Flight to Varennes

The royal Flight to Varennes (French: Fuite à Varennes) during the night of 20–21 June 1791 was a significant episode in the French Revolution in which King Louis XVI of France, his queen Marie Antoinette, and their immediate family unsuccessfully attempted to escape from Paris in order to initiate a counter-revolution at the head of loyal troops under royalist officers concentrated at Montmédy near the frontier. They escaped only as far as the small town of Varennes, where they were arrested after having been recognized at their previous stop in Sainte-Menehould.

This incident was a turning point after which popular hostility towards the French monarchy as an institution, as well as towards the king and queen as individuals, became much more pronounced. The king's attempted flight provoked charges of treason that ultimately led to his execution in 1793.

The failure of the escape plans was due to a series of misadventures, delays, misinterpretations, and poor judgments.[1] Much was due to the King's indecision; he repeatedly postponed the schedule, allowing small problems to become big ones. Furthermore, he misjudged popular support for the traditional monarchy. He thought that only radicals in Paris were promoting a revolution that the people as a whole rejected. He believed, mistakenly, that he was beloved by the rural peasants and the common people.[2] The king's flight was traumatic for France, inciting a wave of emotions that ranged from anxiety to violence and panic. Everyone was aware that foreign intervention was imminent. The realization that the king had effectually repudiated the revolutionary reforms made up to that point came as a shock to people who, until then, had seen him as a fundamentally well-meaning monarch who governed as a manifestation of God's will. Republicanism, from being merely a subject of coffeehouse debate, suddenly became the dominant ideal of revolutionary leaders.[3]

Arrest of Louis XVI and his Family, Varennes, 1791
Louis XVI and his family, dressed as bourgeois, arrested in Varennes. Picture by Thomas Falcon Marshall (1854)
Louis XVI Flight to Varennes
The route from Tuileries Palace to Varennes-en-Argonne (approximately 250 km)


Louis XVI's indecision on how to deal with revolutionary demands was one of the causes of the forcible transfer of the royal family from the Palace of Versailles to the Tuileries in Paris on 6 October 1789 after Versailles had been attacked by an angry mob in The Women's March on Versailles. Henceforth, the king seems to have become emotionally paralyzed, leaving most important decisions to the politically untrained queen. On 28 February 1791, while the Marquis de Lafayette was handling a conflict in Vincennes, hundreds of royalists came to the Tuileries to demonstrate in support of the royal family, only to be expelled from the palace by National Guards.[4]

Objectives of flight

The intended goal of the unsuccessful flight was to provide the king with greater freedom of action and personal security than was possible in Paris.[5] At Montmédy General François Claude de Bouillé, the marquis de Bouillé, had concentrated a force of 10,000 regulars of the old royal army who were considered to still be loyal to the monarchy.[6] De Bouillé himself had shown energy in suppressing a serious mutiny in Nancy in 1790. The troops under his command included two Swiss and four German mercenary regiments who were perceived as being more reliable in a time of general political unrest than their French counterparts.[7] In a letter drafted for presentation to the Diet of the Swiss Cantons at Zurich, the royalist baron de Breteuil stated that "His Majesty desires to have such imposing forces at his disposition, that even the most audacious rebels will have no other option than to submit". The court expectation was that "numerous faithful subjects of all classes" would then rally to demand the restoration of the rights of the throne and that order would be restored without the need for civil war or foreign invasion.[8]

The long-term political objectives of the royal couple and their closest advisors remain unclear. A detailed document entitled Declaration to the French People prepared by Louis for presentation to the National Assembly and left behind in the Tuileries indicates that his personal goal was a return to the concessions and compromises contained in the declaration of the Third Estate on 23 June 1789, immediately prior to the outbreak of violence in Paris and the storming of the Bastille. Private correspondence from Marie Antoinette takes a more reactionary line looking to a restoration of the old monarchy without concessions; though referring to pardons for all but the revolutionary leadership and the city of Paris "if it does not return to its old order".[9]

