal of the unsuccessful flight was to provide the king with greater freedom of action and personal security than was possible in Paris.At Montmédy General François Claude de Bouillé, the marquis de Bouillé, had concentrated a force of 10,000 regulars of the old royal army who were considered to still be loyal to the monarchy. De Bouillé himself had shown energy in suppressing a serious mutiny in Nancy in 1790. The troops under his command included two Swiss and four German mercenary regiments who were perceived as being more reliable in a time of general political unrest than their French counterparts. In a letter drafted for presentation to the Diet of the Swiss Cantons at Zurich, the royalist baron de Breteuil stated that "His Majesty desires to have such imposing forces at his disposition, that even the most audacious rebels will have no other option than to submit". The court expectation was that "numerous faithful subjects of all classes" would then rally to demand the restoration of the rights of the throne and that order would be restored without the need for civil war or foreign invasion.
The long-term political objectives of the royal couple and their closest advisors remain unclear. A detailed document entitled Declaration to the French People prepared by Louis for presentation to the National Assembly and left behind in the Tuileries indicates that his personal goal was a return to the concessions and compromises contained in the declaration of the Third Estate on 23 June 1789, immediately prior to the outbreak of violence in Paris and the storming of the Bastille. Private correspondence from Marie Antoinette takes a more reactionary line looking to a restoration of the old monarchy without concessions; though referring to pardons for all but the revolutionary leadership and the city of Paris "if it does not return to its old order".
Prodded by the queen, Louis committed himself and his family to a disastrous attempt of escape from the capital to the eastern frontier on 21 June 1791. With the dauphin's governess, the Marquise de Tourzel, taking on the role of a Russian baroness, the queen and the king's sister Madame Élisabeth playing the roles of governess and nurse respectively, the king a valet, and the royal children her daughters, the royal family made their escape leaving the Tuileries Palace at about midnight.The escape was largely planned by the queen's favourite, the Swedish Count Axel von Fersen and the Baron de Breteuil, who had garnered support from Swedish King Gustavus III. Fersen had urged the use of two light carriages that could have made the 200-mile journey to Montmédy relatively quickly. This would have involved the splitting up of the royal family, however, thus Louis and Marie-Antoinette decided on the use of a heavy and conspicuous coach drawn by six horses.
Due to the cumulative effect of slow progression, time miscalculations, lack of secrecy, and the need to repair broken coach traces, km (31 miles) from their ultimate destination, the heavily fortified royalist citadel of Montmédy.the royal family was thwarted in its escape attempt after leaving Paris. Louis himself chatted with peasants while horses were being changed at Fromentieres and Marie Antoinette gave silver dishes to a helpful local official at Chaintrix. At Châlons townspeople reportedly greeted and applauded the royal party. Finally, Jean-Baptiste Drouet, the postmaster of Sainte-Menehould, recognized the king from his portrait printed on an assignat in his possession. Seven detachments of cavalry posted along the intended route had been withdrawn or neutralized by suspicious crowds before the large and slow moving vehicle being used by the royal party had reached them. The king and his family were eventually arrested in the town of Varennes, 50
Whether De Bouillé's army would have been numerous or reliable enough to change the direction of the revolution and preserve the monarchy can never be known.
When the royal family finally returned under guard to Paris, the revolutionary crowd met the royal carriage with uncharacteristic silence and consequently, complete shock rippled throughout the crowd at the sight of their king. The royal family was confined to the Tuileries Palace. From this point forward, the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic became an ever-increasing possibility. The credibility of the king as a constitutional monarch had been seriously undermined by the escape attempt.
After they returned, the National Constituent Assembly agreed that the king could be restored to power if he agreed to the constitution. However, various factions in Paris like the Cordeliers and the Jacobins disagreed, and this led to a protest at the Champ de Mars; the protest turned violent, resulting in the Champ de Mars Massacre.
From the autumn of 1791 on, the king tied his hopes of political salvation to the dubious prospects of foreign intervention. At the same time, he encouraged the Girondin faction in the Legislative Assembly in their policy of war with Austria, in the expectation that a French military disaster would pave the way for the restoration of his royal authority. Prompted by Marie Antoinette, Louis rejected the advice of the moderate constitutionalists, led by Antoine Barnave, to fully implement the Constitution of 1791, which he had sworn to maintain. He instead secretly committed himself to a policy of covert counter-revolution.
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The king's failed escape attempt alarmed many other European monarchs, who feared that the revolutionary fervor would spread to their countries and result in instability outside France. Relations between France and its neighbors, already strained because of the revolution, deteriorated even further with some foreign ministries calling for war against the revolutionary government.
The outbreak of the war with Austria in April 1792 and the publication of a manifesto by the Prussian commander, Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, threatened the destruction of Paris if the safety of the royal family was again endangered. Upon hearing this, Parisian radicals stormed the Tuileries Palace on 10 August 1792.This was the event that sounded the death knell for the monarch.
This attack led in turn to the suspension of the king's powers by the Legislative Assembly and the proclamation of the First French Republic on 21 September. In November, proof of Louis XVI's secret dealings with the deceased revolutionary politician, Mirabeau, and of his counterrevolutionary intrigues with foreigners was found in a secret iron chest, the armoire de fer , in the Tuileries. It was now no longer possible to pretend that the reforms of the French Revolution had been made with the free consent of the king. Some Republicans called for his deposition, others for his trial for alleged treason and intended defection to the enemies of the French Nation. On 3 December, it was decided that Louis XVI, who together with his family had been imprisoned since August, should be brought to trial for treason. He appeared twice, on 11 and 23 December, before the National Convention.
Convicted, Louis was sent to the guillotine on 21 January 1793. Nine months later, Marie Antoinette was also convicted of treason, and was beheaded on 16 October.
Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She became Dauphine of France in May 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. On 10 May 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she assumed the title Queen of France and Navarre, which she held until September 1791, when she became Queen of the French as the French Revolution proceeded, a title that she held until 21 September 1792.
Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last king of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "king of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "king of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.
Charles X was King of France from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. For most of his life he was known as the Count of Artois. An uncle of the uncrowned Louis XVII and younger brother to reigning kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile. After the Bourbon Restoration in 1814, Charles became the leader of the ultra-royalists, a radical monarchist faction within the French court that affirmed rule by divine right and opposed the concessions towards liberals and guarantees of civil liberties granted by the Charter of 1814. Charles gained influence within the French court after the assassination of his son Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry, in 1820 and eventually succeeded his brother in 1824.
Antoine Pierre Joseph Marie Barnave was a French politician, and, together with Honoré Mirabeau, one of the most influential orators of the early part of the French Revolution. He is most notable for correspondence with Marie Antoinette in an attempt to set up a constitutional monarchy and for being one of the founding members of the Feuillants.
Hans Axel von Fersen, known as Axel de Fersen in France, was a Swedish count, Marshal of the Realm of Sweden, a General of Horse in the Royal Swedish Army, one of the Lords of the Realm, aide-de-camp to Rochambeau in the American Revolutionary War, diplomat and statesman, and a friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette of France. He died at the hands of a Stockholm lynch mob.
Jean-Baptiste Drouet was a French politician of the 1789 Revolution, chiefly noted for the part he played in the arrest of King Louis XVI during the Flight to Varennes.
François Claude Amour, marquis de Bouillé was a French general. After distinguishing himself in the Seven Years' War, he was appointed governor of Guadeloupe in 1768. His most well-known military exploits took place in the West Indies during the American War of Independence, where he was involved in the French capture of a number of British possessions. Following that war he returned to France, where he held military commands in the country's northeast at the time of the French Revolution. A committed Royalist, he was a leading conspirator involved in the royal family's failed flight in 1791, whose failure forced de Bouillé into exile. He continued to be active in consultative roles to members of the First Coalition, which opposed the forces of Revolutionary France in the early years of the French Revolutionary War. He died in exile in London, and is mentioned as a hated Royalist in the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.
Varennes-en-Argonne or simply Varennes is a commune in the Meuse department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.
The Declaration of Pilnite, more commonly referred to as the Declaration of Pillnitz, was a statement issued on 27 August 1791 at Pillnitz Castle near Dresden (Saxony) by Frederick William II of Prussia and the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II who was Marie Antoinette's brother. It declared the joint support of the Holy Roman Empire and of Prussia for King Louis XVI of France against the French Revolution.
The French Revolution was a period in the history of France covering the years 1789 to 1799, in which republicans overthrew the Bourbon monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church perforce underwent radical restructuring. This article covers a period of time slightly longer than a year, from 14 July 1790, the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, to the establishment of the Legislative Assembly on 1 October 1791.
Louise-Élisabeth de Croÿ de Tourzel 11 June 1749 – 15 May 1832), the Marquise de Tourzel was a French noble and courtier. She was the Governess of the Children of France from 1789 until 1792. Decades after the French Revolution, de Tourzel published widely read memoirs, which presented a unique perspective on the royal family.
Montmédy is a commune in the Meuse department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.
On the Day of Daggers, 28 February 1791, hundreds of nobles with concealed weapons, such as daggers, went to the Tuileries Palace in Paris to defend King Louis XVI while Marquis de Lafayette and the National Guard were in Vincennes stopping a riot. A confrontation between the guards and nobles started as the guards thought the nobles came to take the King away. The nobles were finally ordered to relinquish their weapons by the King and they were forcibly removed from the palace.
Louis Charles Auguste Le Tonnelier, Baron de Breteuil, Baron de Preuilly was a French aristocrat, diplomat and statesman. He was the last Prime Minister of the Bourbon Monarchy, appointed by King Louis XVI only one hundred hours before the storming of the Bastille.
When the National Constituent Assembly dissolved itself on 3 September 1791, it decreed as a final measure that King Louis XVI should have a Constitutional Guard, also known as the garde Brissac after its commander Louis Hercule Timolon de Cossé, duc de Brissac. This guard's formation was the only court reform to be put into effect, but it only lasted a few months, being superseded by the National Guard.
Pauline de Tourzel (1771-1839) was a French noblewoman, courtier and memoir writer.
The Place du Carrousel is a public square in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, located at the open end of the courtyard of the Louvre Palace, a space occupied, prior to 1883, by the Tuileries Palace. Sitting directly between the museum and the Tuileries Garden, the Place du Carrousel delineates the eastern end of the gardens just as the Place de la Concorde defines its western end.
The Kingdom of France as remnant of the preceding absolute Kingdom of France, was a constitutional monarchy that governed France from 3 September 1791 until 21 September 1792, when this constitutional monarchy was succeeded by the First Republic.
The Champ de Mars massacre took place on 17 July 1791 in Paris at the Champ de Mars against a crowd of republican protesters amid the French Revolution. Two days before, the National Constituent Assembly issued a decree that King Louis XVI would retain his throne under a constitutional monarchy. This decision came after Louis and his family had unsuccessfully tried to flee France in the Flight to Varennes the month before. Later that day, leaders of the republicans in France rallied against this decision, eventually leading royalist Marquis de Lafayette to order the massacre.
Anna Eleanore Sullivan, previously Eleanora Franchi was an Italian courtesan, mostly known in history for her relationship with Axel von Fersen, the alleged lover of the French queen Marie Antoinette. She participated in the famous Flight to Varennes, the attempt of the French royal family to leave France during the French revolution, with the assistance of Fersen.
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