Modern history


Marie-Antoinette was accustomed to receiving the market women of Paris at Versailles. Each feast day of Saint-Louis, August 25, they would be among the deputation of “honest folk” who would come to the château to offer their greetings and obeisances to the King and Queen. Attired in ceremonial white, suitably cleansed of the smells of the market-place, they would present the Queen with bouquets of flowers as tokens of their loyalty and affection. Usually their little speeches would be written for them by a courtier working for the master of ceremonies, but occasionally a few lines might be jocularly offered in the true speech of the markets: poissard.

Its name deriving from the French word for “pitch” (poix), the genre poissard was not so much a true patois as what its historian Alexander Parks Moore has characterized as a systematic assault on grammar. Using heavy elision, fractured grammar and syntax and forced rhyme, poissard was ideal for comic and abusive verse, rhymed insults and a kind of tough, threatening talk in which jeering ridicule played an important part. Its songs and jokes had been kept alive spontaneously in the wineshops and street markets of Paris. But it had also been cultivated in the kind of literary slumming popular among the aristocracy at the end of the old regime. Those who roared with laughter at the foulmouthed, tobacco-stained abuse of the vaudeville Père Duchesne at the Saint-Germain fair were exactly those whose heads would be demanded by his political reincarnation in Jacques-RenéHébert’s irate newspaper. The Duc d’Orléans regularly performed poissard plays in his private theater, and in 1777 the Queen summoned a group of fishwives and market women to the Trianon to teach her amateur troupe how to pronounce poissard correctly.

In 1789 poissard suddenly stopped being amusing. The “Motion of the Herring Women of La Halle,” an early revolutionary song, was all the more threatening because its last lines sarcastically mimicked the customary deference which market women had shown on their usual appearances at court.

Si les Grands troublent encore

Que le Diable les confonde

Et puisqu’ils aiment tant l’Or

Que dans leur gueule on en fonde

Voilà les sincères voeux

Qu’les Harengères font pour eux

If the High-ups still make trouble

Then the Devil confound them

And since they love Gold so much

May it melt in their traps

That’s the sincere wish

Of the Women Who Sell Fish

There were still occasions during 1789 when the poissardes – fishwives and market women – conformed to their ceremonial role. At the fête of Saint-Louis they had led the procession of twelve hundred to Versailles, in the company of the National Guard, bearing bouquets wrapped in gauze and inscribed in gilt lettering: “Homage to Louis XVI, the Best of Kings.” They also frequently participated in the many processions in honor of the patronne of Paris, Sainte-Geneviève, that took place in the late summer.

Out of their fancy dress, however, the working women of Paris increasingly turned to less polite activities. As those most immediately responsible for putting bread on the table, they were correspondingly most desperate and angry at the shortages which, following a good harvest, seemed to be all the more inexplicable. The October terme for rent and tradesmen’s bills was fast approaching, and throughout September the tempo of assault on bakers’ shops suspected of giving short weight or of hoarding speeded up. The women also became more adventurous in their expeditions to seek the grain that millers claimed was in short supply. At Chaillot, west of Paris, on September 16 they stopped five carts laden with grain and brought it to the Hôtel de Ville. On the seventeenth, after a demonstration against bakers, they stopped another wagon at the place des Trois Mairies and brought it to the local district headquarters.

There is no evidence that, faced with news of this hunger, Marie-Antoinette ever did say anything like “Let them eat cake.” But the apocryphal fable is nonetheless eloquent testimony to the gathering suspicion and hatred directed at the court, which, along with officials in Paris, was held responsible for the plight of the common people. And as the subsistence crisis seemed to become worse in late September, so did the political crisis. In the popular mind both were connected.

On September 10, Mounier’s monarchiens had been badly defeated in the vote over the first principles of the constitution. The National Assembly chose a one-chamber legislature over two chambers by 849 votes to 89, with 122 abstentions. The next day it opted for the Necker-Lafayette “suspensive” veto over an absolute veto by almost as impressive a margin, 673 to 325 with 11 abstentions.

Would the King, however, assent to his own constitutionalization? Ultimately, the orators of the Assembly believed that they had the power to institute the “fundamental laws” of the constitution over his opposition, should that become necessary. But they much preferred to have his assent. On September 19 the prospects of an amicable agreement seemed dim when the King’s response to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, and to the August decrees was read. Though he declared that he approved in general of the “spirit” in which they had been enacted, he qualified this with so many reservations concerning the redemption of such properties as tithes, seigneurial dues and hereditary offices that the statement read much more like a rejection than an acceptance. On the twenty-first, the King announced that he had ordered the publication of the decrees, a step which only made the withholding of their promulgation more glaring. Most imprudent of all was Louis’ insistence that in the matter of feudal rights, special concern had to be paid to the rights of foreign, German princes who owned domains in Alsace. If he had wanted to invent reasons for journalists to accuse him of considering the rights of foreign dynasts over French patriots, he could hardly have done a better job.

In the cafés of the Palais-Royal, the political clubs and the pages of the polemical press, all this seemed, or was made to seem, tantamount to preparation for a new royalist coup d’état. The concept of a “veto” was in any case badly misunderstood. In the popular mind it was often thought to be some sort of new tax or a sinister weapon of the famine plot. Gorsas’ Courrier de Versailles included an imaginary conversation between two peasants on the matter. The better informed asks his mate, “Do you know what the veto is?” and then replies, “I’ll tell you. You have your bowl filled with soup and the King says to you: ‘Upset your soup’ and you’ve got to spill it. That’s the veto.” Given this degree of popular suspicion there was likely to be a responsive audience to Marat’s calls in his LAmi du Peuple to separate the villainous from the virtuous. “Open your eyes,” he commanded his readers, “shake off your lethargy, purge your committees, preserve only the healthy members, sweep away the corrupt, the royal pensioners and the devious aristocrats, intriguers and false patriots. You have nothing to expect from them except servitude, poverty and desolation.”

The worst of these suspicions were reinforced when, despite the defeat of his proposals, Mounier was nonetheless elected to the presidency of the Assembly, and when Saint-Priest, the Minister of War, decided to summon the Flanders Regiment to Versailles. In both numbers and deployment the move of the regiment could not possibly be compared with the offensive military campaign of July. The regiment had been mobilized as a precautionary measure to protect the government and the royal household at Versailles in the event of a new march. Needless to say, however, the summons provoked the very event it was designed to forestall.

All of these demons emerged in a spectacular way on October 2. On that day, Loustalot’s paper reported a banquet given for the Flanders Regiment the previous evening by the royal bodyguard. Such banquets of welcome were a military convention, but this had been provided on a lavish scale in the enormous space of the Château Opéra. Tactless in itself, at a time of conspicuous want, the occasion turned into something of a demonstration of loyalty to the crown. Airs were played from Grétry’s popular opera about the imprisonment of Richard Lionheart following the Crusade – among them, “O Richard mon roi, lunivers tabandonne” – and the royal family were induced to make a brief appearance, which was unusual on such occasions, the Queen moving round the tables holding up the four-year-old Dauphin for the soldiers to admire. Toasts to their health were drunk and, after they had departed, with increasingly riotous frequency. And as the company became drunker and more uninhibited, court women began to hand out cockades – black for the colors of the Queen, white for the King.

