Modern history

B) SUMMER LIGHTNING

The summer of 1789 should have been about communication. Everything about the convocation of the Estates General – the king’s expressed wish to be ‘enlightened’ by his people, the remarkable consultation process incarnated in the cahiers de doléances, the considerable freedom accorded the press – made the deputies believe, on their way to Versailles for the historic opening, passing beggars and vagrants and the signs of widespread distress, that they were entering into a dialogue with their monarch over the future of France. That dialogue never happened: throughout the fateful summer of 1789, in which French politics and society were transformed beyond recognition, Louis XVI proved remarkably unwilling – maybe even unable – to communicate.

The Réveillon riots of April appear to have given the king the jitters, confirming the need to shift meetings of the Estates from Paris to tractable Versailles – a city, Arthur Young noted with some disgust, ‘absolutely fed by the palace’.25 Louis’s mind was distracted by the sad and protracted tubercular agony of his eldest son, whose death on 4 June 1789 exacerbated his general moroseness. Marie-Antoinette proved scarcely able, even in public, to contain her contempt for the new assembly, while Louis’s brothers, Artois and Provence, had started to combat the influence of Necker in the king’s counsels. Horrified at popular exuberance, church elders and magistrates from that Paris Parlement – the latter now utterly weaned off its erstwhile incendiary ways – also pleaded with Louis to protect rather than undermine the status quo.

The welcome accorded the Third Estate in Versailles was consequently far from gracious. Anxious to stifle political creativity from the Estates, royal advisers had provided a setting for the meetings which – like the 1775 coronation – highlighted historic precedent and archaic pageantry. Court etiquette redolent of la vieille France was everywhere in evidence. At the religious service held on 4 May the deputies of the Third were peeved to find their own sombre black uniforms being outshone by the sparkling uniforms which the noble deputies had been required to wear. The snazzy plumes à la Henri IV with which the nobles’ headgear was bedecked were a nice pre-Louis Quatorzian touch, but underestimated the extent to which such vestimentary marks of corporative (and, simultaneously, consumerist) privilege aggrieved the bourgeoisie. The aggressive traditionalism seemed, moreover, to go to the heads of many of the noble order. The Lyonnais Third Estate deputy Périsse du Luc was appalled that a fellow freemason from the noble order informed him quite seriously that he was ‘in fact a member of another race with different blood’.26 Herded round like cattle by ingratiating masters of ceremonies, sniggered over by their noble ‘betters’, expected to kneel in the presence of the monarch (which they refused), the commoner deputies found themselves growing increasingly resentful of the expectation that the historic ceremonial forms of the Bourbon polity could provide an appropriate framework for the task of national regeneration. All deputies were, it is true, momentarily dazzled by the official opening of the Estates on 5 May, though Thomas Jefferson’s summation that it was as imposing as an opera tellingly betrayed a tendency to judge royal ceremony in the terms of the bourgeois public sphere.27 Third Estate deputies were also disappointed to find the king’s opening comments at the Estates General, voiced by Necker and Keeper of the Seals Barentin, still in the idiom of royal will, corporative particularism and popular deference. Their hackles were raised sufficiently, indeed, for them to refuse, the next day, to follow the king’s orders to verify their credentials by order rather than in common assembly. Many deputies had been mandated by their electors to support voting by head rather than by order. While the noble and ecclesiastical orders went off to separate sessions, the deputies of the Third stood conspicuously firm – and by so doing deadlocked the course of events.

