Source Problems on the French Revolution


6. Salmour, Comte De, Correspondance in Flammermont, 264.

Paris, October 9, 1789.

The king returned from the chase at about seven o’clock, entering, as he had always done since the beginning of the revolution, by the gates at the back of the park. The president of the national assembly was at once introduced, and with him a deputation of fifteen women, who complained to the king of the bad police and of the lack of food. The king answered them that he loved his good city of Paris too well to ever let it lack anything; that as long as he had charge of the food supply it had never lacked anything, but since these gentlemen (pointing to the deputies of the assembly) had bound his hands, it was not his fault; that he did not believe it was possible at once to reduce bread to eight sous and meat to six, as they wished, but he was going to give orders and co-operate with the national assembly in order that the next day they might be satisfied as far as possible.

As soon as they came to report this satisfying response to their comrades they declared it could not be true, that they had surely been corrupted by money. They were going to hang them, but by the intercession of the deputies they were permitted to go and obtain in writing the confirmation of what they had asserted. Introduced again into the king’s presence, his majesty wrote himself and signed what they had just said. Calmed by this assurance, all these women followed the deputies to the national assembly, assuring the body guards that some people were going to come from Paris who would avenge them for the ill treatment they pretended they had experienced at their hands. Arrived at the assembly, they filled the whole room, established themselves upon the benches, asked to have M. de Mira-beau speak, who protested with much dignity against the indecency of this assembly. These women finished by getting what they wanted. Nothing could be discussed. The Bishop of Langres presided in the absence of Mounier, who, having been to see the king, finally came to announce the acceptance pure and simple of the rights of man, and of the constitution. There was no member of the clergy, very few of the ancient party of the aristocrats, who had all concealed themselves, since the people had named several of them as being the actual cause of their misfortunes, whom they sought to immolate to their resentment. The session was adjourned at half past ten. It rained in torrents all day. At nine o’clock, nothing having happened, the king ordered the body guard to go to its quarters. It made a movement by half squadrons to form a column. The people, believing they were going to charge, put themselves on the defensive. The militia of Versailles and its guard house fired volleys into them, which wounded fifteen or sixteen of them and put them to flight, so that they were not able to rally before they had reached the park on the other side of the terrace, in front of the apartments of the dauphin. Some one came at eleven o’clock to announce that the troops of Paris were arriving. The king then wished to carry out a plan for flight, and M. de Cubières, his equerry, gave orders for six hunting carriages to be harnessed to go at a walk to the gate of the orangery, from there, under the escort of the body guards, to reach the open country. As soon as the horses were harnessed the gates of the stables were opened, but the carriages, which, according to the description of the locality which I have given your Eminence, were obliged to cross the Place d’Armes, were stopped by the people, who cried, "The king is going away!" The first two, which by the rapidity of their movement had made an opening through the crowd, arrived at the gate of the orangery, found it closed, were stopped in the name of the nation by some men, who cut the traces.

M. Necker during this time had reached the apartments of the king through the interior of the palace, and with the Comte de Montmorin influenced the king, contrary to the advice of the other ministers, not to go away. M. de Lafayette had meanwhile halted at Petit Montreuil, at the end of the Avenue de Paris. There he drew up his troops in order of battle, and after having reminded them of the oath of fidelity to the nation and to the king he divided them into two columns, which, with the artillery at the head, arrived by the two avenues of Paris and Saint-Cloud. Many deputies had gone to the château. The king asked to have them all called, and those in the city were called by the beating of drums. M. de Lafayette arrived alone with four officers. The iron gates of the château were opened to him. He ascended to the apartments of the king with those who accompanied him. The crowd, which was in the Oeil-de-Boeuf, followed him into the room and heard him pronounce these words: "Sire, you see before you the most unhappy of men to be obliged to appear here in these circumstances and in this manner. If I had believed I could have served more usefully Your Majesty by placing my head on the block, Your Majesty would not see me here." The king replied to him: "You should not doubt, M. de Lafayette, the pleasure I always have in seeing you as well as my good Parisians. Go testify to them of these sentiments on my part." The general went out immediately to present himself to his troops, which he drew up in order of battle in the Place d’Armes and the region round about. As soon as the troops of Paris arrived, the regiment of Flanders, which had retired to the stables to shelter itself from the bad weather, lowered their guns and opened the pans to show that they were not loaded. After which they placed their guns on the ground and the cartridges beside them, and the soldiers made a right face to enter again. Their arms were immediately returned to them, and fraternity was established between them and the national militia. M. Mounier went to the king’s apartments a short time after the exit of M. de Lafayette. The king said to him: "I had you come to surround me with representatives of the nation, but I have already seen M. de Lafayette." As soon as the general had made the necessary dispositions outside he returned to the king, where he remained until half past one. He said, in going out, to the crowd which was in the Oeil-de-Boeuf: "Gentlemen, I have just induced the king to make painful sacrifices. His majesty no longer has any guards except those of the nation. He has permitted me to occupy the château with two thousand men. I am going out to take measures for the general security and to send back the rest of the troops to Paris." In fact, the château was occupied immediately, sentinels placed everywhere; the posts of the body guards in the interior, however, were left, as well as those of the Swiss, who had been constantly under arms without ever receiving orders, without ever leaving the place which had been assigned them behind the grating. The rest of the troops of Paris had been lodged by battalions in the principal houses. The women, who had taken possession of the assembly hall, remained there all night. Everything appeared so quiet their majesties retired at about two o’clock.

