Friday, January 21, 2011

January 21, 1793 – Louis XVI Sent into Exile

After giving military and monetary aid to the young republic in the Americas to humiliate her ancient enemy Britain, France would find herself upturned by revolution. Louis XVI had initially hoped that French troops could seize the United States after its war, but, in 1789, economic crisis brought famine, and the storming of the Bastille signaled an uprising as had not been seen in Europe for centuries. The elected National Assembly ruled alongside Louis in a constitutional monarchy that ate away at absolutist authority. That October, a mob of angry women marched on Versailles and joined with others to bring the royal family to the Tuileries in Paris where they would be held to higher accountability.

Louis and Marie Antoinette attempted to escape in 1791, but they were brought back and viewed with great suspicion by the people. A year later, the Brunswick Manifesto promised vengeance from Austria and Prussia if the king's family were harmed, which only furthered the poplar suspicion. It seemed now that the king not only cared little for his people, but was also willing to deal with foreign strength against them, as great an insult as the use of Hessian mercenaries in the Americas during their revolution. On August 13, Louis was officially arrested, and a month later the National Assembly abolished the monarchy and declared a republic.

While the king waited and war raged on the German and Italian borders, the revolutionaries forged themselves into factions competing for similar, though unique, goals. Question of creating a permanent constitutional monarchy may have been answered with the discovery of the armoire de fer hidden in the king's rooms, but the iron chest believed to be holding the secret documents of ministers' double-agendas was destroyed in a sudden fire.

Nonetheless, loud cries for trial on grounds of treason brought Louis to trial before a special Convention. A body of 721 deputies heard the cases and word of crimes against the state by the king, but the resulting vote was indecisive. The king was thought to have been invaluable as a hostage, but it was evident that the threats to his safety were raising the tempers of the crowns of Europe. After French victory at the Battle of Valmy, the Prussian and Austrian armies had retreated out of France, but they would certainly return as the spring campaigning season came. Finally the decision was made to use the king as a pawn in a bid for peace. It was an unpopular notion to many in the National Assembly, but the fiery writings and loud cries of the masses demanded peace.

Ambassadors were sent to Prussia, and discussions went into the new year. At last Brunswick spoke out over the Bourbons and assured peace with the French Republic provided that the royals were made safe. They agreed that he could be sent to a neutral court, and his relatives in Spain volunteered to host him along with a contingent of French guards who would make certain Louis would not be used as the banner for royalists to rally. By this point, it was obvious to those close to Louis that he was unfit for rule, devastated by depression and poor nutrition into an indecisive mumbler.

Peace came to France on February 1, 1793, while the other countries worked to put down their own republican insurrections. Demands of constitutions were met across Europe, ending the age of autocratic rule that had been best illustrated by France's own Louis XIV. The security and return to prosperity allowed France to quiet its extremists and organize its army into an effective force rather than the desperate mass-conscription that had been anticipated to fight off the hordes of Europe.

France came to notable stability as the eighteenth century dawned. Its colonies enjoyed great liberalization and became leaders in the abolition movement. Not all were happy, however, and the colony of Corsica rebelled in 1803 under native who had been trained in Paris as an artillery commander. After a decade of cunning ambushes, Corsica was granted independence in 1813. The revolutionary leader Napoleon Bonaparte would set himself up as king while the French looked on and laughed to themselves about those foolish enough to give up republican freedom for tyranny.

In reality, the “iron chest” was discovered with its many secret documents that incriminated Louis XVI as conspiring against his people to reassert his domination. He was executed by guillotine, pardoning the people in his last speech. Spain, Portugal, Britain, and the Dutch would join Prussia and Austria in attempting to smother the revolutionaries with war. Levée en masse conscripted French young men as soldiers by the hundreds of thousands who would eventually fight off the external threats while the Reign of Terror sought out and destroyed anyone who opposed them from within.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter