Victims, Authority, and Terror: The Parallel Deaths of d'orlaeans, Custine, Bailly, and Malesherbes

By George Armstrong Kelly | Go to book overview

4. The October Days

If the royal head of the national household wavered, a surrogate of royal blood had to be found. D'Orléans, most in tune with the new ideas, stood next in line after the Dauphin, Monsieur (the king's oldest brother), and d'Artois and his male descent ( d'Artois had pointedly exiled himself after the fall of the Bastille). Louis-Philippe writes: "My father was so highly placed that his ambition could have no other goal than royal power, whether he exercised it as lieutenant-general of the realm or dethroned the elder branch and sat on the throne."1 Any allegation of "Orleanist conspiracy" could not help being a potent psychological factor.

Louis XVI had received public acclamations on 17 July, and it was still felt, even by Marat, that he could be brought under control if the evil influences surrounding him were removed, if he could have "patriot" advisors and dwell amidst a "patriot" people. The notion of a mass movement on Versailles culminating in the forced return of the court to Paris had been in the wind for some time, bruited in the gardens of the Palais-Royal. On 30 August the radical déclassé noble Saint-Hururge had attempted to lead an unarmed crowd of fifteen hundred to Versailles but had been turned back by Lafayette and his troops.2 If not involved in that event, d'Orléans's agents had surely been watching.

On 5 October, drained of patience by the bread shortage and inflamed by oratory, a large gathering, mostly women, set out for the Grand Palais on a miserably rainy day. It was not the first time that the housekeepers of Paris had marched on Versailles to confront the monarch directly. This had happened during the famine of 1709, when the mob had been turned back by soldiers at the Pont de Sèvres; in October 1789 both the ministry and Lafayette neglected this elementary precaution. In 1775, during the guerre desfarines, there had been bread riots within Versailles itself, but a suddenly militaristic Turgot had stilled the panic with force. Tradition lent its cachet to the journées d'Octobre. Yet, a new political epiphany agitated the crowds (Louis-Philippe estimates 100,000 Parisians) who poured into Versailles by the morning of 6 October. In their confused way, they wanted bread and liberty, and counted on their presence to make the king grant these things. Liberty, in the form of the tricolored cockade, had been tramped underfoot at a recent banquet attended by the royal family to celebrate the arrival of the Flanders Regiment. The angry petitioners trudged off in the late morning. After much confusion, a

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