The storming of the Tuileries

tuileries storming
(public domain)

From the flight to Varennes in June 1791 until the storming of the Tuileries on 10 August 1792, Marie Antoinette and her family were held at the Tuileries Palace guarded by the National Guard.

At the end of June 1791, Marie Antoinette wrote assuringly to Count Axel von Fersen, “Be reassured about us; we are alive.”1 She later wrote, “We are in view of our guards day and night; I’m indifferent to it… Be calm, nothing will happen to me…”2 Her hair had turned almost completely white throughout all the ordeals she had withstood so far, even though she was still only 36 years old. She even sent a lock of her hair to the Princess of Lamballe in a ring with the description “blanchis par malheur.”3

While under guard in the Tuileries Palace, King Louis XVI accepted the new Constitution that turned him into a constitutional monarch with limited powers. A visitor to the Tuileries gardens later noted that they had seen two soldiers keeping their hats on and seeing disgusting songs in the presence of Marie Antoinette as there was no mention of her in the new Constitution, and thus “she was owed no respect as the King’s wife.”4 Privately, Marie Antoinette had denounced the new Constitution as “monstrous.”5

She continued to believe that a foreign power would come in and save the day and wrote in the middle of August that “the foreign powers are the only ones that can save us.”6 At the end of August 1791, the Declaration of Pillnitz was issued, calling on the European powers to intervene. This eventually led to the French Revolutionary Wars and the events of August 1792.

But for now, Marie Antoinette wrote many letters – some in code, some written with lemon juice – to, among others, the Kings of Spain and Sweden. She hoped for their support but was eventually exhausted by her letter writing. She had even been convinced to recall the Princess of Lamballe, who was still officially the Superintendent of her Household, as “a pledge of her intentions”7 even though she desperately wrote to her, “No, once again, don’t come back, my dear heart; don’t throw yourself in the mouth of the tiger; I’ve already got too many worries with my husband and my poor little children.”8 The Princess of Lamballe dutifully returned and carried with her a little red and white spaniel as a gift.

On 13 February 1792, Marie Antoinette was briefly reunited with Count Axel von Fersen, whom she had not seen since the flight to Varennes. He had slipped in through a side door and spent the night there, hoping to convince King Louis XVI to attempt another escape. It would be the last time they would meet, though letters between them continued until the following year.

tuileries palace marie antoinette
The Tuileries 20 June 1792 (public domain)

On 20 June 1792, a terrifying mob was allowed into the gardens of the palace by the National Guard. They carried pikes and hatchets and eventually broke into the palace itself. They made their way to the King’s apartments and confronted Louis, who was being protected by the Duke de Mouchy, Marshal of France. The 72-year-old Duke had placed himself firmly between the King and the mob. King Louis reportedly behaved himself admirably in the face of the mob and accepted the small bonnet rouge offered to him on the end of a butcher’s pike. It was too small for him. He also toasted to the health of the people with the mob.

The King’s sister, Madame Elisabeth, also acted quite bravely. The mob had mistaken her for Marie Antoinette, and she wished to keep up that pretence, saying, “Don’t undeceive them, let them think that I am the Queen…”9

Marie Antoinette was helped to safety, even though she had wished to remain by her husband’s side. After being reminded that she was also a mother, she took refuge with her children after escaping. When she was later asked if she had been afraid, she replied, “No, but I suffered from being separated from Louis XVI at a moment when his life was in danger.”10

In the following weeks, the quality of their life at the Tuileries went down considerably. The family no longer walked in the gardens as the insults were so terrible. Calls for the end of the monarchy were growing stronger with each passing day. An assault was to be expected, and it came on 10 August 1792.

A mob of an estimated 10,000 men were headed towards the Tuileries Palace, and King Louis XVI was sent to inspect the defences to boost morale. Once outside, the King was subjected to insults and jeers. As the situation deteriorated, the question arose if the National Guards could be trusted to defend them or whether they would need to flee to the Legislative Assembly. However, Marie Antoinette preferred to stay where they were. She was eventually convinced to leave when she was prevailed upon for the safety of her children. As she left, she told the National Guards and aristocrats fighting with them, “Gentlemen, we all have the same interests… These generous servitors will share your dangers, fight with you and for you to the last extremity.”11

Despite the crowd gathering around them, the small group made their way to the Assembly. Once there, they were met by deputies who formally offered the King asylum. They were penned into the reporters’ box with its grating exposed to the sun. For the entirety of the hot day, they were left there. Meanwhile, in the palace, hundreds were massacred, and the palace was ransacked.

tuileries palace mob
(public domain)

Later that night, the family was offered accommodation in a convent. However, they could not stay there, and after a debate about what place could provide the best security, they settled on the Temple, a medieval fortress used as a prison. Conditions were considerably harsher than they had been before, and just a short while later, the monarchy fell.

  1. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.419
  2. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.419-420
  3. Bleached by misfortune
  4. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.423
  5. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.423
  6. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.426
  7. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.431
  8. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.430
  9. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.441
  10. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.441
  11. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.450-451

About Moniek Bloks 2659 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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