On the following day, in Loustalot’s paper, Marat’s LAmi du Peuple and in Desmoulins’ Les Révolutions de France et de Brabant, this relatively innocuous celebration of loyalty turned into an “orgy,” a term which, given the renewed crop of sexual libels circulating about the Queen, conjured up scenes of debauchery as well as gluttony and treason. The most infamous moment, however, was neither sexual nor gourmandizing. The patriotic cockade, it was said, had been trampled under-foot. This was an exaggeration of a genuine incident (carefully reported in Gorsas’ Courrier de Versailles) that occurred when one officer exclaimed, “Down with the cockade of colors; may everyone take the black, that’s the fine one.” But the story had the predictable effect of provoking an immense uproar in Paris, where disrespect for the cockade amounted to a desecration of the Host. It had happened, it was said, with the Queen’s approval, and when it was further learned that on receiving a deputation of the National Guard she had expressed her “enchantment” with the banquet it was assumed that she meant the deliberate insult given to the patrie.

Hunger and anger came together once more on the morning of October 5, and it was women who took the greatest offense. The previous day, women from the district of Saint-Eustache had dragged to the Hôtel de Ville a baker accused of giving short weight. There, he had only just been rescued from lynching. In a harangue to another crowd, one market woman blamed the Queen for their starvation and urged her listeners to march on Versailles to demand bread. Early on the fifth, the tocsin was rung from the Church of Sainte-Marguerite and, led by a woman beating a drum, a march formed, the crowd shouting the title of the latest pamphlet, When Will We Have Bread? As they marched, they recruited women from other districts, many of them carrying cudgels, sticks and knives. By the time they had converged on the Hôtel de Ville the crowd was some six or seven thousand strong.

As well as demanding bread they insisted that the insolent royal bodyguard be punished, since, following the banquet at Versailles, black and white cockades had appeared in numbers in the Paris streets, provoking brawls wherever they were seen. Before long the situation at the Hôtel de Ville threatened to get completely out of control. Unaccountably Lafayette had left less than a district battalion guarding the place de Grève. The crowd was confronted by Lafayette’s deputy, Major Hermigny, but his men made it clear that they would not fire on the market women. A general ransacking took place that yielded some seven hundred rifles and muskets, to which were added two cannon intended for the defense of the Hôtel de Ville. Finally the crowd, now strengthened bysome men from the neighboring districts, threatened to sack the building and burn all its papers and archives. They were only dissuaded from carrying this out by the intervention of the captain of a detachment of the Bastille Volunteers, Stanislas Maillard. Unlike his men, Maillard was actually one of the vainqueurs, and had become famous by claiming to have been the man who inched his way on the plank over the inner moat to take de Launay’s note asking for a capitulation. (The man was more likely to have been the more modest Hulin.)

This local renown made Maillard a trusted figure among the women – as Lafayette was no longer, for there were several murmurs and some shouts that if the general refused their demands, he too should be strung up on the lanterne. Maillard cut down the unfortunate AbbéLefèvre, who had been strung up, ready for lanternization, on account of his refusing the women guns, and promised to lead their march to Versailles. The extraordinary procession, coming this time not with bouquets but with cannon, pikes and muskets, set out in drenching rain for the royal palace. As they walked along the quais they shouted and sang that they were coming for “le bon papa” Louis. And it was in the nature of poissard that the line between affectionate and deadly abuse was never exactly clear.

The crowds had become so dense at the center of the city that it took Lafayette two hours to reach the Hôtel de Ville. By the time he did arrive – at about eleven o’clock – he learned that the women had already departed and that there was a serious movement afoot among the National Guard to make their own march to Versailles. One of the stated reasons was the wish of those who had been gardes françaises to resume their old duty of guarding the King, and the notorious banquet now seemed to them an additional reason to substitute themselves for the royal bodyguard. Lafayette immediately understood that a march of National Guards was a much more serious matter than that of the poissardes, for it could hardly help but be construed as an act of Paris’s coercion against the King, his ministers and the National Assembly. He did his utmost to dissuade the grenadiers, but after many hours of fruitless argument and vain reminders of the oath of loyalty they had recently sworn in the battalion churches, it was evident that the rank and file were determined to go, if necessary without his consent. What was in the offing was a complete breakdown of discipline in the National Guard, shattering the image of orderly and responsible pacification that he had endeavored to build since July. Worse still, Lafayette was threatened by some of his own men. It was becoming apparent that if he did not grant their request, they would not only desert him, but in all likelihood murder him as well.

