OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 19

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 <19> 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

The mob then retired into Versailles in search of bread, which Lecointre, a draper of the town, and commander of its national guards, promised to procure them from the municipality. But the municipality had no bread to give, or took no pains to furnish it, and the crowds, drenched with rain, sought shelter wherever they could for the night. The women rushed again into the hall of the assembly, and took possession of it without any ceremony. The women who could not find room there, joined the men, who made fires in the streets, and relieved their hunger and wretchedness as well as they could by cursing and singing revolutionary songs. Some of them made a seat of the corpse of one of the life-guards who had been shot, and they cut up his frillen horse into steaks, and devoured them half raw; whilst others danced like maniacs round the fire! The king had been holding a council; and Mounier had waited till ten o'clock for his answer, in great impatience. During this period, several carriages had attempted to leave the palace, the object being to see whether the mob would allow them to pass, in which case it was intended to send away the queen and the children; but the carriages were all stopped and sent back, showing the utter hopelessness of such an enterprise. Often, before this, and still earlier in the evening, the whole royal family might have got away, but Louis had not the spirit for any such movement. At ten, Mounier received the kiog's acceptance, pure and simple, of the constitution, and returned to the hall of assembly. There he found the deputies had retired for the night, and the women were amusing themselves with holding a mock assembly; a dame de la Halle, or market woman, of a great size, occupying Mounier's own presidential seat, having her hand-bell before her, and from time to time ringing to command silence, as she had seen Mounier do it. Between eleven and twelve o'clock, some of the members were collected and took their places as well as they could amongst the women. Mounier then commenced to tell them the king's answer. This was received with satisfaction; and, as a new army was advancing from Paris, with La Fayette at its head, it was resolved to remain sitting, and they resumed the discussion on the constitution. But the women cried out: "What good will that do us? The thing we want is bread! Leave off the fine talk, and give us that! " "There was," says Dumont "in one of the galleries, a fishwoman, who exercised a superior authority, directing the tongues and motions of about one hundred other women, who waited for her orders when they were to scream, and when to be silent. She called out familiarly to the deputies below: 'Who is that talking down there? Make that babbler hold his tongue! That is not the question! The question is, bread! Let our gossip, Mirabeau, speak; we like to hear him!"' &c.

Soon after midnight, the roll of drums announced the arrival of La Fayette and his army. An aide-de-camp soon after formally communicated his arrival to the assembly; that they had been delayed by the state of the roads; and that La Fayette had also stopped them to administer to them an oath of fidelity to the nation, the law, and the king; that all was orderly, and that they had nothing to fear. La Fayette soon after confirmed this by leading a column of the national guards to the doors of the assembly, and sending in this message. The assembly, being; satisfied, adjourned till eleven o'clock the next day. La Fayette then proceeded to the palace, where he assured the king and the royal family of the loyalty of his guards, and that every precaution should be taken for tranquillity during the night. On this the king appeared to be at ease, and retired to rest.

