The king’s note on fleeing Paris (1791)


On June 21st 1791 Louis XVI and his family escaped the Tuileries and attempted to flee Paris. The king left behind this note, explaining his actions:


“As long as the king could hope to see the order and happiness of the kingdom revived through the methods used by the National Assembly, and through his residence close to this Assembly in the capital, no personal sacrifice has aggrieved him. He would not even put forward the complete lack of freedom, which has made void all the steps he has undertaken since the month of October 1789, as an excuse, if this wish had been fulfilled.

But today, when the only recompense for so many sacrifices is to witness the destruction of the kingdom, to see all authority ignored, personal property violated, people’s safety everywhere in danger, crimes remaining unpunished, and a complete anarchy established above the law, without the appearance of authority that the new Constitution grants him… the king, having solemnly protested against all the decrees issued by him during his captivity, believes it his duty to put a picture of his behaviour…

From the spirit that reigns in the clubs, and the way that they seize control of the new primary assemblies, what can be expected from them is apparent. If they show any sign of some tendency… it is to destroy what is left of royalty and to establish some metaphysical and philosophical government, which can never be achieved in reality.

People of France – is that what you intended when you sent your representatives to the National Assembly? Did you wish for the anarchy and despotism of the clubs to replace the monarchical government, under which the nation prospered for 1,400 years? Did you wish to see your king showered with insults, and deprived of his liberty, while his only goal was to establish yours? ….

People of France, and especially you Parisians… be wary of the suggestions and lies of your false friends. Come back to your king; he will always be your father, your best friend. What pleasure he will have… to see himself once again in your midst, when a constitution that he has freely accepted ensures that our holy religion will be respected, that government will be established on a stable footing and will be useful through its actions, that each man’s goods and position will no longer be disturbed, that laws will no longer be infringed with impunity, and that liberty will be placed on a firm and unshakeable base.”