Marie Antoinette and Her Son

Author: Luise Mühlbach

Chapter XIV. To Paris.

Without speaking a word, and with hasty steps, the royal couple, followed by the ministers and courtiers, traversed the two adjoining apartments, and entered the balcony-room, which, situated at the centre of the main building, commanded a wide view of the inner court and the square in front of it.

The valet Hue hastened, at a motion from the king, to throw open the great folding doors, and the king, parting with a smile from Marie Antoinette, stepped out upon the balcony. In an instant, as if the arm of God had been extended and laid upon this raging sea, the roaring ceased; then, as soon as the king was recognized, a multitudinous shout went up, increasing every moment, and sending its waves beyond the square, out into the adjoining streets.

"The king! Long live the king!"

Louis, pale with emotion and with tears in his eyes, went forward to the very edge of the balcony, and, as a sign that he was going to speak, raised both hands. The motion was understood, and the loud cries were hushed which now and then burst from the mighty mass of people. Then above the heads of the thousands there who gazed breathlessly up, sounded the loud, powerful voice of the king.

"I will give my dear people the proof that my fatherly heart is distrusted without reason. I will journey to-day with the queen and my children to Paris, and there take up my residence. Return thither, my children, I shall follow you in a few hours and come to Paris!"

Then, while the people were breaking out into a cry of joy, and were throwing arms, caps, and clothes up into the air, Louis stepped back from the balcony into the hall.

Instantly there arose a new cry below. "The queen shall show herself! We want to see the queen! The queen! the queen! the queen!"

And in tones louder, and more commanding, and more terrible every moment, the summons came in through the balcony door.

The queen took her two children by the hand and advanced a step or two, but the king held her back.

"Do not go, Marie," he cried, with trembling voice and anxious look. "No, do not go. It is such a fearful sight, this raging mass at one’s feet, it confuses one’s senses. Do not go, Marie!"

But the cry below had now expanded into the volume of a hurricane, and made the very walls of the palace shake.

"You hear plainly, sire," cried Marie Antoinette; "there is just as much danger whether we see or do not see it. Let me do, therefore, what you have done! Come, children!"

And walking between the two little ones, the queen stepped out upon the balcony with a firm step and raised head, followed by the king, who placed himself behind Marie Antoinette, as if he were a sentinel charged with the duty of protecting her life.

But the appearance of the whole royal family did not produce the effect which Louis had, perhaps, anticipated. The crowd did not now break out into snouts of joy.

They cried and roared and howled: "The queen alone! No children! We want no one but the queen! Away with the children!"

It was all in vain that Louis advanced to the edge of the platform; in vain that he raised his arms as if commanding silence. The sound of his voice was lost in the roar of the mob, who, with their clinched fists, their pikes and other weapons, their horrid cry, so frightened the dauphin that he could not restrain his tears.

The royal family drew back and entered the apartment again, where they were received by the pale, trembling, speechless, weeping courtiers and servants.

But the mob below were not pacified. They appeared as though they were determined to give laws to the king and queen, and demand obedience from them.

"The queen! we will see the queen!" was the cry again and again. "The queen shall show herself!"

"Well, be it so!" cried Marie Antoinette, with cool decision, and, pressing through the courtiers, who wanted to restrain her, and even impatiently thrusting back the king, who implored her not to go, she stepped out upon the balcony. Alone, without any one to accompany her, and having only the protection which the lion-tamer has when he enters the cage of the fierce monsters—the look of the eye and the commanding mien!

And the lion appeared to be subdued; his fearful roar suddenly ceased, and in astonishment all these thousands gazed up at the queen, the daughter of the Caesars, standing above in proud composure, her arms folded upon her breast, and looking down with steady eye into the yawning and raging abyss.

The people, overcome by this royal composure, broke into loud shouts of applause, and, during the continuance of these thousand-voiced bravos, the queen, with a proud smile upon her lips, stepped back from the balcony into the chamber.

The dauphin flew to her with open arms and climbed up her knee. "Mamma queen, my dear mamma queen," cried he, "stay with me, don’t go out again to these dreadful men, I am afraid of them—oh, I am afraid!"

Marie Antoinette took the little boy in her arms, and with her cold, pale lips pressed a kiss upon his forehead. For one instant it seemed as if she felt herself overcome by the fearful scene through which she had just passed—as if the tears which were confined in her heart would force themselves into her eyes. But Marie Antoinette overcame this weakness of the woman, for she felt that at this hour she could only be a queen.

With the dauphin in her arms, and pressing him closely to her heart, she advanced to the king, who, in order not to let his wife see the tears which flooded his face, had withdrawn to the adjoining apartment and was leaning against the door.

"Sire," said Marie Antoinette, entering the room, and presenting the dauphin to him, "sire, I conjure you that, in this fearful hour, you will make one promise to me."

"What is it, Marie?" asked the king, "what do you desire?"

