The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
"The baker, the baker's wife, and the baker's little apprentice"

STEP BY STEP the National Assembly was voting itself the royal powers which Louis' unsure hands had let fall--powers pertaining to legislation, taxation, war and peace--while the common people throughout the land, in cities and in villages, were hastening the process of disintegration by direct action. This chaos hurt Louis more than the loss of many of his royal prerogatives. He had been brought up to regard himself as the father of his people, and he was convinced that he was a kind parent. He had denied his children nothing; he had never been harsh or unjust. Why were they doing this to him, these misled children of his? Why were they smashing furniture, breaking windows, tearing down walls, and even flaunting him, their good father? He wrote to the bishops of the realm "publicly to implore the help of divine Providence," and he appealed to his children to "entrust themselves to my protection and to my love." Nobody listened to him.

Louis' brother Artois, who had wisely left France because he frankly disliked the canaille in power, sneered at such shilly-shallying, such unroyal timorousness. What the mob needs, the future Charles X wrote to his irresolute brother, is a whip--not prayers. And Louis was upset by his brother's arrogant strictures.

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