The flight attempt

Prodded by the queen, Louis committed himself and his family to a disastrous attempt of escape from the capital to the eastern frontier on 21 June 1791. With the dauphin's governess, the Marquise de Tourzel, taking on the role of a Russian baroness, the queen and the king's sister Madame Élisabeth playing the roles of governess and nurse respectively, the king a valet, and the royal children her daughters, the royal family made their escape leaving the Tuileries Palace at about midnight.[10] The escape was largely planned by the queen's favourite, the Swedish Count Axel von Fersen and the Baron de Breteuil, who had garnered support from Swedish King Gustavus III. Fersen had urged the use of two light carriages that could have made the 200-mile journey to Montmédy relatively quickly. This would have involved the splitting up of the royal family, however, thus Louis and Marie-Antoinette decided on the use of a heavy and conspicuous coach drawn by six horses.[11]

Arrestation de Louis Capet à Varennes, 22 juin 1791, Musée de la Révolution française - Vizille
The arrest of Louis XVI and his family – Stamp by Jean-Louis Prieur,
(Musée de la Révolution française).

Unmasking and arrest

Jean Baptiste Drouet
Jean-Baptiste Drouet, who recognised the royal family
Drouet recognized the king thanks to his profile on an assignat

Due to the cumulative effect of slow progression, time miscalculations, lack of secrecy, and the need to repair broken coach traces,[12] the royal family was thwarted in its escape attempt after leaving Paris. Louis himself chatted with peasants while horses were being changed at Fromentieres and Marie Antoinette gave silver dishes to a helpful local official at Chaintrix. At Châlons townspeople reportedly greeted and applauded the royal party. Finally, Jean-Baptiste Drouet, the postmaster of Sainte-Menehould, recognized the king from his portrait printed on an assignat in his possession.[13] Seven detachments of cavalry posted along the intended route had been withdrawn or neutralized by suspicious crowds before the large and slow moving vehicle being used by the royal party had reached them. The king and his family were eventually arrested in the town of Varennes, 50 km (31 miles) from their ultimate destination, the heavily fortified royalist citadel of Montmédy.[14]

Whether De Bouillé's army would have been numerous or reliable enough to change the direction of the revolution and preserve the monarchy can never be known.[15][16]

Confinement to Tuileries Palace

Duplessi-Bertaux - Arrivee de Louis Seize a Paris
The return of the royal family to Paris on 25 June 1791: colored copperplate after a drawing of Jean-Louis Prieur

When the royal family finally returned under guard to Paris, the revolutionary crowd met the royal carriage with uncharacteristic silence and consequently, complete shock rippled throughout the crowd at the sight of their king. The royal family was confined to the Tuileries Palace. From this point forward, the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic became an ever-increasing possibility. The credibility of the king as a constitutional monarch had been seriously undermined by the escape attempt.

After they returned, the National Constituent Assembly agreed that the king could be restored to power if he agreed to the constitution. However, various factions in Paris like the Cordeliers and the Jacobins disagreed, and this led to a protest at the Champ de Mars; the protest turned violent, resulting in the Champ de Mars Massacre.[17]

From the autumn of 1791 on, the king tied his hopes of political salvation to the dubious prospects of foreign intervention. At the same time, he encouraged the Girondin faction in the Legislative Assembly in their policy of war with Austria, in the expectation that a French military disaster would pave the way for the restoration of his royal authority. Prompted by Marie Antoinette, Louis rejected the advice of the moderate constitutionalists, led by Antoine Barnave, to fully implement the Constitution of 1791, which he had sworn to maintain. He instead secretly committed himself to a policy of covert counter-revolution.

Abolishing the monarchy

The king's failed escape attempt alarmed many other European monarchs, who feared that the revolutionary fervor would spread to their countries and result in instability outside France. Relations between France and its neighbors, already strained because of the revolution, deteriorated even further with some foreign ministries calling for war against the revolutionary government.

The outbreak of the war with Austria in April 1792 and the publication of a manifesto by the Prussian commander, Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, threatened the destruction of Paris if the safety of the royal family was again endangered. Upon hearing this, Parisian radicals stormed the Tuileries Palace on 10 August 1792.[18] This was the event that sounded the death knell for the monarch.[19]

This attack led in turn to the suspension of the king's powers by the Legislative Assembly and the proclamation of the First French Republic on 21 September. In November, proof of Louis XVI's secret dealings with the deceased revolutionary politician, Mirabeau, and of his counterrevolutionary intrigues with foreigners was found in a secret iron chest, the armoire de fer, in the Tuileries. It was now no longer possible to pretend that the reforms of the French Revolution had been made with the free consent of the king. Some Republicans called for his deposition, others for his trial for alleged treason and intended defection to the enemies of the French Nation. On 3 December, it was decided that Louis XVI, who together with his family had been imprisoned since August, should be brought to trial for treason. He appeared twice, on 11 and 23 December, before the National Convention.

