July 14th 1789: Storming of the Bastille

On this day in 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fortress in Paris. This event came towards the beginning of the French Revolution which led to the toppling of the monarchy and execution of King Louis XVI. The dramatic events at the Bastille were precipitated by the King’s refusal to approve the reorganisation of the Estates-General, a general assembly designed to represent the clergy, the nobles and the common people. In response to fears of a counter-attack by the King’s forces, revolutionaries planed to seize the weapons in the Bastille. The prison was lightly guarded and the revolutionaries were able to force their way through and the ensuing violence led to the surrender of the defenders. The Bastille was where the French monarchy held their opponents, including figures like the mysterious ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ from 1670 to 1703, and so the mob also released the seven prisoners held there. The Bastille had represented ironclad royal authority and its fall was a major turning point in the revolution. After the Bastille the revolution escalated, with the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and abolition of feudalism in August. A republic was declared in 1792 and the King was beheaded in January of the next year. For its prominent role in the French Revolution, this day is commemorated in France as a public holiday, Bastille Day.

“Is this a revolt?”
“No Majesty, this is a revolution
- supposed conversation between Louis XVI and adviser Duc de Liancourt after the storming of the Bastille

“He’s so pathetic. Let me tell you something about Louis XVI. I recited a speech for him once, in Latin. I know, right? It’s so embarrassing. I don’t even… Whatever. So then after law school, I started caring about the poor people who were totally suffering and then I became inspired to advocate for them, and Louis was like, weirdly jealous of them. Like, if I would blow him off to read Rousseau, he’d be like, "Why do you support his anti-Divine Right ideas?” And I’d be like, “Why are you so obsessed with me?” So then, for the Tennis Court Oath, which was an all-men fight for change, I was like, “Louis, I can’t invite you, because I think you don’t believe in democracy.” I mean I couldn’t have a king at my party. There were gonna be men there sans culottes. I mean, right? He was a KING. So then his wife wrote Charlotte and started yelling at her, it was so retarded. And then the king tried to run to Austria because no one would talk to him, and he came back to Paris, we cut all his titles off and he was totally weird, and now I guess he was guillotined.”

Maximilien Robespierre, 1793


May 16th 1770: Wedding of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI

On this day in 1770, the French noble Marie Antoinette married the heir to the French throne, Louis Capet, at Versailles. The former was the daughter of the Austrian archduchess and the Holy Roman Emperor, and the marriage was arranged to strengthen the relationship between former rivals Austria and France. Their lavish wedding was attended by 5,000 guests, with 200,000 watching the fireworks display which capped the festivities. Perhaps due to their young ages - Marie was fourteen and Louis was fifteen - the marriage was not consummated for seven years. In 1774, after four years of marriage, French King Louis XV died, and his son ascended to the throne as King Louis XVI, with Marie crowned as queen. The monarchs proved controversial figures, with Louis struggling to deal with the affairs of the crown, and Marie drawing criticism for her extravagant tastes (earning the nickname ‘Madame Déficit’) and devotion to Austrian interests. Both opposed monarchical reform, a stance which spelled their doom as the French Revolution began. In the midst of the unrest, Marie and Louis attempted to flee to Austria in 1791, but were apprehended and returned to Paris. The royal couple were imprisoned in 1792, and the monarchy was abolished in the same year. For his efforts to thwart the revolution, King Louis XVI was tried for treason and executed by guillotine in January 1793. In October of that year, Marie Antoinette was also convicted of treason and faced death at the guillotine. Their deaths were turning points in the French Revolution, and indeed in the history of France.


October 16th 1793: Marie Antoinette executed

On this day in 1793 the widow of French King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, was executed by guillotine. Her husband was executed as part of the abolition of the monarchy during the French Revolution in 1793. Marie was subsequently tried and convicted for treason to the principles of the revolution and then executed. Antoinette was initially liked by the French people, but they came to dislike her as the tide turned against the monarchy. There is a common misconception that her last words were “let them eat cake”, however there is no evidence for this.

“Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it”
- Antoinette’s last words to the executioner after she stepped on his foot


Royalty Meme ♛ [1/7] Pairings
Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette

Maria Antonia, the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, became the Dauphine of France when she married Louis Auguste, grandson of Louis XV, in 1770. The marriage was intended to cement an alliance between Austria and France and was somewhat unpopular at the French court. Though Antoinette was sweet and charming, her new husband was shy and somewhat reserved. Despite their striking differences–Louis was tall, bookish, and introverted while Antoinette was petite, fun-loving and personable–they eventually became close friends.