The people of Versailles, however, and a part of this populace which had come with the women harbored ill will against the body guards. It was not known what had become of them, as they remained all the time in the park. Toward four o’clock in the morning part of them decided to return to the stables, while another, preferring a retreat in the open country, quit Versailles without knowing any too clearly where they were going. The people, who rummaged everywhere in hunting for them, noted their return, ran to the stables. These unhappy beings took refuge in the riding school, where they defended themselves with their carbines and wounded some, until, not being able to offer resistance to numbers, they sought to escape through the park, in which they were successful, except ten or a dozen who were made prisoners. During this time a part of the people, piqued by the resistance in the riding school, filled the courts of the château and wanted to get possession of those in the apartments. The courts, which all the night had not been completely cleared, were all at once filled, without any one attributing a bad intention to this multitude.

Day began to break. The sentinel on duty at the foot of the marble staircase, insulted by the populace, instead of calling the national guard to his aid, called to his brigadier to come to him. This one, as soon as he saw from the top of the staircase what was going on, fired his carbine and killed a man. The sentinel did the same. The people at once seized them and mounted the staircase to force the apartments. The guards of the interior hardly had time to barricade the doors. Fortunately, M. de Lafayette, awakened by the firing at the riding school, hastened to the place with what Paris troops he could get together. The grenadiers scattered the people, who were on the point of breaking in the doors of the guard room, the guards having absolutely determined not to open them. Having made themselves known to the body guard, these latter cried from the inside: "Swear to us by your God that you will defend the life of the king." "We swear to you on the honor of a grenadier that we will all perish rather than let anything happen to the king." The doors were at once opened, and the grenadiers, entering in a crowd, followed by the entire national guard of Paris as it arrived, surrounded the body guards and filled the gallery, the apartments, penetrating even to the king’s bedchamber, where, at the same minute, the queen arrived out of breath. She had escaped from her apartment, into which, at the time of the invasion, by a passage apparently badly guarded, women had penetrated who evidently had designs upon her. The Paris troops, as they came up, filled the court of marble, the royal court, and the people were obliged to fall back into the court of the ministers, where they dragged the two unhappy victims seized at the foot of the staircase and executed them, the one on the steps of the Comte de Luzerne, and the other at the door of M. de Saint-Priest. Their heads were carried in triumph through all the streets of Versailles, taken then to Paris, and promenaded through the streets of the capital.

M. de Lafayette, after having rendered secure the apartments of the king, descended to put his troops in order, found in the marble court, under the balcony of his majesty, the ten body guards whom the national guard had taken from the people, and whom the people were preparing to execute under the windows of the king for having fired upon the citizens, as they said. M. de Lafayette, not being able by any means to obtain their pardon, threw his hat on the ground, and, opening his coat, said to his troops that he did not care to command cannibals, that he would return to them their cockade, their sword, and their uniform; that if they wished to take the lives of these unhappy people, they could take his also. This firmness saved these unfortunate ones, and it was decided that they should be conducted prisoners to Paris. M. de Lafayette, going up-stairs at once, induced the king to appear with the queen and the dauphin upon the balcony. They were applauded, and as soon as his majesty had retired, they cried to him to come to Paris. There were no ministers with the king at the time. After a moment’s reflection: "Very well, yes," he said, "I will go with them." And at once, without listening to anybody, going out upon the balcony, he cried to them: "My children, I am going to live in the midst of you with my wife and my son, but I am going to ask you as a proof of your attachment that you pardon my body guards." At once they appeared at all the windows of the apartments, throwing into the court their cross-belts, which are their mark of service, and M. de Lafayette, appearing with one of them upon the king’s balcony, embraced him, crying: "My friends, peace is made." Those who were nearest having alone been able to hear the promise the king had made to come to Paris, the others wished to be assured personally of the intention of his majesty; the entire troop passing successively in disorder under this same balcony, the king had the kindness to repeat his words through MM. de Lafayette and d’Estaing, to each troop which passed, and accompanied them with gestures of assurance. At once there was a general salvo of all the cannon and small arms, which might have been very dangerous, as they were all loaded with ball.