Convicted, Louis was sent to the guillotine on 21 January 1793. Nine months later, Marie Antoinette was also convicted of treason, and was beheaded on 16 October.


  1. ^ Thompson, J. M. (James Matthew) (1943), The French Revolution, Oxford, retrieved 5 April 2017
  2. ^ Timothy Tackett, When the King Took Flight (2003) ch. 3
  3. ^ Timothy Tackett, When the King Took Flight (2003) p. 222
  4. ^ Thiers, Marie Joseph L Adolphe (1845). The History of the French Revolution. pp. 61–62.
  5. ^ Cobb, Richard; Jones, Colin, eds. (1988). Voices of the French Revolution. Harpercollins. p. 114. ISBN 0881623385.
  6. ^ Price, Monro. The Fall of the French Monarchy. p. 170. ISBN 0-330-48827-9.
  7. ^ Tozzi, Christopher J. Nationalizing France's Army. pp. 62–63. ISBN 9780813938332.
  8. ^ Price, Monro. The Fall of the French Monarchy. pp. 176–77. ISBN 0-330-48827-9.
  9. ^ Price, Monro. The Fall of the French Monarchy. pp. 193–94. ISBN 0-330-48827-9.
  10. ^ Richard Cavendish, page 8, "History Today", June 2016
  11. ^ Richard Cavendish, p. 8, "History Today", June 2016
  12. ^ Price, Monro. The Fall of the French Monarchy. pp. 173–175. ISBN 0-330-48827-9.
  13. ^ Drouet, Jean-Baptiste (1791). Récit fait par M. Drouet, maître de poste à Ste Menehould, de la manière dont il a reconnu le Roi, et a été cause de son arrestation à Varennes: honneurs rendus à ce citoyen et à deux de ses camarades. Gallica. Les archives de la Révolution française. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  14. ^ Richard Cavendish, p. 8, "History Today", June 2016
  15. ^ Price, Monro. The Fall of the French Monarchy. p. 187. ISBN 0-330-48827-9.
  16. ^ Tozzi, Christopher J. Nationalizing France's Army. p. 63. ISBN 9780813938332.
  17. ^ Woodward, W.E. Lafayette.
  18. ^ McPhee, Peter (2002). The French Revolution 1789–1799. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 0-199-24414-6.
  19. ^ Hampson, Norman (1988). A Social History of the French Revolution. Routledge: University of Toronto Press. p. 148. ISBN 0-710-06525-6.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEsmein, Jean Paul Hippolyte Emmanuel Adhémar (1911). "France: History. In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 801–929.

Further reading

  • Dunn, Susan. The Deaths of Louis XVI: Regicide and the French Political Imagination (1994).
  • Loomis, Stanley, The Fatal Friendship: Marie Antoinette, Count Fersen and the Flight to Varennes, Avon Books, 1972. ISBN 0-931933-33-1
  • Timothy Tackett, When the King Took Flight, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.
  • Thompson, J. M. The French Revolution (1943) 206–27, detailed narrative with explanation of what went wrong
  • The article also draws material from the out-of-copyright History of the French Revolution from 1789 to 1814, by François Mignet (1824), as made available by Project Gutenberg.

External links

Primary sources


1791 (MDCCXCI)

was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar, the 1791st year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 791st year of the 2nd millennium, the 91st year of the 18th century, and the 2nd year of the 1790s decade. As of the start of 1791, the Gregorian calendar was

11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

1791 in France

Events from the year 1791 in France.

Carl Adolf Boheman

Carl Adolf Andersson Boheman (3 September 1764 – 14 April 1831) was a Swedish mystic, Freemason, merchant and royal secretary.

Boheman was born in Jönköping as the son of city Councillor Anders Bohman and Regina Katarina Schelle. Early on, he became a member of the Masonic Lodge. There is a legend that Boheman assisted count Axel von Fersen the Younger in his attempt to help the French royal family to escape during the Flight to Varennes in 1791, and that he founded a fortune by stealing the jewelry box of Marie Antoinette. This is probably without foundation.

