Why was the flight to Varennes a turning point in the French Revolution?

Why was the flight to Varennes a turning point in the French Revolution?

On the occasion of the broadcast of an edition of Secrets d’histoire, presented by Stéphane Bern, on Wednesday March 15th, a review of this crucial event of the French Revolution: the flight to Varennes.

The broadcast of the program takes place Wednesday March 15 at 9pm on France 3. Stéphane Bern will tell us step by step the tragic escape of the king and his entourage from the Palace of Versailles. This episode, an incredible moment in the history of France, is breathtaking and captivating, appropriate to this adventure that, by chance or fate, has radically changed the course of our history.

The context of Louis XVI’s flight

From June 20th to 21st, 1791, the king and his entourage (8 people in all) armed with false passports and disguised, board a horse-drawn carriage towards the border. They then hope to get support from other European royal families in Luxembourg, in particular the Austrian royal family. According to legend, it was thanks to a coin showing the king’s profile that the royal family was exposed at Varennes.

At this point the king is placed “under public observation” in the Tuileries Palace. Danton also said of the Cordeliers Club at the time, claiming the Republic: ” The royal individual can no longer be king.”. This event counts cowardly made the French even more suspicious and anti-kings. Louis XVI has lost all the trust of the people. He was then jailed again and put on trial “Conspiracy against public liberty and general security of the state”.

Why is this a turning point?

This escape attempt showed that the king could not be seen as an ally of the revolution and fueled suspicions that he wanted to overthrow the revolutionary movement. This leak also exacerbated tensions between supporters of the monarchy and supporters of the republic, which escalated in the years that followed. In addition, the flight to Varennes weakened the king’s position vis-à-vis the National Constituent Assembly, which had been set up to draft a new constitution for France. The king had already lost much of his power after the events of the revolution, but this event compounded his loss of credibility and political power.

Thus, the flight to Varennes was a turning point in the French Revolution, as it undermined popular confidence in the king, led to political polarization in France and weakened the king’s position vis-à-vis the National Constituent Assembly. More generally, this episode is of crucial importance in the history of France as it led to the execution of Louis XVI. And led his wife Marie-Antoinette. It marks the beginning of a new era: that of Robespierre’s terror and the beginning of the French Republic.

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