V. TO VERSAILLES: OCTOBER 5, 1789

All through August and September there were riots in Paris. Bread was running short again; housewives fought for it at the bakeries. In one of these riots a baker and a municipal officer were slain by the angry populace. Marat called for a march upon the Assembly and the royal palace at Versailles:

When public safety is in peril the people must take power out of the hands of those to whom it is entrusted…. Put that Austrian woman [the Queen] and her brother-in-law [Artois] in prison…. Seize the ministers and their clerks and put them in irons…. Make sure of the mayor [poor, amiable, stargazing Bailly] and his lieutenants; keep the general [Lafayette] in sight, and arrest his staff…. The heir to the throne has no right to a dinner while you want bread. Organize bodies of armed men. March to the National Assembly and demand food at once…. Demand that the nation’s poor have a future secured to them out of the national contribution. If you are refused join the army, take the land, as well as the gold, which the rascals who want to force you to come to terms by hunger have buried, and share it among you. Off with the heads of the ministers and their underlings. Now is the time!35

Frightened by the journals and disorder in Paris, and by mass demonstrations in Versailles, Louis reverted to the advice of his ministers—that soldiers yet untouched by revolutionary ideas should be brought in to protect him, his family, and the court. Late in September he sent to Douai for the Flanders Regiment. It came, and on October 1 the King’s Garde du Corps welcomed it with a banquet in the opera house of the palace. When Louis and Marie Antoinette appeared, the troops, half drunk with wine and visible majesty, burst into wild applause. Soon they replaced the national tricolor emblems on their uniforms with cockades of the Queen’s colors—white and black; one report said that the discarded colors, now dear to the Revolution, were later trodden under dancing feet.36 (Mme. Campan, first lady of the chamber to the Queen, and an eyewitness, denied this detail.37)

The story was enlarged as it traveled to Paris, and was accentuated by a report that an army was gathering near Metz with intent to march to Versailles and disperse the Assembly. Mirabeau and other deputies denounced this new military threat. Marat, Loustalot, and other journalists demanded that the people should compel both the royal family and the Assembly to move to Paris, where they could be under the watchful eye of the populace. On October 5 the market women of the city, who knew the food shortage at first hand, took the lead in forming a brigade to march on Versailles, ten miles away. As they proceeded they called upon men and women to join them; thousands did. It was not a tragic or somber procession; a lusty French humor seasoned it; “We will bring back the baker and the baker’s wife,” they cried, “and we shall have the pleasure of hearing Mirabeau.”38

Arrived at Versailles under a heavy rain, they gathered in haphazard array, eight thousand strong, before the high gates and iron paling of the royal palace, and demanded access to the King. A delegation went to the Assembly and insisted that the deputies should find bread for the crowd. Mounier, then presiding, went with one of the delegation, pretty Louison Chabry, to see Louis. She was so choked with emotion on seeing him that she could only cry, “Pain,” and fell in a swoon. When she recovered Louis promised her to find bread for the wet and hungry multitude. On departing, she sought to kiss his hand, but he embraced her like a father. Meanwhile many attractive Parisiennes mingled with Flemish troops, and convinced them that gentlemen do not fire upon unarmed women; several soldiers took the famished sirens into their barracks and gave them food and warmth. At eleven o’clock that night Lafayette arrived with fifteen thousand of the National Guard. He was received by the King, and pledged him protection, but he joined Necker in advising him to accept the people’s demand that he and the Queen should come to live in Paris. Then, exhausted, he retired to the Hôtel de Noailles.

Early on the morning of October 6 the weary, angry crowd poured through a chance opening of the gate into the courtyard of the palace, and some armed men forced their way up the stairs to the apartment where the Queen was asleep. In her petticoat, and with the Dauphin in her arms, she fled to the King’s room. Palace guards resisted the invasion, and three of them were killed. Lafayette, tardy but helpful, quieted the tumult with assurances of accord. The King went out on the balcony, and promised to move to Paris. The crowd cried, “Vive le Roi!” but demanded that the Queen show herself. She did, and stood her ground when a man in the gathering aimed his musket at her; his weapon was beaten down by those near him. Lafayette joined Marie Antoinette and kissed her hand in sign of loyalty; the softened rebels vowed to love the Queen if she would come and live in the capital.

As noon approached, a procession formed without precedent in history: in front the National Guard and the royal Garde du Corps; then a coach bearing the King, his sister Madame Élisabeth, the Queen, and her two children; then a long line of carts carrying sacks of flour; then the triumphant Parisians, some women perched on cannon, some men holding aloft on spikes the heads of slain palace guards; at Sèvres they stopped to have these heads powdered and curled.39 The Queen doubted she would reach Paris alive, but that night she and the rest of the royal family slept in hastily prepared beds in the Tuileries, where French kings had slept before the Fronde rebellion had made the capital hateful to Louis XIV. A few days later the Assembly followed, and was housed in the theater of the same palace.

Once again the populace of Paris had taken charge of the Revolution by forcing the King’s hand. Now, subject to his subjects, he accepted the Declaration of the Rights of Man as a fait accompli. A third wave of emigration began.

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