Boheman lived in Denmark during the 1790s, where he worked for the Masonic "The Enlightened of Avignon" or D.E.L.U. (deus est lux universalis), on the commission of its grand master Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel. As such, he visited Sweden on several occasions, during which he was presented by Gustaf Adolf Reuterholm to Duke Charles, the grand master of the Swedish Freemasons, who made him his secretary. Boheman acquired a great deal of influence upon Prince Charles and his consort, Duchess Charlotte, who were both interested in mystic and the occult. In 1802, Boheman founded the Masonic lodge Gula Rosen (Yellow Rose). This Masonic lodge was open to both sexes, and among its members he inducted, except for the prince and princess, the queen's mother Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt, count Erik Ruuth, Charlotte Wahrendorff, count Magnus Fredrik Brahe and Catharina Ulrica Koskull. In 1803, he attempted to initiate the king, Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden, which led to the Boheman Affair, which damaged the relationship between the Ducal couple and the king. Gustav IV Adolf feared Boheman, after a warning from Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, who pointed out Boheman as a member of the Illuminati and the Yellow Rose as a society of conspirators. The King had Boheman arrested, the Duke and Duchess questioned, banned secret societies at court, forced Duke Charles to excluded Boheman from the Freemasons and had Boheman exiled for crimes against national safety. He was banished from Denmark as well and forced to continue to Germany. He returned to Sweden in 1814 and asked for compensation, but was banished again.

Champ de Mars Massacre

The Champ de Mars Massacre took place on 17 July 1791 in Paris against a crowd of republican protesters in the midst of the French Revolution. The event is named after the site of the massacre, the Champ de Mars. Two days before, the National Constituent Assembly issued a decree that the king, Louis XVI, would retain his throne under a constitutional monarchy. This decision came after Louis and his family had unsuccessfully tried to flee France in the Flight to Varennes the month before. Later that day, leaders of the republicans in France rallied against this decision, eventually leading royalist Lafayette to order the massacre.Jacques Pierre Brissot, editor and main writer of Le Patriote français and president of the Comité des Recherches of Paris, drew up a petition demanding the removal of the king. A crowd of 50,000 people gathered at the Champ de Mars on July 17 to sign the petition, with about 6,000 having signed the petition. However, earlier that day two suspicious people had been found hiding at the Champ de Mars, "possibly with the intention of getting a better view of the ladies' ankles", and were hanged by those who found them. Jean Sylvain Bailly, the mayor of Paris, used this incident to declare martial law. The Marquis de Lafayette and the National Guard, which was under his command, were able to disperse the crowd.

Later in the afternoon, the crowd, led by Danton and Camille Desmoulins, returned in even greater numbers. The larger crowd was also more determined than the first. Lafayette again tried to disperse it. In retaliation, the crowd threw stones at the National Guard. After firing unsuccessful warning shots, the National Guard opened fire directly on the crowd. The exact numbers of dead and wounded are unknown; estimates range from a dozen to fifty dead.

Declaration of Pillnitz

The Declaration of Pilnite, more commonly referred to as the Declaration of Pillnitz, was a statement issued on 27 August 1791 at Pillnitz Castle near Dresden (Saxony) by Frederick William II of Prussia and the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II who was Marie Antoinette's brother. It declared the joint support of the Holy Roman Empire and of Prussia for King Louis XVI of France against the French Revolution.

Eleanore Sullivan

Anna Eleanore Sullivan, previously Eleanora Franchi (12 June 1750 in Lucca – 14 September 1833) was an Italian courtesan, mostly known in history for her relationship with Axel von Fersen, the alleged lover of the French queen Marie Antoinette. She participated in the famous Flight to Varennes, the attempt of the French royal family to leave France during the French revolution, with the assistance of Fersen.

French Revolution from the summer of 1790 to the establishment of the Legislative Assembly

The French Revolution was a period in the history of France covering the years 1789 to 1799, in which republicans overthrew the Bourbon monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church perforce underwent radical restructuring. This article covers a period of time slightly longer than a year, from 14 July 1790, the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, to the establishment of the Legislative Assembly on 1 October 1791.

This article is a continuation of French Revolution from the abolition of feudalism to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Please see that article for background and historical context.

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (French: [maʁki də la fajɛt]; 6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), known in the United States simply as Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, commanding American troops in several battles, including the Siege of Yorktown. After returning to France, he was a key figure in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830.