Whatever his many faults, Lafayette was not a coward. His own personal safety was less a consideration than the need to preserve at least a semblance of some order in the Guard. He also correctly assumed that only by going with the march could he hope to ensure that his soldiers were acting for, rather than against, the safety of the royal household and the Assembly. Surrendering to the inevitable, he tried to give the march an appearance of legality, requesting “permission” from the Paris city authorities, a leave that was quickly given. To make sure that the Assembly and government were alerted, Lafayette sent a fast rider to warn of the march. And at around four in the afternoon, fifteen thousand of the Guard – an enormous brigade – set off for the palace in soaking, windblown rain. Lafayette, on his white horse, led the way – “the prisoner of his own troops,” said one witness.

By the time the Guard reached the outskirts of Paris, the procession of women, two of them riding astride the cannon, had already arrived at Versailles. En route they had encountered some dragoons of the Flanders Regiment, in whose honor the “orgy of the Guard” had been staged. Expecting to be stopped, Maillard and the women were instead astonished to hear shouts of “We are with you” and promises of fraternization. In Versailles they were joined by more women, among them one extraordinary figure astride a jet-black horse. Sporting a plumed hat and a blood-red riding coat and carrying pistols and a saber, this was Théroignede Méricourt, whose appearance was obviously designed to attract attention and on whom nineteenth-century writers developed a fixation as an “Amazon” of the Revolution, a woman sexually as well as politically liberated.

Though Théroigne was, by all reliable accounts, strikingly beautiful, she was important on the fifth of October only for her appearance as a symbol of the Revolution as an omnipotent woman: a prototype of “Marianne.” Her future history, as we shall see, was eloquently emblematic of a particular kind of pathetic revolutionary career, and she would have the doubtful honor of being diagnosed by an Austrian prison doctor as suffering from that modern malignancy “revolutionary fever.” But beneath the glamorous plumage was a banal history. “Théroigne the Amazon” was in reality Anne-Joseph Méricourt, whose well-to-do Liège family had fallen on hard times and had forced her to live by her wits and her body. In Paris she had been the mistress of the Marquis de Persan and the friend of the castrato opera singer Tenducci. From another liaison in Genoa she had returned to France and, like so many others, had changed personality in 1789. From being a twenty-seven-year-old courtesan she became an articulate – and to many male contemporaries – threatening political presence. The kept woman had become a free person. She also evidently enjoyed her dashing conspicuousness. At Versailles she was seen talking to the palace guard when the poissardes, who were later to be her downfall, marched into town, bedraggled, angry and famished after their six-hour journey.

A cordial reception, with speeches and wine, took the edge off their anger. They were greeted by the commander of the Versailles National Guard, and by representatives of the municipality and ministry. Only when they attempted to penetrate the grounds of the palace were they barred both by the locked iron grille and units of both the Flanders Regiment and the Swiss guards in front of and behind it. They had less trouble, however, at the National Assembly. Maillard was admitted by Mounier to explain the purpose of the march, which he did largely by citing When Will We Have Bread? “The aristocrats,” he said, “want us to die of hunger.” That very day he had been told that a miller had been bribed two hundred livres not to produce flour. “Name him,” shouted the deputies, but before Maillard could bluster further, the Salle des Menus Plaisirs was invaded by hundreds of the women taking literally Rousseau’s recommended right of “recalling” their deputies. Wet broad-cloth, smelling of mud and rain, planted itself beside fastidious coats and breeches. Knives and clubs were set down on empty chairs, dripping onto papers printed with items of legislative debate. Some of the women, seeing the Archbishop of Paris, shouted the anticlerical slogans that had become popular in Paris and accused him of being a prime instigator of the “famine plot.” In a misguided attempt to calm them, another deputy from the clergy made the mistake of trying to kiss the hand of one of the women accusers. Shaking him off she replied, “I am not made to kiss the paw of a dog.”