‘Our Estates General do nothing’, Poitou noble deputy the marquis de Ferrières reported a fortnight later: ‘we spend the whole day in useless chatter and shouting, with no one listening to anyone else’.28 The meetings of the Third Estate also presented a tableau of unedifying disorderliness. In the absence of a code of parliamentary procedures (which they would in time graft in from the English House of Commons), chaos appeared to rule: ‘hundreds of deputies tried to speak’, one witness recorded, ‘sometimes all at once, other times one at a time; we cannot possibly identify the movers of motions’.29 Yet the appearance of political incapacity was appearance only. By refusing to accept the corporative framework of the state even before the Estates met to deliberate, the deputies of the Third had thrown a mightily effective spanner into constitutional procedures. Royal aphasia and government repression proved unable, moreover, to choke the rising tide of vociferation which the political deadlock stimulated, notably in Paris. The complexity of the electoral procedures was such that the city’s elections to the Estates were still taking place down to 20 May, and thus both reflected and were influenced by the political moves going on in Versailles. Though the clergy and the nobility met behind closed doors, the Third – or ‘the Commons’, as they were calling themselves – allowed the public to attend their sessions, thus ensuring that boisterous visiting Parisians got a whiff of the flavour of political crisis. The ‘Commons’ publicized their fruitless efforts to seek a way forward: the other two orders had accepted the royal command, and the king himself stayed studiously aloof, refusing to meet delegations. His government’s efforts to keep a lid on discussion backfired too. The Provençal adventurer Mirabeau, for example, started a newspaper, the états-Généraux, to report events in the Estates, and was said to have over 10,000 Parisian subscribers within a day, but the government frowned on the venture and closed it down. Mirabeau countered by publishing the newspaper under the guise of letters to his constituents – a strategy beyond the reach of the censors. ‘The business going forward at present in the pamphlet shops of Paris is incredible,’ reported English agronomist Arthur Young on visiting the Palais-Royal, which had become the storm-centre of a popular radicalism which seemed to be getting out of control. Young was incredulous that ‘while the press teems with the most levelling and even seditious principles that … would overturn the monarchy, nothing in reply appears and not the least step is taken by the court to restrain the extreme licentiousness of publication’.30

By failing to give ear to the public debates raging over the previous few months and by neglecting to enter into a dialogue with the Third Estate once the Estates had met, the king cut himself off from a public opinion which had fallen in solidly behind the truculent ‘Commons’. Royal incomprehension was at no moment better displayed than over the decision of the latter on 17 June to assume the name of ‘National Assembly’. ‘It’s only a phrase,’ the king pouted when told the news.31 Yet this symbolic act – as subversive of the principle of corporate privilege as of respect for precedent-driven ceremonial – marked the moment at which the commoner deputies stopped the waiting game and, on the grounds that they constituted ‘at least ninety-six one-hundredths of the nation’, began the work of national regeneration on their own, with as many of the noble and clerical deputies as chose to join them. This new body alone, voting by head, would ‘interpret and present the general will of the nation’.32

It says much about the suspicion and apprehension which the king’s impassivity during the summer crisis had engendered in the new assembly that when on the morning of 20 June the deputies discovered the doors to their chamber locked, they immediately feared the worst. Anxious for their very lives, and assuming that a royal coup was imminent which would dispose of them, they repaired to a nearby hall, which had served as a tennis court. Under the direction of the scientist Bailly, one of the Parisian deputies, they took a solemn collective oath not to disperse until a new constitution had been properly established.33

The Tennis Court Oath drama was based on a misreading of Louis’s mind. The closure of the Assembly’s hall had been merely an oversight: the King’s Council had determined to hold a séance royale in which the king would attempt to end the deadlock by offering a reform programme to the fractious Estates, and it was felt that no further debates were necessary until then. In the event, when that session took place, on 23 June, the political mood had been immeasurably changed by the Tennis Court histrionics.

Louis XVI would look back on 23 June 1789 as the last time in his political life that he spoke freely and without duress. The reform programme he brought forward that day marked a moderately lucid compromise between conflicting views proffered on the royal council by Necker on one side, and by his royal brothers on the other. The decisions of the putative ‘national assembly’ were declared null and void, and the broad lineaments of a constitutional, noble-dominated political system were outlined. Mixed voting was promised on items of purely national business – all other affairs would be handled through meetings of the separate orders. There would be fiscal equality, a royal budget, national consent to new taxes, plus a greater measure of personal freedom (relaxation of lettres de cachet, less press censorship, etc.). There was, however, no mention of reform of feudalism, nor any major social change. The king had, it is true, finally broken his silence – but only to produce in turn a dismal silence from the usually loquacious Third Estate. It all seemed as though, glumly noted deputy Creuzé-Latouche, the king was choosing ‘to draw up the constitution by himself’, without any measure of consultation or negotiation. The heavy military presence which accompanied the session made the deputies very uneasy. When the king finished, he summoned the different orders to withdraw separately to verify their powers and get on with meeting. But the putative Third Estate refused to budge, and when the royal master of ceremonies requested them to disperse, Mirabeau stepped forward to thunder that it would require bayonets to make them budge.