In 1774, Louis Auguste was crowned Louis XVI after his grandfather died. Though the new king and queen’s relationship was an affectionate one, it would still be nearly three years before the marriage was finally consummated. In 1778, Antoinette gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Marie-Therese Charlotte. They went on to have three more children–two sons, Louis Joseph and Louis Charles, and a short-lived daughter, Sophie-Helene Beatrice. Both Louis and Antoinette were devoted parents. Though Antoinette’s sex life was the source of much gossip and speculation, most evidence suggests that she and Louis were loving, faithful partners. 

In the summer of 1789, the Dauphin Louis Joseph died shortly before the storming of the Bastille. Though his parents were devastated, they were now in the midst of revolution. That fall, the royal family was forced to move from Versailles to Paris. Desperate to regain control of the country, they attempted to flee to Austria in 1791, but were stopped in Varennes near the border. The remaining goodwill of their people dissolved. What remained of Louis’ royal power also dissolved over the course of the next year and a half, leaving his family veritable prisoners in Paris.

The National Convention declared an end to the monarchy in the fall of 1792. Shortly thereafter, he taken from from his wife and children and put on trial for treason. He was found guilty and executed by guillotine in January the following year. Antoinette, whose health was failing and who was now called the “Widow Capet,” was devastated by his death. Her children were separated from her during the summer of 1793, and in October, she was also put on trial for treason. She, like her husband, was executed just days after the trial.


January 21st 1793: Louis XVI executed

On this day in 1793, the King of France Louis XVI was executed by guillotine in ‘Revolution Square’ in Paris. His execution was a turning point in the French Revolution. His regime had become increasingly unpopular and seen as tyrannical; thus opposition to the French aristocracy grew among the middle and lower classes. The French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille on July 14th 1789. After the fall of the monarchy on August 10th 1792, Louis was imprisoned and charged with high treason by the National Convention and sentenced to death. France was declared a republic on September 21st 1792. He was executed as ‘Citizen Louis Capet’, rather than King Louis XVI, on January 21st 1793. His wife Marie Antoinette was executed on 16th October the same year.

“I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I Pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never be visited on France.”

Bloody souvenir not from decapitated French king: DNA

Two centuries after the French people beheaded King Louis XVI and dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, DNA analysis has thrown new doubt on the authenticity of one such rag kept as a morbid souvenir.

The contents of an ornately-decorated gourd alleged to hold traces of the king’s dried blood has long been the subject of scientific disagreement, with tests throwing up contradictory results.

On Thursday, a team from Europe and the United States said they had sequenced the full genome of the DNA in the squash, and found it was unlikely to be from someone tall or blue-eyed—both features ascribed to the 18th century monarch. Read more.


Queen Marie-Antoinette murdered 220 years ago

Queen Marie-Antoinette of France was born on 2nd November 1755 and murdered on 16th October 1793.

King Louis XVI was tried and executed in January 1793. Queen Marie-Antoinette’s eight-year-old-son was taken from her and brain-washed until he accused her of sexually abusing him. He later died of hunger, illness and neglect. The Queen had several opportunities to escape alone but refused to do so without her family.

She was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on 14th October 1793. The outcome of the trial had already been decided by the Committee of Public Safety and she was declared guilty of treason in the early morning of 16th October, after two days of proceedings. Back in her cell, she composed a letter to her sister-in-law Madame Élisabeth, affirming her clear conscience, her Catholic faith and her feelings for her children.

On 16th October 1793 Henri Sanson, the executioner, arrived at her cell to cut her hair and prepare her for execution. She left through the doors of the Concièrgerie for the last time. Unlike her husband who was driven in a private coach to la Place de la Concorde, she was seated facing the rear of a common wagon, hands tied behind her, during the long ride through the streets of Paris. Marie-Antoinette was beheaded by the guillotine. The famous royal head once renowned for beauty and splendor, now the white haired head of “Widow Capet”, as the bloodthirsty revolutionaries called her, was then shown by the executioner to the cheers of the Paris multitude assembled.

Only for the records: Contrary to legend, Queen Marie-Antoinette never told the hungry peasants to eat cake. She certainly never wore Manolos, as Kirsten Dunst did when she played the Queen of France in Sofia Coppola’s frothy film.

The revolution exposed in her unsuspected depths of fortitude, courage and loyalty. By contrast, the Jacobin “democrats” and mobs who took over in 1793, acting in the name of common humanity and “the rights of Man”, demonstrated little but pettiness, bad faith and viciousness.

Wednesday, 16th October 2013