Royal Flight, June 1791: Why were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette captured at Varennes?

Jun 2013
338
USA
It was the 3rd year of the French Revolution. King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette chafed under their confinement at Tuileries palace, and resented their loss of power to the forces of the Revolution. In June 1791, under disguise, in the dead of night, the Royal Couple with their family fled their palace in Paris and traveled more than 200 miles. They were within 40 miles of the frontier and safety when they were discovered, detained and then arrested. The Royal Couple was then forced to endure a humiliating 4-day journey of return back to Paris. This was a major turning point in the Revolution. The King and Queen would never be trusted again, and this event gave enormous impetus to the call of the Jacobins to at last end the monarchy.

Why were the King and Queen captured at Varennes? What went wrong? Why did their escape fail?
 
Jun 2013
338
USA
MG1962a - May I ask you to say a bit more - Were the King and Queen equally stupid? Who was most to blame - Louis XVI or Marie Antoinette? and Why?
 
Mar 2019
1,952
Kansas
MG1962a - May I ask you to say a bit more - Were the King and Queen equally stupid? Who was most to blame - Louis XVI or Marie Antoinette? and Why?
By the time they were arrested, virtually everyone in the area was aware of who they were and what they were trying to do. The carriage they used was the equivalent of driving a high end Cadillac through the worst areas of East LA and expecting no one to notice.
 
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Jun 2013
338
USA
MG1962a - You are right on target. The King and Queen did travel in palatial style. Yet, even with all that pomp and baggage, they got to within 40 miles of the frontier. They might have made it past Varennes had not Drouet ridden ahead, alerted the citizenry and forced Sauce to challenge the Royals over their passports, and told Sauce he would be guilty of treason if you let them pass.

Louis or Marie Antoinette – who do you think was more responsible for setting off Drouet?
 
Mar 2019
1,952
Kansas
MG1962a - You are right on target. The King and Queen did travel in palatial style. Yet, even with all that pomp and baggage, they got to within 40 miles of the frontier. They might have made it past Varennes had not Drouet ridden ahead, alerted the citizenry and forced Sauce to challenge the Royals over their passports, and told Sauce he would be guilty of treason if you let them pass.

Louis or Marie Antoinette – who do you think was more responsible for setting off Drouet?
I would vote Marie. From my reading Louis was very prepared to take his chances. Given the bad press Marie had been getting for a long time, I think she was convinced it was only a matter of time before she was disposed of.
 
May 2017
1,186
France
When they have paid the owner of the hotel,they have used gold louis whose emblem was the head of Louis XVI.The boss took the money and recognized immediatly the king.It was not only stupid,it was also ridiculous...
 
Jun 2013
338
USA
MD1962a - Interesting. I agree that Marie Antoinette got bad press. The pamphlets that circulated widely, the tabloids of their day, fixated on the Queen. Not only as a profligate spendthrift, clotheshorse and Austrian strumpet, but a nymphomaniac with insatiable lusts for men and women, screwing everyone in the palace except her cuckold husband King Louis. I agree too that Louis was willing to ride things out but the Queen, who wanted to flee as early as 1789, wore him down and finally got him to go along with the flight that Antoinette’ s lover Axe von Fersen planned. For them But what if Louis held firm and had not gone along with Antoinette’s desires and together they really did ride things out – how do you think Marie Antonette would have been “disposed of”.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,807
By the time they were arrested, virtually everyone in the area was aware of who they were and what they were trying to do. The carriage they used was the equivalent of driving a high end Cadillac through the worst areas of East LA and expecting no one to notice.
Well they were passing themselves off as the Russian Baroness de Korff, widow of Baron von Korff, her two children and her entourage en route for Frankfurt. The "berliner" carriage was flashy but at least they weren't trying to pass for "ordinary people" somehow.

And afaiu the plan was to have loyal royalist cavalry detachements, ready to fight-off pursuers if need be, escort the carriage all the way to intended destination of Montmédy, where the Royal German infantry regiment waited. What transpired was the the Duke of Choiseul, who was in charge of the military protection, screwed up... royally. So there were no escorts etc. And that way the unaccompanied, unprotected carriage went on its way with only as much subterfuge a bunch of French royals not actually prepared for those particular modalities could muster. This was then compounded by the king vacillating, waiting for escorts that never arrived, wasting time where just making a hell-for-leather dash might still have gotten them out ahead of the pursuers dispatched by Lafayette. And sure, then Louis was also dangerously naive in thinking somehow outside the radical hotheads in Paris he had untapped resources of loyalty and monarchical piety from his "real" subjects and so wouldn't quite need protection from "good people".
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,653
Spain
Unfortunately many mistakes:

1st: Royal decision not to leave France. This changed the route... At first the route went north ... it was shorter and had better roads ... faster ... in less time the King would be in the Austrian Netherlands ... but the king refused to it because he didn´t want to leave France. So... it was chosen a long route.. to Lorraine....it involved more kms, more road, more men and populations.

2nd: Royal decision not to leave his family. It was though King left alone in a horse... but he refused... it was impossible he changed his mind... He would never leave his family.. that means to built a car for travelling (time and money, food, more complicate infraestructure for travelling etc etc)

3rd: the delay in departure (2 hours on schedule ... the queen was lost).

4th: the imprudence of the king to look out the window

5tth: Dolphin´s maiden disease who delayed the operation for 24 hours.

6th: The generous tips they gave in the postillon of Claye – Souilly

7th: the somewhat innocent indiscretions of the ladies Brunier and Neuville

8th: the imprudence of the king to get out of the car in Vaujours to do his physiological needs ... where he was recognized

9th: Bouillé's indecisions ... when KING is coming!

10th: Dandoins cowardice

11th: Bad luck when the Royalist sergeant in charge of killing Jean-Baptiste Drouet was lost along the way because of the forest in night

12th: Deslon´s pusilanimity...

Summarize in one word: a man, a man ... a man was missing that night Varennes ... a man willing to do everything for his King and Lord!