Lafayette was born into a wealthy land-owning family in Chavaniac in the province of Auvergne in south central France. He followed the family's martial tradition and was commissioned an officer at age 13. He became convinced that the American cause was noble in its revolutionary war, and he traveled to the New World seeking glory in it. He was made a major general at age 19, but he was initially not given American troops to command. He was wounded during the Battle of Brandywine but still managed to organize an orderly retreat, and he served with distinction in the Battle of Rhode Island. In the middle of the war, he sailed for home to lobby for an increase in French support. He returned to America in 1780 and was given senior positions in the Continental Army. In 1781, troops under his command in Virginia blocked forces led by Cornwallis until other American and French forces could position themselves for the decisive Siege of Yorktown.

Lafayette returned to France and was appointed to the Assembly of Notables in 1787, convened in response to the fiscal crisis. He was elected a member of the Estates General of 1789, where representatives met from the three traditional orders of French society: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. After forming the National Constituent Assembly, he helped to write the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen with Thomas Jefferson's assistance. This document was inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence and invoked natural law to establish basic principles of the democratic nation-state. He also advocated the end of slavery, in keeping with the philosophy of natural liberty. After the storming of the Bastille, he was appointed commander-in-chief of France's National Guard and tried to steer a middle course through the years of revolution. In August 1792, radical factions ordered his arrest, and he fled into the Austrian Netherlands. He was captured by Austrian troops and spent more than five years in prison.

Lafayette returned to France after Napoleon Bonaparte secured his release in 1797, though he refused to participate in Napoleon's government. After the Bourbon Restoration of 1814, he became a liberal member of the Chamber of Deputies, a position that he held for most of the remainder of his life. In 1824, President James Monroe invited him to the United States as the nation's guest, and he visited all 24 states in the union and met a rapturous reception. During France's July Revolution of 1830, he declined an offer to become the French dictator. Instead, he supported Louis-Philippe as king, but turned against him when the monarch became autocratic. He died on 20 May 1834 and is buried in Picpus Cemetery in Paris, under soil from Bunker Hill. He is sometimes known as "The Hero of the Two Worlds" for his accomplishments in the service of both France and the United States.

Jacques Anne Joseph Le Prestre de Vauban

Jacques Anne Joseph Le Prestre de Vauban (10 March 1754, in Dijon – 20 April 1816) was a French general of the Ancien Régime and the French Revolutionary Wars. He was the grandson of Antoine Le Prestre de Vauban – Antoine was nephew to the military architect Vauban.

Entering military service in 1770, he was Rochambeau's aide-de-camp during the American War of Independence and was sent back to France with the general's dispatches in 1782. He became colonel and second in command of the régiment d'Agenors, and shortly afterwards, the duc d'Orléans, whose chamberlain he was, made him colonel in command of the régiment d'infanterie that took his name and knight of the order of Saint-Louis on 13 June 1784.

Like most other officer of his corps, he emigrated around the time of Louis XVI's flight to Varennes, going to Ath, then Koblenz, where the comte d'Artois made him his aide-de-camp. He accompanied him in this role during the campaign of 1792 and on his trip to Russia in 1793, where they were well received by Catherine II of Russia. He then went to England, and in spring 1795 joined the Quiberon expedition. Charged, under Joseph-Geneviève de Puisaye, with commanding a unit of Chouans charged with attacking the rear of the Republican army, he was prevented by the forces of Hoche and, tricked by false signals, forced to retreat. He fulfilled several different missions to the Vendée and the île d'Yeu, with the comte d'Artois. Returning to London, he hastened to return to Russia but arrived there at the moment of Catherine's death, fell victim (like most French Royalists in Russia) to Paul I's changeability and was soon forced to leave. He returned to France and stayed for a time in Paris, with police consent, until he was arrested in 1806 and held prisoner for a long while in the Temple.

Jean-Baptiste Drouet (French revolutionary)

Jean-Baptiste Drouet (January 8, 1763 – April 11, 1824) was a French politician of the 1789 Revolution, chiefly noted for the part he played in the arrest of King Louis XVI during the Flight to Varennes.

Jean-François Autié

Jean-François Autié (1758 – 25 July 1794) was a hairdresser to Queen Marie Antoinette. He was the youngest brother of Léonard-Alexis Autié (c. 1750 – 1820) and Pierre Autié (22 July 1753 – 1814), who were also hairdressers at the royal court. All three brothers used the professional name of Monsieur Léonard.

Louis XVI of France

Louis XVI (French pronunciation: ​[lwi sɛːz]; 23 August 1754 – 21 January 1793), born Louis-Auguste, was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as Citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new Dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.