"Sire, by all that is dear to you and me," continued the queen, "by the welfare and safety of France, by your own and by the safety of this dear child, your successor, I conjure you to promise me that, if we ever must witness such a scene of horror again, and if you have the means to escape it, you will not let the opportunity pass," [Footnote: The very words of the queen.—See Beauchesne, "Louis XVI., sa Vie," etc., p 145.]

The king, deeply moved by the noble and glowing face of the queen, by the tones of her voice, and by her whole expression, turned away. He wanted to speak, but could not; tears choked his utterance; and, as if he were ashamed of his weakness, he pushed the queen and the dauphin back from him, hastened through the room, and disappeared through the door on the opposite side.

Marie Antoinette looked with a long, sad face after him, and then returned to the balcony-room. A shudder passed through her soul, and a dark, dreadful presentiment made her heart for an instant stop beating. She remembered that this chamber in which she had that day suffered such immeasurable pain—that this chamber, which now echoed the cries of a mob that had this day for the first time prescribed laws to a queen, had been the dying-chamber of Louis XIV. [Footnote: Historical.—See Goncourt, "Marie Antoinette," p. 195.] A dreadful presentiment told her that this day the room had become the dyingchamber of royalty.

Like a pale, bloody corpse, the Future passed before her eyes, and, with that lightning speed which accompanies moments of the greatest excitement, all the old dark warnings came back to her which she had previously encountered. She thought of the picture of the slaughter of the babes at Bethlehem, which decorated the walls of the room in which the dauphin passed his first night on French soil; then of that dreadful prophecy which Count do Cagliostro had made to her on her journey to Paris, and of the scaffold which he showed her. She thought of the hurricane which had made the earth shake and turn up trees by their roots, on the first night which the dauphin had passed in Versailles. She thought too of the dreadful misfortune which on the next day happened to hundreds of men at the fireworks in Paris, and cost them their lives. She recalled the moment at the coronation when the king caught up the crown which the papal nuncio was just on the point of placing on his head, and said at the same time,

"It pricks me." [Footnote: Historical.]And now it seemed to her to be a new, dreadful reason for alarm, that the scene of horror, which she had just passed through, should take place in the dying-chamber of that king to whom France owed her glory and her greatness.

"We are lost, lost!" she whispered to herself. "Nothing can save us. There is the scaffold!"

"With a silent gesture, and a gentle inclination of her head, the queen took her leave of all present, and returned to her own apartments, which were now guarded by Lafayette’s soldiers, and which now conveyed no hint of the scene of horror which had transpired there a few hours before.

Some hours later two cannon were discharged upon the great square before the palace. They announced to the city of Versailles that the king, the queen, and their children, had just left the proud palace- -were then leaving the solitary residence at Versailles—never to return!

From the lofty tower of the church of St. Louis, in which recently the opening of the States-General had been celebrated, the bell was just then striking the first hour after mid-day, when the carriage drove out of the great gate through which the royal family must pass on its way to Paris. A row of other carriages formed the escort of the royal equipage. They were intended for the members of the States-General. For as soon as the journey of the king to Paris was announced, the National Assembly decreed that it regarded itself as inseparably connected with the person of the king, and that it would follow him to Paris. A deputation had instantly repaired to the palace, to communicate this decree to the king, and had been received by Louis with cordial expressions of thanks.

Marie Antoinette, however, had received the tidings of these resolves of the National Assembly with, a suspicious smile, and an angry flash darted into her eyes.

"And so, the gentlemen of the Third Estate have gained their point!" cried she, in wrath. "They alone have produced this revolt, in order that the National Assembly may have a pretext for going to Paris. Now, they have reached their goal! Yet do not tell me that the revolution is ended here. On the contrary, the hydra will now put forth all its heads, and will tear us in pieces. But, very well! I would rather be torn to pieces by them than bend before them!"

And, with a lofty air and calm bearing, Marie Antoinette entered the great coach in which the royal family was to make the journey to Paris. Near her sat the king, between them the dauphin. Opposite to them, on the broad, front seat, were their daughter Therese, the Princess Elizabeth, and Madame de Tourzel, governess of the royal children. Behind them, in a procession, whose end could not be seen, followed an artillery train; then the mob, armed with pikes, and other weapons-men covered with blood and dust, women with dishevelled hair and torn garments, the most of them drunken with wine, exhausted by watching during the night, shouting and yelling, and singing low songs, or mocking the royal family with scornful words. Behind these wild masses came two hundred gardes du corps without weapons, hats, and shoulder-straps, every one escorted by two grenadiers, and they were followed by some soldiers of the Swiss guard and the Flanders regiment. In the midst of this train rattled loaded cannon, each one accompanied by two soldiers. But still more fearful than the retinue of the royal equipage were the heralds who preceded it—heralds consisting of the most daring and defiant of these men and women, impatiently longing for the moment when they could announce to the city of Paris that the revolution in Versailles had humiliated the king, and given the people victory. They carried with them the bloody tokens of this victory, the heads of Varicourt and Deshuttes, the faithful Swiss guards, who had died in the service of their king. They had hoisted both these heads upon pikes, which two men of the mob carried before the procession. Between them strode, with proud, triumphant mien, a gigantic figure, with long, black beard, with naked blood-flecked arms, with flashing eyes, his face and hands wet with the blood with which he had imbued himself, and in his right hand a slaughter-knife which still dripped blood. This was Jourdan, who, from his cutting off the heads of both the Swiss guards, had won the name of the executioner—a name which he understood how to keep during the whole revolution.[Footnote: Jourdan, the executioner, had, until that time, been a model in the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.]