Mounier tried to reassure the women that the King and the government were doing everything they could to see that Paris was properly supplied, but it was evident that the women wanted to ask the King themselves. When news of the march had arrived at Versailles, Louis was out hunting at Meudon and rushed back to the palace just before its arrival. With some courage he agreed to see a small deputation of the women. Pierrette Chabry, a seventeen-year-old flower girl conspicuous for her polite turn of speech and virtuous appearance, was chosen as spokeswoman. At the crucial moment her nerves failed and she fainted at Louis’ feet. No doubt sympathizing with someone who shared his own pain at public speech, the King brought her smelling salts and helped her to her feet. He then went on to explain that he had given explicit orders for any grain held up on the roads outside Paris to be delivered immediately. When the little delegation emerged, such were the suspicions against the court that Chabry was immediately accused of having been bribed by the King. But the aura of paternal majesty was not completely lost, for this direct encounter, combined with fatigue, did dispel much of the anger that had begun the march.

The danger, however, was by no means past. Lafayette’s rider arrived to alert the Assembly to the march on Versailles of what amounted to a small army. Very few deputies greeted this news with enthusiasm, though some, like Barnave, who had already recommended that the King reside in Paris, felt vindicated in their prescience. Mirabeau, who delivered the bad news to Mounier, found him oddly jocular about the whole affair, as though he had already resigned himself to the end of his part in the Revolution.

At about six o’clock Louis agreed to accept without demur or qualification both the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the August decrees. He then took counsel from his ministers on the best course of action. Saint-Priest urged either flight or resistance; Necker opposed both, arguing that either course would give comfort to those who said that the King was making war on the Revolution rather than endorsing it. Louis was torn between concerns for the safety of his family and his distaste for appearing in any way to shirk his duty. He decided to stay put.

Not much before midnight, the National Guard trudged into Versailles, six abreast. Their numbers were so great that even marching at the double they took an hour to pass. While the idea had not really occurred to the market women until they reached Versailles, the guards-men had already determined that they should return to Paris with the royal family and henceforth keep them there. Everything, then, was set for a violent tug-of-war between the royal bodyguard and the National Guard. Between them were the Versailles National Guard, who had been ordered to cooperate with their Paris counterpart. The bodyguard appreciated that they were about to be singled out for retribution and prepared to make a stand. At about nine o’clock there was some sporadic shooting but, concerned primarily with the safety of the King and Queen, the bodyguard withdrew to stations well within the courtyard perimeter and inside the palace itself.

At midnight Lafayette told the National Assembly that the expedition of the National Guard had no coercive purpose and all but confessed that he had had no choice but to bring it to Versailles. Calm could be restored if the King sent away the Flanders Regiment, if the gardes françaises replaced the bodyguard close to the King and if His Majesty could bring himself to make some sympathetic gesture with the national cockade. Though officers and men were reluctant to let Lafayette into the château unaccompanied, for fear that he would himself be trapped, it was the condition on which the King would see him. As he made his way to the royal apartments, he met with hostile glares and comments. Posted on the stairs was his own wife’s father, the Duc d’Ayen, who, as a captain of the bodyguard, would doubtless have fired on his son-in-law at the royal command. As he proceeded, Lafayette heard one courtier remark behind his hand, “There goes Cromwell.” “Cromwell,” he snapped back, “would not have come unarmed.”

