The king explains his flight to Varennes (1791)


In late June 1791 the king appeared before a special committee of the National Constituent Assembly. He gave the following statement to explain his flight to Varennes the week before:


“The reasons for my leaving were the insults and threats given against my family and myself on April 18th. Since then, provocative writings inciting violence against me and my family have been published, which have remained unpunished. In the circumstances I believed there could be no security, not even propriety, for me in Paris.

I therefore wished to leave the city. Since I could not do this openly I decided to leave by night and without any retinue. I had no intention at any time of leaving the kingdom. I had no agreement to that end, either with foreign powers, my own relatives or any of the French subjects who have previously left the kingdom.

The passport I carried was necessary to facilitate the journey. It was drawn up for a foreign country, only because the bureau of foreign affairs does not issue them for the interior of the kingdom. The route indicated on the passport was for Frankfurt, and was not even used during the trip.

I realised during the journey that public opinion had decided in favour of the constitution. I did not think it possible to be fully conversant with this public opinion in Paris, but from the views which I gathered personally along my route, I was convinced of the necessity of giving power to the established authorities for the maintenance of public order, and even for the support of the constitution itself.

As soon as I had realised the general will, I acted without hesitation, just as I have never hesitated to make a personal sacrifice for the good of my people, which has always been my wish.

I shall happily forget all the troubles which I may have suffered, in order to assure the peace and happiness of the nation.

Louis.”