The first part of his reign was marked by attempts to reform the French government in accordance with Enlightenment ideas. These included efforts to abolish serfdom, remove the taille, and increase tolerance toward non-Catholics. The French nobility reacted to the proposed reforms with hostility, and successfully opposed their implementation. Louis implemented deregulation of the grain market, advocated by his economic liberal minister Turgot, but it resulted in an increase in bread prices. In periods of bad harvests, it would lead to food scarcity which would prompt the masses to revolt. From 1776, Louis XVI actively supported the North American colonists, who were seeking their independence from Great Britain, which was realised in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The ensuing debt and financial crisis contributed to the unpopularity of the Ancien Régime. This led to the convening of the Estates-General of 1789. Discontent among the members of France's middle and lower classes resulted in strengthened opposition to the French aristocracy and to the absolute monarchy, of which Louis and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, were viewed as representatives. Increasing tensions and violence were marked by events such as the storming of the Bastille, during which riots in Paris forced Louis to definitively recognize the legislative authority of the National Assembly. Louis XVI was initiated into masonic lodge Trois-Frères à l'Orient de la Cour.

Louis's indecisiveness and conservatism led some elements of the people of France to view him as a symbol of the perceived tyranny of the Ancien Régime, and his popularity deteriorated progressively. His disastrous flight to Varennes in June 1791, four months before the constitutional monarchy was declared, seemed to justify the rumors that the king tied his hopes of political salvation to the prospects of foreign intervention. The credibility of the king was deeply undermined, and the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic became an ever-increasing possibility. Despite his lack of popular approbation, Louis XVI did abolish the death penalty for deserters, as well as the labor tax, which had compelled the French lower classes to spend two weeks out of the year working on buildings and roads.In a context of civil and international war, Louis XVI was suspended and arrested at the time of the Insurrection of 10 August 1792; one month later, the absolute monarchy was abolished; the First French Republic was proclaimed on 21 September 1792. He was tried by the National Convention (self-instituted as a tribunal for the occasion), found guilty of high treason, and executed by guillotine on 21 January 1793, as a desacralized French citizen under the name of "Citizen Louis Capet," in reference to Hugh Capet, the founder of the Capetian dynasty – which the revolutionaries interpreted as Louis's family name. Louis XVI was the only King of France ever to be executed, and his death brought an end to more than a thousand years of continuous French monarchy. Both of his sons died in childhood, before the Bourbon Restoration; his only child to reach adulthood, Marie Therese, was given over to the Austrians in exchange for French prisoners of war, eventually dying childless in 1851.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette (; French: [maʁi ɑ̃twanɛt]; born Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She became Dauphine of France in May 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. On 10 May 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she assumed the title Queen of France and Navarre, which she held until September 1791, when she became Queen of the French as the French Revolution proceeded, a title that she held until 21 September 1792.

After eight years of marriage, Marie Antoinette gave birth to Marie Thérèse, the first of her four children. A growing percentage of the population came to dislike her, accusing her of being profligate and promiscuous and of harboring sympathies for France's enemies, particularly her native Austria. The Affair of the Diamond Necklace damaged her reputation further. During the Revolution, she became known as Madame Déficit because the country's financial crisis was blamed on her lavish spending and her opposition to the social and financial reforms of Turgot and Necker.

Several events were linked to Marie Antoinette during the Revolution after the government had placed the royal family under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace in October 1789. The June 1791 attempted flight to Varennes and her role in the War of the First Coalition had disastrous effects on French popular opinion. On 10 August 1792, the attack on the Tuileries forced the royal family to take refuge at the Assembly, and they were imprisoned in the Temple Prison on 13 August. On 21 September 1792, the monarchy was abolished. Her trial began on 14 October 1793, and two days later Marie Antoinette was convicted by the Revolutionary Tribunal of high treason and executed by guillotine on the Place de la Révolution.

Marie Antoinette syndrome

Marie Antoinette syndrome is an alleged condition of hair suddenly turning white. The name comes from folklore about the hair of Queen Marie Antoinette of France turning stark white after her capture following the ill-fated flight to Varennes during the French Revolution. According to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), witnesses claimed that Antoinette's hair rapidly turned white on three separate occasions.

