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6 October 2009

On this day in history: Parisian women brought Louis XVI back to Paris, 1789

A few months after the storming of the Bastille, a large crowd of women that gathered at the Hôtel de Ville - the city hall of Paris - on 5th October to complain about the price of bread and other necessities. They forced their way into the building and threatened to set fire to the official papers, saying that they were all the city council had busied themselves with since the revolution. One of the vanquishers of the Bastille, Stanislas Maillard, arrived and attempt to persuade the women to meet with the council to discuss their grievances, but instead they chose to take their complaints to the National Assembly in Versailles.

During the march the crowd of women - now six or seven thousand strong, many of whom carried weapons - sang about how they would remove King Louis XVI from the foreign influences of the court (particularly those of his wife and her favourites) and bring him back to Paris. When the women arrived at Versailles, hundreds of them invaded the National Assembly, disrupting the proceedings by hurling abuse at the clerical deputies. Following some way behind the women were a contingent of the National Guard led by The Marquis de Lafayette.

Many of the women marchers and guards were angered by rumours that foreign troops had abused the symbols of the revolution. After dark a group of these broke into the Palace, killed two of the Royal bodyguards, and ransacked Marie Antoinette's chambers while she escaped through a secret passage. The crowd gathered outside then demanded that she show herself, impressed by her bravery the crowd's abuse turned to acclaim.

That night, a small deputation of women met with the king who agreed to return with them to Paris the following day. So, on the 6th October 1789 a long procession set off from Versailles to Paris comprising the king and his family, the delegates of the National Assembly, the National Guard and, in pride of place, the women of Paris, who sang “We Have the Baker, the Baker’s Wife, and the Baker’s Son. We Shall Have Bread.” The baker was the king who had ordered that the royal supply of flour be brought back to Paris as part of the procession.

The Liberty, Fraternity, Equality pages on the George Mason University web-site includes Stanislas Maillard's testimony of the Women’s March to Versailles.

Related posts
Meeting of the French Estates-General: 5th May 1789
The Tennis Court Oath: 20th June 1789
Feudalism abolished in France: 4th August 1789
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen: 26th August 1789
France reorganised into 83 départements: 4th March 1790
Paris celebrates la Fête de la Fédération: 14th July 1790
Guillotine used for first time: 25th April 1792
September Massacres began: 2nd September 1792
Louis XVI executed: 21st January 1793

2 comments:

Stephanie B said...

Are you sure you meant Louis XIV and not Louis XVI in the title? You have it properly noted in the body of the article, but not the title.

Stepterix said...

Well spotted. I have changed it to Louis XVI. Thanks for pointing it out.