Amidst the Revolution, the women of Paris acclaim Marie Antoinette as their Queen

October 21, 2013

Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI in the Garden of the Tuileries with Madame Lambale. Painting by Joseph Caraud

Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI in the Garden of the Tuileries with Madame Lambale. Painting by Joseph Caraud

The Queen had sent for me on the morning of the 6th of October, to leave me and my father-in-law in charge of her most valuable property. She took away only her casket of diamonds. Comte Gouvernet de la Tour-du-Pin, to whom the military government of Versailles was entrusted “pro tempore,” came and gave orders to the National Guard, which had taken possession of the apartments, to allow us to remove everything that we should deem necessary for the Queen’s accommodation.

Comte de Paulin, Jean-Frédéric de La Tour du Pin Gouvernet

Comte de Paulin, Jean-Frédéric de La Tour du Pin Gouvernet

I saw her Majesty alone in her private apartments a moment before her departure for Paris; she could hardly speak; tears bedewed her face, to which all the blood in her body seemed to have rushed; she condescended to embrace me, gave her hand to M. Campan to kiss, and said to us, “Come immediately and settle at Paris; I will lodge you at the Tuileries; come, and do not leave me henceforward; faithful servants at moments like these become useful friends; we are lost, dragged away, perhaps to death; when kings become prisoners they are very near it.”

The March of Women to Versailles on the 5th and 6th of October 1789.

The March of Women to Versailles on the 5th and 6th of October 1789.

I had frequent opportunities during the course of our misfortunes of observing that the people never entirely give their allegiance to factious leaders, but easily escape their control when some cause reminds them of their duty. As soon as the most violent Jacobins had an opportunity of seeing the Queen near at hand, of speaking to her, and of hearing her voice, they became her most zealous partisans; and even when she was in the prison of the Temple several of those who had contributed to place her there perished for having attempted to get her out again.

French Revolution

On the morning of the 7th of October the same women who the day before surrounded the carriage of the august prisoners, riding on cannons and uttering the most abusive language, assembled under the Queen’s windows, upon the terrace of the Chateau, and desired to see her. Her Majesty appeared. There are always among mobs of this description orators, that is to say, beings who have more assurance than the rest; a woman of this description told the Queen that she must now remove far from her all such courtiers as ruin kings, and that she must love the inhabitants of her good city. The Queen answered that she had loved them at Versailles, and would likewise love them at Paris. “Yes, yes,” said another; “but on the 14th of July you wanted to besiege the city and have it bombarded; and on the 6th of October you wanted to fly to the frontiers.” The Queen replied, affably, that they had been told so, and had believed it; that there lay the cause of the unhappiness of the people and of the best of kings. A third addressed a few words to her in German: the Queen told her she did not understand it; that she had become so entirely French as even to have forgotten her mother tongue. This declaration was answered with “Bravo!” and clapping of hands; they then desired her to make a compact with them. “Ah,” said she, “how can I make a compact with you, since you have no faith in that which my duty points out to me, and which I ought for my own happiness to respect?” They asked her for the ribbons and flowers out of her hat; her Majesty herself unfastened them and gave them; they were divided among the party, which for above half an hour cried out, without ceasing, “Marie Antoinette for ever! Our good Queen for ever!”

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Madame Campan, Memoirs of the Court of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (Boston: L. C. Page and Company, Inc., 1900), Bk 2, Ch. 2.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 327

 

 

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