Guide The Death of Royalty: The Lives and Executions of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette

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Did the woman who supposely said “let them eat cake” get her just desserts ?

A member of the Assembly had to in fact protect Marie Antoinette from the crowds. The Flight to Varennes proved disastrous for the royal family.

Execution of Louis XVI, 21 January 1793

The king and queen were now viewed as traitors who were willing for foreign intervention to return back to power. During the crises of the French Revolution, Marie-Antoinette proved to be stronger and more decisive than her husband. Even after the failed escape, she opened secret negotiations with some of the leaders of the Constituent Assembly.


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However, these proved to be unsuccessful. On August 10, , around 20, Parisians marched on the Tuileries Palace and killed the Swiss Guards who were assigned for the protection of the royal family. In response, the king and the queen fled to the Assembly for protection. Louis XVI was officially arrested on 13th August and sent to the Temple , an ancient fortress in Paris that was used as a prison. On 21st September , the monarchy was abolished and France was declared a Republic.

Marie-Antoinette spent the remainder of her life in Parisian prisons. This was the most difficult period of her captivity. She was under constant surveillance and had no privacy. Marie Antoinette was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on October 14, Her lawyers were given less than one day to prepare her defense. Among the accusations were: orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, planning the massacre of the National Guards in and incest, a charge made by her son Louis Charles, pressured into doing so by the radical elements who controlled him.

Most of these accusations were not true. It is said that the fate of Marie Antoinette had been decided before the trial. On October 16, she was declared guilty of the three main charges against her: depletion of national treasury; conspiracy against the security of the State; and high treason because of her intelligence activities in the interest of the enemy. These vilifications culminated in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace , in which the queen was unjustly accused of having formed an immoral relationship with a cardinal. At the end of May she seemed to have intervened little in politics, as she was distracted by the illness of her elder son, who died early in June.

During the crises of as well as those to come, Marie-Antoinette proved to be stronger and more decisive than her husband.


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After a crowd stormed the Bastille on July 14, , the queen failed to convince Louis to take refuge with his army at Metz. In August—September, however, she successfully prodded him to resist the attempts of the Revolutionary National Assembly to abolish feudalism and restrict the royal prerogative. In October popular pressure compelled the royal family to return from Versailles to Paris , where they became hostages of the Revolutionary movement.

During this time the queen had been deprived of the company of many of her most intimate friends, as they had emigrated after the fall of the Bastille, but she continued to display great personal courage that sustained the royal family both then and throughout its later disasters. In May the queen reached out to the comte de Mirabeau , a prominent member of the National Assembly who hoped to restore the authority of the crown. They called for an escape to the interior of France and an appeal for royalist support in the provinces. They arranged for the king and queen to escape from Paris on the night of June 20, but Revolutionary forces apprehended the royal couple at Varennes June 25 and escorted them back to Paris.

Barnave and the Lameth brothers were anxious to check the progress of republicanism and to bring the Revolution to a close, and they gathered like minds under the banner of the Club of the Feuillants. The basis of their secret understanding with the queen was that, after the constitution had been revised so as to bolster the executive power of the king, it should be loyally accepted and implemented by Louis XVI.

Opera last heard by Louis XVI before he lost his head to be staged in Versailles

Instead, she urged the necessity of an armed congress of the powers to negotiate from strength for the restoration of the royal authority. Popular hatred of the queen provided impetus for the storming of the Tuileries Palace and the overthrow of the monarchy on August 10, Marie-Antoinette spent the remainder of her life in Parisian prisons. The princess de Lamballe, who remained loyal to the queen throughout the Revolution, was imprisoned along with her.

Louis XVI was executed on orders from the National Convention in January , and in August the queen was put in solitary confinement in the Conciergerie. She was brought before the Revolutionary tribunal on October 14, , and was guillotined two days later. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.

Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval. Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions. The bungled escape probably sounded the death knell of royalty in France. Any idea of a limited monarchy, like in England, was squelched. The Parisians starving and protesting on the way to Versailles. Things went from bad to worse.

The Human Side of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

On two occasions, the Tuileries Palace was invaded by the Paris mob. June 20, , the king faced the marauding crowds and managed to calm them. It was only temporary. More defeats on the front stirred up the people and on August 10, , the Parisians attacked again. To avoid being torn to shreds, the royal family made their way to the legal body nearby, the Assembly, for protection.

They escaped a massacre that would have surely finished them off. According to the reports, it was a ghoulish event. People played kickball with the severed heads of the Swiss Guard and worse. The Assembly eventually voted to abolish the monarchy and the family was taken to a prison in the Marais on August 13, The prison, known as the Temple, was a medieval remnant that had belonged to the Knights Templar. These were the last poignant months the royals remained together as a family.

She was despised and ultimately executed during the French Revolution

It was devastating for the family left in the tower. And things got grimmer still when the order came to separate young Louis the royalists deemed him Louis XVII , from his mother on July 13, He was placed under the care of the illiterate Citizen Richard, a vulgar cobbler, who was told to re-educate the royal child. The little 8-year-old was naturally impressionable and vulnerable after the forced separation. Young Louis was taught revolutionary songs and learned to curse his mother, just upstairs. Then her old arch-enemy launched an attack that took her by surprise.

Her only response was to look away silently. I appeal to all mothers here! Even the vindictive tricoteuses knitters who sat through all the trials and executions, had pity for her.

The final days of Marie Antoinette

Louis had been transported in a carriage. The years of stress, riots, violence, murder, execution and separation from her children had taken a toll on her. She was hemmorhaging badly. Antoinette had a moment of weakness before she stepped into the wagon, and relieved her bowels in la Conciergerie courtyard. The painter Jacques-Louis David captured her wretched ride down rue St. Hair cropped by the executioner, her hands tied behind her back, she looks dignified, haggard, stoic, courageous.

The Execution of Louis XVI,

Marie-Antoinette went to the guillotine with poise and deportment. Clearly the Revolution was fraught with excesses and thousands met an untimely end, but somehow in the popular imagination, Marie-Antoinette became the embodiment of all evils. Her writings is the best way to keep alive her memory.

A shadow of infamy still surrounds the name of the French Queen Marie-Antoinette, guillotined October 16, Two centuries after her death, she deserves a break. Many slurs still linger to date.