Much and severe censure has been passed on La Fayette for his conduct during the whole of these transactions, which have been adopted by some of our own historians; but, on carefully considering all the evidence, we cannot but regard it as wholly groundless. La Fayette did all in his power to prevent the French guards and the national guards of Paris from going to Versailles; but when these revolutionary troops would go, no commander could stop them; and it was certainly much better for La Fayette to accompany them, and do all he could to protect the royal family. It is clear, that without his presence there would have been a savage conflict betwixt the life-guards and the Flanders regiment, and the national guards of Paris and the mob. La Fayette had long thought, as he tells us, that it would be better for the king and the assembly to be in Paris. On his arrival, we see that he tranquillised both the assembly and the court. He then endeavoured to take upon himself the guard of the palace; but this was not permitted. The life-guards and the Swiss guards surrounded the palace by the orders of the court, and La Fayette took possession of the outer posts, none of which were forced, or even attacked. He procured lodgings for his drenched and fatigued troops, and ordered patroles to be placed about the town. He continued up all night attending to these duties; and, having seen a battalion of soldiers placed before the hotel of the life-guards to protect them from any insults of the people, he went to the hotel de Noailles, just by the palace, and, getting a little refreshment, went to bed at five o'clock. As all appeared perfectly quiet, and as he had been up twenty-four hours, nothing could be more reasonable than this, all guards being duly at their posts. Scarcely had he lain down, however, and before he was asleep, he heard a terrific noise, and, instantly rising and throwing on his clothes, he found that the mob was attacking the palace. The greater part of the populace, tired of singing and eating horse-flesh, had rushed towards the palace. They found the gate open, and, streaming into the court-yard, also found a door not secured, and entering, ascended a staircase. Had La Fayette been permitted to guard these outlets to the palace, this would not have occurred; but, from some unknown cause, the life-guards had been dismissed in the night, and then recalled, and many of them had never resumed their stations. La Fayette hastened to the palace, and found several of the life-guards surrounded by the mob, and on the point of being murdered. Whilst engaged in rescuing them, one of the canaille attempted to fire at him. He coolly ordered the man to be seized and brought to him, and the mob at once seized him, and dashed out his brains on the pavement. He then hastened into the palace, and found his grenadiers already there, defending the entrance, and vowing that they would die in defence of the king.

But, meantime, the populace had penetrated nearly to the queen's bed-chamber, the life-guards fighting them step by step, but, being few in number in that passage, they were forced backward. One of them, named Miomandre, shouted, "Save the queen!" Two ladies of the bed-chamber, one of them the sister of madame Campan, had been too much alarmed to go to bed, but had sat at the queen's door. At the soldier's cry, the ladies rushed into the queen's ante-chamber and bolted the door. They roused Marie Antoinette, crying, "Fly to the king!" They hastily wrapped something round her, and she fled towards Louis's chamber. Scarcely had she found the king and the children, when the mob was heard en deavouring to burst open her door, and demanding the heads of the life-guards. Two of the guards had already been dragged down into the marble court, and savagely beheaded by a brutal fellow called Jourdan Coupe-Tete. Fourteen other gardes-du-corps were wounded, and some of them were prisoners in the hands of the populace.

At this moment La Fayette arrived, followed by a body of the old French guards. These knocked at the door of the apartment where the royal family was, and cried, " Let us in. The French guards have not forgotten that you saved their regiment at Fontenoi!" The door was strongly barricaded with furniture, but Louis bade the life-guards remove the barricade and open the door; and the French guards rushed into the arms of the life-guards, changed hats with them, and both kinds of guards cried "Vive le Roi! la nation, et les gardes-du-corps! " At the sight of La Fayette and his grenadiers, the court all expressed their satisfaction, and madame Adelaide, the king's aunt, clasped him in her arms, exclaiming, " General, you have saved us!"

But, at this very moment, the populace were howling in the marble court below, the poissardes, or fish-women, uttering the most revolting expressions against the queen; and the mob shouting, " To Paris! to Paris!" A council was held to consider this demand. La Fayette would not attend it, lest he might be said to have influenced its conclusions. It was decided to go; and this decision was communicated to the crowd below by flinging pieces of paper down with this written upon them. Shouts were raised on this being understood, and Louis then showed himself on the balcony. There were confused cries of "Vive le Roi!" "Vive la nation! " but far more of " Le Roi a Paris!" La Fayette appeared on the balcony with the king, and, returning into the room, he said to the queen, "Madame, what will you do?" She replied, " I know the fate that awaits me; but it is my duty to die at the feet of the king. I will go where they go!" " Come with me, then," said the general, and he led her out upon the balcony. At her appearance, with one of her children by the hand, the uproar became terrible. Dreadful menaces were uttered, and the cries of "Point d'enfans! " (no children.) The queen put the child back into the room, and stood there with her arms crossed and her large blue eyes raised to heaven. " I mixed in the crowd," says the writer of the " Memoirs of Lavalette," "and beheld, for the first time, that unfortunate princess. She was dressed in white; her head was bare, and adorned with beautiful fair locks. Motionless, and in a modest and noble attitude, she appeared to me like a victim on the block. The enraged populace were not moved at the sight of woe in all its majesty. Imprecations increased, and the unfortunate princess could not even find support in the king, for his presence only augmented the fury of the multitude."