Padua Circular

The Padua Circular was a diplomatic note produced by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II on 6 July 1791. Prompted by the arrest of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette after the Flight to Varennes, the Circular called on the sovereigns of Europe to join him in demanding their freedom. It was followed by diplomatic initiatives in which the Holy Roman Empire looked for rapprochement with its traditional enemy, Hohenzollern Prussia.The Padua Circular met with little enthusiasm by the other powers of Europe so there was no basis for any kind of collective action by the powers on behalf of the French king.

However, it led to a convention between Prussia and Austria on 25 July 1791, which settled all outstanding disputes, pledged co-operation over France and paved the way for the more substantive Declaration of Pillnitz, authored jointly by Austria and Prussia, in August 1791.

Pierre-Joseph Cambon

Pierre-Joseph Cambon (10 June 1756 – 15 February 1820) was a French statesman.

Born in Montpellier, Cambon was the son of a wealthy cotton merchant. In 1785, his father retired, leaving Pierre and his two brothers to run the business, but in 1788 Pierre entered politics, and was sent by his fellow-citizens as deputy suppliant to the Estates-General, where he was mostly a spectator. In January 1790 he returned to Montpellier, was elected a member of the municipality, co-founded the Jacobin Club in that city, and on the flight to Varennes of King Louis XVI in 1791, he drew up a petition to invite the National Constituent Assembly to proclaim a Republic —the first in date of such petitions.

Elected to the Legislative Assembly, Cambon was viewed as independent, honest, and talented in the financial domain. He was the most active member of the committee of finance and was often charged to verify the state of the treasury. His analytical skills were recorded in his remarkable speech of 24 November 1791.

It was Cambon who made the initial suggestion for the state debt to be "rendered republican and uniform" and it was he who proposed to convert all the contracts of the creditors of the state into an inscription in a great book, which should be called the "Great Book of the Public Debt". This proposal was implemented in 1792 when the Great Book of the Public Debt was created as a consolidation of all the states debts.He held his distance from political clubs and even factions, but nonetheless defended the new institutions of the state. On 9 February 1792, he succeeded in having a law passed confiscating the possessions of the émigrés, and tried to arrange the deportation of non-juring priests to French Guiana. He was the last president of the Legislative Assembly.

Re-elected to the National Convention, Cambon opposed the pretensions of the Paris Commune and the proposed grant of money to the municipality of Paris by the state. He denounced Jean-Paul Marat's placards as inciting to murder, summoned Georges Danton to give an account of his ministry, supervised the furnishing of military supplies to the French Revolutionary Army, and was a strong opponent of Charles François Dumouriez, in spite of the general's great popularity.

Cambon incurred the hatred of the theist Maximilien Robespierre (see Cult of the Supreme Being) by proposing the suppression of the pay to the clergy, which would have meant the separation of church and state. His authority grew steadily. On 15 December 1792, he persuaded the Convention to adopt a proclamation to all nations in favour of a universal republic.

Although he took part in toppling Robespierre in July 1794, Cambon was targeted and pursued by the Thermidorian Reaction, and had to live in hiding in Montpellier. During the Hundred Days, he was a deputy to the lower chamber, but only took part in debates over the budget. Proscribed by the Bourbon Restoration in 1816, he died at Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, near Brussels.

That Night in Varennes

That Night in Varennes (Italian: Il mondo nuovo; French: La Nuit de Varennes) is a 1982 Italian and French drama film directed by Ettore Scola. It is based on a novel by Catherine Rihoit. It tells the story of a fictional meeting between Restif de la Bretonne, Giacomo Casanova, Thomas Paine and Sophie de la Borde (a lady in waiting to the Queen). They are all traveling together in a coach that is a few hours behind the one that is carrying King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in their flight to Varennes during the French Revolution.

The film was entered into the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film by the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

Timothy Tackett

Timothy Tackett (born 1945) is an American historian specializing in the French Revolution and professor emeritus at the University of California, Irvine.His 1996 book about the members of the National Constituent Assembly of 1789 won the Leo Gershoy Award of the American Historical Association in 2001; he has also written about the Flight to Varennes and the emergence of the Terror amid the turbulence of the Revolution.

Élisabeth of France (1764–1794)

Élisabeth of France (Élisabeth Philippe Marie Hélène de France; 3 May 1764 – 10 May 1794), known as Madame Élisabeth, was a French princess and the youngest sibling of King Louis XVI. She remained beside the king and his family during the French Revolution and was executed at Place de la Révolution in Paris during the Terror. She is regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as a martyr and a Servant of God.

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