Like storm-birds, desirous to be the first to announce to Paris the triumph of the populace, and impatient of the slow progress of the royal train, these heralds of victory, bearing their bloody banner, hastened on in advance of the procession to Paris. In Sevres they made a halt—not to rest, or wait for the oncoming train—but to have the hair of the two heads dressed by friseurs, in order, as Jourdan announced with fiendish laughter to the yelling mob, that they might make their entrance into the city as fine gentlemen.

While before them and behind them these awful cries, loud singing and laughing resounded, within the carriage that conveyed the royal family there was unbroken silence. The king sat leaning back in the corner, with his eyes closed, in order not to see the horrid forms which from time to time approached the window of the carriage, to stare in with curious looks, or with mocking laughter and equivoques, to heap misery on the unfortunate family.

The queen, however, sat erect, with proud, dignified bearing, courageously looking the horrors of the day in the face, and not a quiver of the eyelids, nor a sigh, betraying the pain that tortured her soul.

"No, better die than grant to this triumphing rabble the pleasure of seeing what I suffer! Better sink with exhaustion than complain."

Not a murmur, not a sigh, came from her lips; and yet, when the dauphin, after four hours of this sad journey, turned with a supplicatory expression to his mother, and said to her with his sweet voice, "Mamma queen, I am hungry," the proud expression withdrew from the features of the queen, and two great tears slowly ran down over her cheeks.

At last, after a ride of eight hours, the frightful train reached Paris. Not a window in all the streets through which the royal procession went was empty. In amazement and terror the people of the middle class gazed at this hitherto unseen spectacle—the King and the Queen of France brought in triumph to the capital by the lowest people in the city! A dumb fear took possession of those who hitherto had tried to ignore the revolution, and supposed that every thing would subside again into the old, wonted forms. Now, no one could entertain this hope longer; now, the most timid must confess that a revolution had indeed come, and that people must accustom themselves to look at it eye to eye.

Slowly the train moved forward—slowly down the quay which extends along by the garden of the Tuileries. The loungers who were in the garden hurried to the fence, which then bordered the park on the side of the quay, in order to watch this frightful procession from this point: to see an unbridled populace dash in pieces the prescriptive royalty of ages.

Scorn and the love of destruction were written on most of the faces of these observers, but many were pale, and many quivered with anger and grief. In the front ranks of the spectators stood two young men, one of them in simple civilian’s costume, the other in the uniform of a sub-lieutenant. The face of the young officer was pale, but it lightened up with rare energy; and with his noble, antique profile, and flaming eyes, it enchanted every look, and fixed the attention of every one who observed him.

As the howling, roaring mob passed him, the young officer turned to his companion with an expression of fiery indignation. "0 God," he cried, "how is this possible? Has the king no cannon to destroy this canaille? " [Footnote: His own words.—See Beauchesne, vol. i.,p. 85.]

"My friend," answered the young man, smiling, "remember the words of our great poet Corneille: ’The people give the king his purple and take it back when they please. The beggar, king only by the people’s grace, simply gives back his purple to the people.’ "

"Ah!" cried the young lieutenant, smiling, "what once has been received should be firmly held. I, at least, if I had once received the purple by the people’s grace, would not give it back. But come, let us go on, it angers me to see this canaille, upon which you bestow the fine name of ’the people.’" He hastily grasped the arm of his friend, and turned to a more solitary part of the garden of the Tuileries.

This young sub-lieutenant, who saw with such indignation this revolutionary procession pass him, and whom destiny had appointed one day to bring this revolution to an end—this young lieutenant’s name was Napoleon Bonaparte.

The young man who walked at his side, and whom, too, destiny had appointed to work a revolution, although only in the theatrical world, to recreate the drama—this young man’s name was Talma.


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Chicago: Luise Mühlbach, "Chapter XIV. To Paris.," Marie Antoinette and Her Son, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891 in Marie Antoinette and Her Son (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed July 1, 2022,

MLA: Mühlbach, Luise. "Chapter XIV. To Paris." Marie Antoinette and Her Son, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891, in Marie Antoinette and Her Son, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 1 Jul. 2022.

Harvard: Mühlbach, L, 'Chapter XIV. To Paris.' in Marie Antoinette and Her Son, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, Marie Antoinette and Her Son, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 1 July 2022, from