Louis’s séance royale signally failed to kickstart the constitutional motor in the way he desired. Deadlock continued, and, as it did so, the position of the ‘Commons’ – or rather, the new National Assembly – grew ever stronger. The financial situation which had triggered the political crisis had not gone away: the state coffers were so bare that the king had to scrape around to find money to pay for masses to be said for the soul of his dear-departed dauphin. The séance royale caused government stocks to fall further. News coming in suggested an impending breakdown of order. A league or so from the Versailles palace, peasants were openly infringing the game laws and filling their stockpots with poached game, while from the provinces came reports of riots and rebellions triggered by high prices and continuing political instability. In Paris, the French Guards who had fired on the crowds in the Réveillon riots only weeks earlier were now disobeying their officers and fraternizing freely with turbulent civilians.

Behind the scenes at Versailles, moreover, political groupings and strategies were emerging to help structure events. Members of the ‘Society of Thirty’ continued to play a role in disseminating political propaganda. In addition, commoner deputies from Brittany – already hardened by tussles with the Breton nobility in 1788 – started informal evening meetings to coordinate action in the assembly the following day. These meetings of what was soon called the ‘Breton Club’ were attended by like-minded deputies from other delegations, notably the Artois grouping, among which numbered one Maximilien ‘de’ (as he still signed) Robespierre, an ambitious young lawyer. It was this group which had kept the new National Assembly together on 23 June, and, even before that, they had skilfully negotiated alliances with the fractions of the noble and clerical orders favourable to their cause. On 13 June, three curés from the Poitou had left the ecclesiastical chamber to join the ‘Commons’ to wild acclaim, and a sprinkling of their fellows followed in the next few days before on 25 June the majority of the clerics joined. On 22 June, a brace of noble deputies came too, to be followed on 26 June by some forty-seven nobles, led by the duc d’Orléans (whom many suspected of aiming for the crown for himself).

On 27 June, Louis performed what appeared to be a colossal climb-down. He ordered the rumps of the noble and clerical orders to join their confrères in the duly recognized National Assembly, and freed all deputies from the binding mandates their electors had placed upon them. Joy was momentarily unconfined. Arthur Young, who had been enraptured by the Parisian drama, judged this a good moment to leave the capital since, he felt, ‘the revolution [was] now complete’.34 Jefferson had much the same reaction: ‘This great crisis now being over’, he wrote home on 29 June, ‘I shall not have matter interesting enough to trouble you with as often as I have done lately’.35

Such comments highlighted that what was occurring within France – though extraordinary – had not yet passed the threshold of the astonishing and the unprecedented. Jefferson himself had, after all, seen political revolution at first hand in the United States. A figure such as Young constantly harked back to Britain’s 1688 ‘Glorious Revolution’ – and was aware that political struggles were not rarities. Below the surface, however, things were moving ineluctably onwards. The wavering monarch, for example, had not ceased to waver. On the very same day that he seemed to give way, he called up the duc de Broglie (‘a high flying aristocrat, cool and capable of every mischief’, according to Jefferson),36 to serve as generalissimo of all royal troops in the Parisian area. Soon tens of thousands of troops were on the march towards the capital, and though the official position was that these were to guard against the breakdown of order, most Parisians – by now inured to inferring the worst of a ruler who consistently failed to reveal his ideas – feared that a military crackdown was imminent. Those anxieties appeared to be founded when, on 11 July, the king dismissed Necker and his supporters on the Royal Council, replacing them by a new ministry which was generally viewed as brazenly counter-revolutionary, with Breteuil, the queen’s quondam champion, in charge, and Broglie at the War Ministry. Assiduous efforts were made to erect roadblocks to prevent the news reaching Paris. They failed, and Paris was soon up in arms – indeed, in the midst of revolution.

The tale of 14 July 1789 has been painted into every storybook history of France, and the raw elements leading up to the attack on the Bastille, the day’s centrepiece, need little recounting: how the news of Necker’s dismissal provoked panic in Paris; how journalist Camille Desmoulins leapt on to a table at the Palais-Royal, crying ‘To arms!’; how popular anxieties spread into attacks on the customs-posts in the Farmer Generals’ wall surrounding Paris, blamed for keeping grain out and sending food prices rocketing; how the 407 Parisian Electors in the final stage of elections to the Estates General, who had been meeting unofficially since 25 June, transformed themselves into a city council which restored order; how preparations for urban defence were established by the call-up of the city’s middle classes into a bourgeois militia (soon to be retitled National Guard); and how the search for arms and gunpowder to defend the city led to attacks on first the Invalides military pensioners hospital and then the Bastille. The picturesque and bathetic elements of the capture are also well known: the role of the renegade French Guardsmen in engineering the assault on the fortress; the women and children rushing up supplies and caring for the wounded; the exchange of fire and the smell of bloodshed; attempts to make a truce, followed by the botched capture of the fortress and the murder of the prison governor, de Launey, and many of the defenders; and the parading of severed heads around the city, alongside the (only) seven prisoners freed from the prison dungeons.

