How And Why Was The King’s Attempted Escape A Crucial Turning Point In The Revolution?

1102 words - 5 pages

Timothy Tackett’s book When the King Took Flight focuses on arguably the most consequential event in the French Revolution. King Louis XVI and his family’s attempt to escape France would influence an atmosphere of violence that would only continue to worsen. King Louis XVI regretted signing and accepting the Civil Constitution of the Clergy earlier in July 1790. Deciding to flee the country he assumed that through foreign intervention or negotiating he could change parts of the constitution he disagreed with. However he would be recognized and captured in Varennes. The king underestimated the true meaning and appeal of the revolution (87). His misunderstanding of the revolution led the way for the destruction of kingship and the monarchy itself. This decision had given power to the sans-culottes and the idea of a republic. While the kings flight to Varennes had many unintended consequences it serves as a crucial turning point for the revolution.
King Louis XVI believed the revolutionary changes he detested “had been provoked by a few radicals in the National Assembly and their demagogic control of Parisian ‘rabble’ (87).” As thousand flocked to see the kings caravan return to Paris it became evident he had misinterpreted the true influence of the revolution. Many of his loyal subjects rejected the notion removing their hats upon his arrival, a snub to the king and his royal family. Previously under the king’s regime the general public had considered him ill-advised and not at fault for many of the abuses that had taken place. Considered to be acting on gods will it was inconceivable to believe King Louis XVI to be dishonest. This all changed with the flight to Varennes and his hand written note denouncing the changes of the revolution. Even immediately after his capture citizens were chanting, “long live the king” as his caravan passed. Upon arriving in Paris that attitude had changed, now the king was viewed as a traitor. Throughout the first two years of the Revolution, Louis had retained an overwhelming positive image among most Parisians (101). After June 21st is became difficult to find a single newspaper with anything favorable about the monarch. People began asking themselves, “How could one ever again have the confidence in anything the king might say (102)?” For the first time in French history the role of the king had come under scrutiny. The king was now viewed as an animal, specifically a pig. Images of the “pig-king” began to appear everywhere in newspapers, posters, and engravings (103).
For the first time the idea of a monarchy had also come under question. Before the flight to Varennes the notion of a French government without a king had no public support. By the spring of 1791 the idea of republicanism had become fashionable in certain radical intellectual circles (109). “the word ‘republic’ is now being uttered almost everywhere (111).” The common people of Paris who previously would only do as told...

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