A guard had been sent from Paris to relieve the troops at Versailles before it was known that their majesties would go to Paris. United with the others, a thousand of them were chosen to remain to guard the château, and the rest began to defile in a manner one must have seen in order to have any idea of it; a description of the saturnalia of the ancients alone could furnish a feeble image of this disorder. Imagine a column defiling, almost without interruption, from noon until seven in the evening, in which marched, pell-mell, troops, blackguards, all the women drunk—a mixture of all kinds of arms, women astride of the cannon, others bearing the flags, the vilest populace by the side of the most distinguished officers. You could see women wearing the bonnets of grenadiers, others with muskets on their shoulders, and soldiers with cudgels in their hands. Horses from the stables of the king and monsieur attached to wagons of grain; bread, sausages fixed upon the points of bayonets; the vilest populace mounted on horses taken from the body guard, galloping like mad; others armed with their carbines or with the halberds of the Cent-Suisses; women and soldiers, half drunk, lying in indecent postures on the wagons of grain, while the carters who drove them wore themselves and had decorated their horses with the cross-belts of the body guards in the form of collars.

The king arrived at seven at the barrier of the conference. His carriage was immediately preceded by the same troop with as little choice. The guards of the provost preceded it, mixed with armed women surrounding the horse of M. de Tourzel, the grand provost; body guards on foot, confounded with the national guard, followed; then came the Cent-Suisses of the guard with their flags; in a similar order the national guard—mounted on horses of the body guard, while some guards were mounted on theirs and others rode behind the cavaliers—were nearer the coach of their majesties, immediately preceded by M. d’Estaing, M. de Lafayette, and M. de Montmorin, cousin of the minister, second major in command of the regiment of Flanders. He was surrounded by the grenadiers of Paris, of Flanders, and by sergeants of different corps, by women mounted behind and before in the guise of pages. The heavy artillery followed the convoy. The king, the queen, the dauphin, madame, daughter of the king, Madame Elizabeth and Madame de Tourzel, governesses, were in the same carriage. M. Bailly presented the keys of the city to the king on a porcelain plate, the silver being at the mint, and made to him the inclosed speech. When they arrived at the city hall, M. Bailly gave an account of what the king said to him, that he always found himself with pleasure in the midst of the inhabitants of his good city of Paris. The queen then said: "You have forgotten that he added to that, with confidence." They cried: "Long live the Queen!" "Gentlemen," replied the mayor, "you hear it from her mouth; you are more fortunate than if I had told it to you." And then: "Long live M. Bailly!" Their majesties then went to pass the night at the Tuileries, where, by the way, the king found himself for the first time in his life. . . .

At the moment of leaving in the morning [for Versailles, October 6th] my people came to beg me on their knees not to depart. The valet of M. de Saint-Priest had just come to Paris and gave me a very exaggerated account of heads cut off, the massacring of the body guards, and of the whole tumult, to which we were commencing to become accustomed, but truly frightful to a cool-blooded man. . . . Obliged to move slowly, following a battalion of three hundred men of the national guard, who were going to relieve their comrades at Versailles, I saw coming toward me a score of ragamuffins, preceded by a man with a long beard, behind whom marched two others carrying bleeding heads at the end of pikes. The sight of a decorated man always exciting the rage of the populace, I saw them approach my carriage and offer me in the guise of a bouquet these fruits of their barbarism. Fearing their insults if I appeared to refuse this presentation, I lowered the window on their side and by means of two signs of approbation of the head these executioners appeared to be well satisfied with me, and left the road free to me while continuing their route.


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Chicago: "6. Salmour, Comte De, Correspondance in Flammermont, 264," Source Problems on the French Revolution in Source Problems on the French Revolution, ed. Fred Morrow Fling and Helene Dresser Fling (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1913), 235–246. Original Sources, accessed April 13, 2024,

MLA: . "6. Salmour, Comte De, Correspondance in Flammermont, 264." Source Problems on the French Revolution, in Source Problems on the French Revolution, edited by Fred Morrow Fling and Helene Dresser Fling, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1913, pp. 235–246. Original Sources. 13 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: , '6. Salmour, Comte De, Correspondance in Flammermont, 264' in Source Problems on the French Revolution. cited in 1913, Source Problems on the French Revolution, ed. , Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, pp.235–246. Original Sources, retrieved 13 April 2024, from