Dramatically spattered with mud, the Hero of Two Worlds entered the royal presence with lines obviously rehearsed on the march: “I have come to die at the feet of Your Majesty.” On the other hand, he said, lowering the dramatic tone, such extremes might be avoided if the King would allow the gardes françaises to “protect his sacred person,” would guarantee food for Paris and consent to reside in the capital “in the palace of his ancestors at the Louvre.” Louis acceded to the first requests and promised to consider the last, hinting that he would first have to consult his family. Lafayette reported this meeting to both the National Assembly and then his own officers and men. Though many subsequent histories complained that what followed happened because Lafayette fell asleep, he in fact stayed very much awake until around five in the morning, making sure that the threatened battle between the two sets of guards did not come to pass. The sun, which had not been seen all that day, finally rose in a clear sky before the Marquis collapsed on a couch at his grandfather’s house.

He was to have a waking nightmare. At about five-thirty in the morning, an armed crowd found their way into the palace grounds. For some unknown reason – perhaps the imminent appearance of brigands – the commander of the royal bodyguard had sent a large detachment of his troops to the other end of the park around the Grand Trianon. This left the Cour des Ministres itself relatively lightly patrolled. Probably introduced by one of the soldiers, the crowd broke into the Cour de Marbre and went up the stairs leading to the royal apartments. A guard later said that he heard one of the women shouting that it was necessary to “tear out the heart of the coquine [Marie-Antoinette], cut off her head, fricasser her liver and even then it would not be all over.” A guard fired at the onrushing crowd; a man fell and the soldier was then killed on the spot. Miomandre de Sainte-Marie, a second guard posted outside the Queen’s apartments, attempted to reason with them and, failing, shouted to those within that the Queen’s life was in danger. He too was struck down, but his warning had come just in time. Terrified by the firing and yelling, Marie-Antoinette ran barefoot, holding her slippers and crying out loud, “My friends, my friends, save me and my children.” A passageway took her to the King’s quarters, but Louis had himself gone in search of the children. For more than ten minutes the Queen hammered desperately on the locked door while the crowd clattered through the Hall of Mirrors in enraged pursuit of the “Austrian whore” and the outnumbered bodyguards who retreated by stages through the enfiladed state rooms. Finally Marie-Antoinette’s frantic cries and pounding were heard and the family was reunited in the Salon de l’Oeil de Boeuf. The Dauphin and his sister were crying as their mother and father tried to comfort them as best they could. If Greuze had painted them there and then he would have been the lion of the Salon.

Before any harm could befall them, the first companies of National Guard, commanded by Lazare Hoche, later one of the Republic’s most formidable generals, advanced against the crowd and delivered the royal family from danger. Outside, the heads of the two slaughtered body-guards, stuck high on pikes, were being paraded around. Miomandre de Saint-Marie’s head was waggled about by an artist’s model named Nicolas, dressed in the pseudo-Roman robes he used for studio work. There was laughter, cheering and applause, and later in the day the trophies were taken back to the Palais-Royal, where they were exhibited in the garden like one of Citizen Curtius’ waxworks.

Roused by the disaster Lafayette ran towards the château, not waiting for a horse to be saddled. Before he got there he confronted an armed mob falling on any bodyguards they could find and preparing to lynch them on the spot. Ordered to stop, one of the men turned on Lafayette and told the National Guards to kill him. In a rage Lafayette grabbed the man, attempting to arrest him. But he was distracted by the need to persuade his own guardsmen to release the bodyguards, declaring that he had promised the King they would come to no harm.

In the Salon de l’Oeil de Boeuf he found the royal family badly shaken by their ordeal. They knew they had come within a door’s thickness of death. As the King recovered his composure he spoke quietly, but for once without awkward pauses, to the Paris guards – mostly gardes françaises – explaining that his bodyguard was innocent of the insults of which they had been accused. In response an unpredictable thing happened: the guards swore loyalty to him. Paradoxically, their desire to return to Versailles had nearly caused the end of the monarchy. Emboldened by this moment Louis then agreed to go onto the balcony with his family and tell the crowd in the Cour de Marbre that he would go to Paris, entrusting himself “to the love of my good and faithful subjects.” After the burst of applause faded he then said that his body-guard had been maligned. But it was Lafayette, with his innate genius for political theater, who crowned the moment by embracing a noncommissioned officer of the bodyguard and pinning a tricolor cockade on his hat. With that one gesture he had returned the King’s guard to the Nation.