La Fayette tried what his popularity and his example might do. He approached her, and taking her hand, he knelt and kissed it. At this sight, the strange but fleeting sentiment of the French was excited, and the mob cried, "Long live the queen! Long live La Fayette!" At this spectacle, Louis said, " Will you not do something for my guards?" The populace were furious against them; but La Fayette took one of them, led him upon the balcony, clasped him in his arms, and put upon him hic own shoulder-belt. The populace again cheered, and ratified this second reconciliation.

The king had repeatedly sent to inform the assembly of hi? intention to go to Paris. They had not paid him the respect to wait on him; but, at the last moment, they passed a resolution that the assembly was inseparable from the person of the king, and appointed one hundred deputies to attend him. Amongst them was Mirabeau. It was about one o'clock when the king quitted Versailles, amid a general discharge of musketry, falsely, on this occasion, termed a feu-de-joie. The king and queen, the dauphin, and the little daughter, monsieur, the king's brother, and madame Elizabeth, the king's sister, went all in one great state coach. Others of the royal household, with the ladies of honour, and the one hundred deputies, followed in about a hundred vehicles of one kind or other. A considerable band of the mob had set out before, carrying the heads of two of the life-guardsmen, on pikes twelve feet long. La Fayette sent after them a strong detachment of the army, to prevent their return; he also issued orders for disarming the brigands who were carrying the heads. This was at length accomplished, but not till they bad played most hideous manoeuvres with them. They stopped for a moment at Sevres, and compelled a barber to dress the hair of these two gory heads. "I have often asked myself," says the writer of the " Memoirs of Lavalette," " how the metropolis of a nation so celebrated for urbanity and elegance of manners - how the brilliant city of Paris could contain the savage hordes I that day beheld, and who so long reigned over it. Can base passions alter the features so as to deprive them of all likeness to humanity? Those madmen dancing in the mire, and covered with mud! The groups that marched foremost, carrying on long pikes the body heads of the murdered life-guardsmen! Surely Satan himself invented the placing of a human head at the end of a lance! The disfigured and pale features, the gory locks, the half-open mouths, the closed eyes - images of death added to the gestures and salutations which the executioners made them perform, in terrible mockery of life - presented the most frightful spectacle that rage could have imagined. A troop of women, ugly as crime itself, swarming like insects, and wearing grenadiers' hairy caps, went continually to and fro, howling barbarous songs."

Before the king's carriage marched a still more numerous army of poissardes and of abandoned women, the scum of their sex, drunk with wine and fury. Several of them were astride upon cannon, celebrating by the most abominable songs all the crimes which they had committed or witnessed. Others, nearer to the king's carriage, were singing allegorical airs, and, by their gross gestures, applying the insulting allusions in them to the queen. Carts laden with corn and flour, which had come to Versailles, formed a convoy, escorted by grenadiers, and surrounded by women and market factors, armed with pikes, or carrying large poplar boughs. This part of the cortege produced, at some distance, the most singular effect; it looked like a moving wood, among which glistened pike-heads and gun-barrels. In the transport of their brutal joy, the women stopped passengers on the road, and yelled in their ears, while pointing to the royal carriage, " Courage, my friends! we shall have plenty of bread now, for we have got the baker, the baker's wife, and the baker's boy!" Behind his majesty's carriage were some of his faithful guards, some on foot, some on horseback, most of them without hats, all disarmed, and exhausted with hunger and fatigue. The dragoons, the Flanders regiment, the Cent Suisses, and the national guards, preceded, accompanied, and followed the file of carriages. "I was an eye-witness," says Bertrand de Molleville, "of this distressing spectacle - this melancholy procession. Amid this tumult, these songs, this clamour, interrupted by frequent discharges of musketry, which the hand of a monster or an awkward person might have rendered so fatal, I saw the queen retain the most courageous tranquillity of mind, and an air of inexpressible nobleness and dignity. My eyes filled with tears of admiration and grief."

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 <19> 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 19

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About