A participant in the October march on Versailles (1789)


In October 1789 a committee of the National Constituent Assembly carried out an inquiry into the events of October 5th and 6th, when a Parisian mob marched on Versailles. The following testimony was given by one of the participants, a Madame Madelaine Glain:


“Madelaine Glain, aged 42, cleaner, wife of Francois Gaillard, office assistant in the Oratoire district, with whom she lives at 40 rue Froidmanteau, declares that she was forced, like many other women, to follow the crowd that went to Versailles on Monday October 5th last…

Having arrived at Sevres near the porcelain factory, a man with a black sash asked them where they were going. They told him that they were going to ask for bread at Versailles. This man urged them to be well behaved – but a woman who she knows to be a prostitute… said that she went to Versailles to bring back the head of the queen. This woman was strongly reprimanded by the others. Arriving at the avenue of Versailles, this same woman stopped a king’s guard on horseback and roundly abused him, threatening him with a rusty old sword that she was carrying. This king’s guard told her she was poor wretch, and to make her let go of his horse’s bridle that she was holding, struck her and wounded her in the arm.

Then, going to the castle with the intention of informing His Majesty of the motives of their actions, the witness found herself caught, that is to say, her skirts were caught in two uprights of the railings, from which a Swiss man helped her out. After this she went with the other women to the hall of the National Assembly, where they entered in great numbers. Some of these women demanded four pounds of bread at eight sous [each], and meat at the same price. The witness begged for silence and said they asked that they no longer want for bread, though not at the price that the said women wished to have it

[The witness said] she did not go in a delegation to the castle, but came back with Monsiuer Maillard and two other women to the Paris town hall, bringing the decrees that were given to them in the National Assembly. The mayor and the representatives of the Commune were highly satisfied, and they were received with joy. The witness was taken by the National Guard to the Oratoire district to make known the good news. She can give us no information on what happened at Versailles on Tuesday October 6th, but learned, without being able to say from whom, that the man called Nicholas… had cut off the heads of two of the king’s guards who had been massacred by the people. Since then, the said Nicholas has not reappeared in the district.”