The French Revolution: Regicide (1793)


Figure 1.--This is a romantasized view of Louis XVI bidding farewell to his family in January 1793, the evening before he was executed by the Guillotine. Note his son, the illfated, Lous XVII at the right praying.

The defeat of the Austrian-Prussian armies strengthened the hands of King's enemies, essentially sealing his fate. Valmy was particularly important. Louis was officially arrested (August 13, 1792). The royal family was held at the Temple, a medieval fortress in Paris that was used as a prison. The National Assembly declared France to be a Republic and abolished the Monarchy (September 21). The Assembly stripped Louis of all of all of his titles and honors. He now became known as simply Citoyen Louis Capet. The Girondins, the dominant Jacobian political faction wanted to hold the now deposed king decurely in the Temple under arrest to use as a hostage and a bargaiing chip with the Republic's enenies. Members of the Commune and the growing number of more radical deputies wanted the King executed. The more radical faction was forming as the Mountain. Many of the deputies, both the Girondins and Mountain, had legal backgrounds. Thus there was general agreement that there needed to be a legal process--a trial and not a summary exection. The Delegates decided that Louis be tried before the National Convention -- essentially by the French people. The Assembly saw it as the institution composed of the representatives of the sovereign people. Some historians see the King's trial as actually a trial of the revolution itself. And the trial was seen as such at the time. The death of the King essentally met the life of the Revolution. An innocent verdict was never possible, the only question was if the king would be executed. And the King's position was undercut by armoire de fer (iron safe) incident tht at occurred at the now vacated Tuileries Palace. François Gamain, the Versailles locksmith, went to Paris and informed the Jean-Marie Roland, Girondinist Minister of the Interior about a hidden safe in the King's bedroom (November 20). When opened, the King's safe was found to hold compromising documents and correspondence. When made public, the King was fuly discredited. Three weeks later, the King was separated from his family. He was brought from the Temple through crowded and silent streets to stand before the Convention (Decenber 11). He was incicted for high treason and crimes against the State. A day fter Christmas, Louis' chief counsel, Raymond de Sèze, delivered his response to the charges. The Revolutionary government ordered the execution of King Louis and Marie-Antoinette (January 1793). King Louis XVI was guillotined (January 21) and Queen Marie Antoinette followed him a few months later. The execution of the King and Queen made any accomodation with the Republic impossible. Other monarchs felt that the continued existence of the French Republic endangered their thrones, viewing it as a deadly contagion. The execution of the King in particular transformed the British and their powerful fleet into a foe committed to overturning the regicides.






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Created: 8:26 AM 9/30/2015
Last updated: 8:26 AM 9/30/2015