Even Louis XVI – never quick on the uptake – realized that the fall of the Bastille had changed everything. Some in his entourage, including the queen and Artois, had certainly been looking for military solutions: ‘violence’, Austrian ambassador, the comte de Mercy, had reported to Joseph II in early June, ‘may be the only possible way to save the monarchy’.37 Many deputies thought that a royal ‘patriotic’ coup, blustered through by Breteuil, and possibly on the lines of Gustavus III of Sweden’s coup in 1772, would combine a state bankruptcy with their own dismissal. This was why one of the first things they did, on 12–13 July, was to prohibit any public authority or figure from even pronouncing the word, ‘bankruptcy’, thus effectively nationalizing the royal debt. All the same, it was (and remains) uncertain whether Louis himself was ever party to such violent plans. His silence was his undoing, however: he was hoist by the petard of his own taciturnity.

Paris in rebel hands posed a colossal challenge to the powers of repression, and Louis listened gloomily as the baron de Besenval, Broglie’s lieutenant as army commander in the siege of Paris, informed him that he was unable to count on the loyalty of his troops, were battle to be joined with the rebels. Louis consequently entered the meeting of the Assembly dramatically to announce that he would disperse the troops and recall Necker – causing one excitable deputy to die of joy and a heart-attack. He determined, to general foreboding, to go in person to visit Paris. Unaccompanied save by the Versailles bourgeois militia, he entered the city on 17 July, making his way to the Hôtel de Ville (the city hall), where he confirmed Bailly as mayor of the municipal council and the marquis de Lafayette as commander of the Paris National Guard (as it now became). When he placed on his head the tricolour cockade imagined for this day of reconciliation – the city of Paris’s red and blue emblematic colours set off by the Bourbon dynasty’s white – a new era of social and political harmony seemed to be opening. And the king seemed definitely to be part of it.

Harmony was not, however, to prove characteristic of the following weeks. By mid-July it was becoming clear that the kind of municipal revolution instigated in Paris was being replicated throughout the land. Marseille had started the process in March, but in most other localities it required the political deadlock of the summer, followed by unaccountable troop movements and various varieties of turbulence, to stimulate urban elites into action. The form of their intervention varied, but usually an extraordinary committee of local business and professional elites – hitherto largely excluded from municipal power – either took over completely the running of urban affairs (as in Paris) or else came to a power-sharing arrangement with the established authorities. A particular feature of these changes was the creation of a bourgeois militia, both as a guarantee against noble or governmental counter-attack and also to ensure that law and order were maintained.

The countryside too was in upheaval. The period between grain stocks from the previous harvest running out and the harvesting beginning and putting fresh grain into the markets was always an emotionally fraught one for peasant families, especially following two such bad harvests as 1787 and 1788. Most rural areas were thus already on tenterhooks. The making of cahiers des doléances had also raised the threshold of popular expectation. The peasants had gone home from their parish assemblies, grumbled one legal official in Saumur, ‘with the idea that henceforward they were free from tithes, hunting prohibitions and the payment of seigneurial dues’.38 The political delays of the summer made many blame the court and the nobility for preventing reform from happening. Anti-noble and anti-seigneurial hostility was already well to the fore in peasant rebellions which had started in the spring: in Provence, Dauphiné and Franche-Comté from March, and in Hainaut and the Cambrésis in May. From 20 July to 6 August, the so-called ‘Great Fear’ – a set of panics, originating in around half a dozen starting-points – swept like lightning throughout France, immeasurably extending the area of peasant rebellion. The core of the message borne aloft in such panics was that nobles and noble-financed bands of brigands were touring the countryside ruining the crops and meting out death and destruction on those wanting reform.

The ‘Great Fear’ was grounded in fantasy – but understandable fantasy. No counter-revolutionary steps of the kind imagined were being taken. And the court faction most committed to violent solutions had broken up ignominiously post-Bastille, and Artois, Condé, Broglie and the Polignacs were already by 20 July leaving France for self-imposed exile. Yet the nobility’s intransigence in Versailles, relayed in the provinces by local aristocrats, had certainly not passed unnoticed. In the mood of economic and political anxiety which reigned, moreover, any number of unusual occurrences – troop movements, the presence of vagrant bands of beggars, the formation of urban militias, and indeed the peasant rebellions already taking place – could be and were metamorphosed into components of a sinister conspiracy. The rural perambulations of agronomist Arthur Young were frequently interrupted by peasants who found it difficult to imagine his interests were purely scientific, and in the fastnesses of Auvergne he was accused of plotting with the queen, Artois and local aristocrats.39 As in Paris, unattributable fears of counter-revolutionary action stimulated popular classes into militant action, with the Great Fear catalysing popular discontent – hunger riots, troubles over unemployment, anti-seigneurial hostility, rural crime – into a movement of radical social change. Very few areas were completely unaffected. In some localities (notably the Dauphiné, Flanders, lower Normandy, Mâconnais, Alsace), the Fear developed into violent peasant revolts involving château-burning, assaults on seigneurs and widespread looting. ‘Brigandage and looting are going on everywhere,’ reported the frightened estate steward of the duc de Montmorency from Normandy on 2 August. ‘The populace attributes the dearness of grain to the kingdom’s seigneurs, and is attacking everything belonging to them.’ A band of peasants and brigands had, he reported, attacked the dove-cote of a neighbouring seigneur and taken away all the seigneurial documents from his archives, even having the audacity to ‘give a receipt signed in the name of the Nation’.40 This kind of action was in fact fairly characteristic of the movement: armed mobilization against a threat of noble action (which never transpired); use of the moment to make a collective move against local seigneurs; the selection of targets, both symbolic (the seigneurial dove-cote) and financial (registers of feudal rights); and claimed legitimation of radical action by the ‘nation’ or, sometimes, by the king.

In the movement of disturbances, which reached a climax at the end of July, all forms of authority – seigneurial, ecclesiastic, municipal, urban, social, economic – were potential targets of popular ire. The strongest thread running through the movement as a whole was antiseigneurialism. Hatred of the seigneur was something which bound most members of a rural community together, even rich and poor who in other domains had antagonistic interests. Although the purchase of seigneuries by social-climbing bourgeois (including many deputies of the Third Estate) had been widespread over the eighteenth century, the assumption in most places was, nonetheless, that the interests of seigneurs and the nobility were identical. Unsurprisingly, many nobles blamed the whole movement on the commoner deputies of the Third Estate, who for their part too initially distanced themselves from it. ‘One must work for the good of the people’, the commoner deputy Duquesnoy had proclaimed, ‘but the people must do nothing for it themselves.’41 Some commoner deputies thought the peasant revolt – which was so very much more radical in its objectives than the wishes set out in the cahiers – further evidence of an aristocratic revolt aimed to thwart them in their task of creating a new constitution.

On 3 August, there were calls in the National Assembly for the restoration of law and order in the provinces and the continued payment of seigneurial dues, at least provisionally. In fact, by then deputies of the Breton Club caucus were seeking to devise a means of utilizing the peasant revolution as a way of strengthening the Assembly’s authority. Accepting that peasant revolution could not be gone back on, they wagered that it was vital that the Assembly – rather than the king – should claim credit for it. Plans were duly hatched, and in a session on the evening of 4 August liberal aristocrats, led by the plutocratic young blue-bloods, the duc d’Aiguillon and the vicomte de Noailles, stepped forward to demand the abolition of seigneurial dues. The ‘Night of 4 August’ soon got out of hand, as the spirit of renunciation of the ‘Ancien Régime’ (a term which was beginning to be used at around this period) spread amongst the deputies. Rhetorical spontaneity overtook conspiratorial pre-planning, and vast swathes of institutions and practices with their roots far in French history were abolished under the name of ‘feudalism’: seigneurial and feudal dues, the ecclesiastical tithe, provincial and municipal ‘liberties’, venality of office … The list went on. Laws of 5–11 August would declare that the National Assembly had ‘destroyed entirely the feudal regime’.42