There was another “foreigner” to legitimate. This was the hardest moment of all. Lafayette asked the Queen to make an appearance on the balcony alone. Understandably, after what she had gone through, Marie-Antoinette had no illusions about her popularity and flinched from the request. “Haven’t you seen the gestures they make at me?” she asked. “Yes, Madame,” responded Lafayette. “Venez” – come. Bracing herself, she took her children with her, only to be met with a roar from the crowd below: “No children.” The Greuze family had lost its power to charm. But Lafayette had not. She took her son and daughter inside and stepped out onto the balcony alone to face the crowd. Lafayette then joined her and, in what he later said was a moment of pure intuition, bowed low and kissed her hand.

The effect might have been catastrophic, ridiculous, confirming that he was nothing more than a court lackey pretending to be a Patriot. But it worked a miracle. Shouts of “Vive la reine,” which had not been heard since before the Diamond Necklace Affair, were mixed with acclamation for the commandant.

Three hours later an immense cortège, which Lafayette put at sixty thousand, moved off from Versailles. At front and rear were the National Guard; in their midst the royal carriage escorted by Lafayette, with ministers of Necker’s government, deputies of the National Assembly and the remnant of the court of France following. Behind them was a train of wagons and carts filled with flour from the palace bins. Soldiers and women carried bread loaves on the ends of their pikes and bayonets and sang that they were bringing “the baker, the baker’s wife and the baker’s lad to Paris.”

At the city gates, Bailly yet again presented Louis with the keys to the city, and the royal party went to the Hôtel de Ville, where a throne had been set up to receive them. After more balcony appearances they finally reached their new residence in the Tuileries at eight in the evening. The Dauphin thought his new room very ugly, but the next day the Queen wrote to Mercy d’Argenteau, the Austrian Ambassador:

Rest assured I am well. Forgetting where we are and how we got here we should be content with the mood of the people, especially this morning, if bread does not lack… I talk to the people; to militiamen and to the market women, all of whom hold out their hands to me and I give them mine. Within the city I have been very well received. This morning the people asked us to stay. I told them that as far as the King and I were concerned, it depended on them whether we stayed, for we asked nothing better than that all hatred should stop, and that the slightest bloodshed would make us flee in horror.

For their part, the poissardes sang

A Versail’ comme des fanfarons

J’avions amenénos canons

Falloit voir, quoi qu’j’étions qu’des femmes

Un courage qui n’faut pas qu’on blâme

Nous n’irons plus si loin, ma foi

Quand nous voudrons voir notre Roi

J’l’aimons d’une amour sans égale

Puisqu’il d’meur dans notre’Capitale

To Versailles like bragging lads

We brought with us all our guns

We had to show though we were but women

A courage that no one can reproach us for

[Now] we won’t have to go so far

When we want to see our King

We love him with a love without equal

Since he’s come to live in our Capital

The same day, the National Assembly accepted Target’s proposal that Louis’ official constitutional title be roi des Français, instead of roi de France et de Navarre. Never again should it be implied in any way that the realm was a kind of property. But to Target the new designation was also meant as an academic pun. Louis was to be the reincarnation of the medieval Rex Francorum, the territorial chief of the Franks whose very name proclaimed their freedom. It could not have escaped him, though, that the condition on which he would be hailed as the King of the Free was his own virtual imprisonment.

Twelve miles away, supervised by M. de La Tour du Pin, the great palace of Louis XIV was being boarded up. Massive iron locks were placed on its gates to discourage looters, and a few guards stood sentry over silent courtyards. Le Brun’s Apollo king still rode his chariot against the upstart Dutch on the ceiling of the empty Hall of Mirrors, but the walls of the marble staircase were pockmarked with shot. Versailles had already become a museum.

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