Following the tergiversations of the July crisis and with the Artois faction in self-imposed exile, the king was in a state of uncommunicative depression. The way in which the National Assembly went about its business after 14 July depressed him more. He was, first, much irked by the Assembly’s decision to prefix the blueprint for a new constitution with a declaration of rights, which it spent most of late July and August haggling over. The Declaration of the Rights of Man, agreed by the Assembly on 26 August, constituted a ringing invocation of individual natural rights, which at a stroke dissolved the corporative, privilege-riddled fabric of the Bourbon polity, and invested the nation rather than the ruler with political sovereignty.43 Second, the king also resented efforts to eradicate the power and influence of the privileged orders: ‘I shall never consent’, he wrote confidentially on 5 August, ‘to the despoliation of my clergy and my nobility’ (a revealing use of the possessive adjective).44 Third, he resented what seemed to be the Assembly’s implicit republicanism: it, rather than he, claimed to represent the nation, and although he was willing to accept many of the anti-feudal reforms of 4 August, the deputies refused to brook even amendments of detail from him, so as to keep him entirely divorced from the legislative process.

Louis’s opposition to the political drift was shared by a loose grouping within the Assembly known as the monarchiens, led by Mounier, Malouet and Lally-Tollendal, and linked to Mirabeau, who wished to strengthen royal power as the best bulwark against popular anarchy. Yet monarchien projects were consistently rejected by the Assembly, most notably on 10 September, when it massively rejected their proposal for a two-tier legislature, on the lines of the English houses of parliament and the American Congress, on the grounds that this risked reinstating noble intransigence at the heart of the political machine. And the following day, by a less striking majority, the Assembly also rejected monarchien plans for granting the king an absolute veto over Assembly legislation, agreeing only to a suspensive veto.

The baulking of the monarch’s will led many to believe that Louis was planning either to flee to the provinces or else to attempt another counter-coup. These suspicions were fanned by the king’s decision to call to Versailles, putatively for his own protection, the notoriously loyalist Flanders regiment. On 3 October, Parisians awoke to find their newspapers recounting horror-stories about how in a reception for the regiment at Versailles given by the king’s bodyguard troops, drunken and overheated demonstration of personal loyalty to the king had merged with counter-revolutionary sentiments, with much symbolic stamping underfoot of national tricolour cockades. A royalist counter-coup seemed to be on the horizon. On 5 October, a British embassy official reported ‘the ludicrous sight of a female army proceeding very clamorously but in ordered and determined step towards Versailles’.45 The movement had originated as a demonstration of market women about bread prices (for the rural disturbances of the summer had profoundly disrupted normal commercial relations). Encouraged by radicals and journalists to beard the lion in its den, the demonstration turned into a plebeian political pilgrimage to the royal court – complete with cannon, pitchforks and rusty muskets – to protest about prices and about the Flanders regiment incident. Lafayette was press-ganged by his own National Guardsmen into going along. The mixed-sex demonstration developed overnight into a major political incident, as marauding gangs swept through the Versailles palace, threatening the life of queen and courtiers. Lafayette demobilized the crisis by getting the royal family to agree to relocate in Paris – and also to sanction the outstanding legislation regarding the abolition of feudalism and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. He then accompanied the royal convoy back to Paris, with the severed heads of slain bodyguards on pikes, and with the Assembly deputies following respectfully on, while the crowd chanted its contentment that ‘the baker, the baker’s wife and the baker’s boy’ were being brought to Paris: the transfer of king, queen and dauphin from Versailles to Paris was seen as the guarantee of the restoration of political order and affordable bread prices.

The events of 5–6 October had ‘saved France by aborting an abominable conspiracy’, Ménard de la Groye, deputy for Le Mans, wrote to his wife46 – though here, as so often in 1789 and in following years, the substantial reality or non-reality of a political plot was less important than the mobilizing force of the fear of conspiracy. The king bore events with his customary diffidence, but was stung to the quick. This more than symbolic transfer, under duress, from Versailles to Paris was to bring him – but also the Assembly, which relocated to the Tuileries palace too – more directly under the influence of national and Parisian politics. A few days later, Louis penned a secret missive to his Bourbon cousin, King Charles IV of Spain, formally renouncing his sanction to ‘all that has been done contrary to the royal authority this year’.47 The Bourbon sphinx was developing further riddles.

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