THE FISHWIVES AT VERSAILLES
 THE National Assembly meanwhile had sent to the king, begging him to recall his
troops and to dismiss the nobles who had advised him to send them to Paris.
Louis XVI., knowing that his army could not be trusted, was helpless, so he made up
his mind to go to the Assembly to try to regain its confidence.
When Mirabeau heard that the king was coming, he bade the Assembly receive him in
silence. But when Louis arrived, guarded only by his two brothers, and promised to
recall the troops and to help the deputies to restore peace, the whole Assembly rose
to its feet to cheer their king.
And it did more than cheer. When Louis left the hall, the Assembly accompanied its
sovereign. Putting him in their midst, the deputies then joined their hands to form
a guard, so that the people might not jostle him.
When they reached the palace, the queen came out on the balcony with the little
dauphin and his sister. Then happy cries filled the air as the people shouted, "Long
live the king! long live the queen!" For once again the people were sure that all
The Parisians, hearing that the king had gone to the Assembly, demanded that he
should also come to his capital.
So Louis, not sure that he would ever be allowed to return to Versailles, took the
sacrament and set out for Paris.
Without a military guard, escorted only by about a hundred members of the Assembly,
the king reached the city
 gates. Here the keys were brought to him, after
which he rode on to the Town Hall, where a great crowd of armed men bade him
Louis was then constrained to listen to the chief orators of the Assembly until they
had tired themselves out, after which, pinning a Tricolour cockade in the king's
hat, they led him out on the balcony that the crowds might see that he was one of
Again the shouts of the people rang out, as they cried, "Long live the king! long
live the nation!"
Louis's subjects were now content, and the king was free to go back to Versailles,
where the queen welcomed him as one returned from the dead.
But although the mob cheered the king, it still cherished its anger against the nobles.
Foulon, the minister who had bade them eat grass if they were hungry, who had dared
to raise the price of bread in the face of their misery, was alive. The very thought
incensed the people.
One day they succeeded in capturing the old man, who was seventy-four years of age.
Tying a bundle of grass on his back and a bundle of nettles round his neck, the mob
dragged him with ropes to the Town Hall.
He must be judged. Yes, if the mob would but be patient. But it would listen to no
one, not even to Bailly, the mayor of the city.
Heedless of the old man's cries, the rabble pushed Foulon impatiently out of the
Town Hall, across the street to the nearest lamp or lantern, and there it hanged the
man who had mocked at its hunger.
"Still the people felt their vengeance was incomplete, so they fixed Foulon's head
on a pike, first stuffing his mouth with grass, and carried it through the streets
of Paris. Had the noble not bidden them eat grass?
From that day the cry "à la lanterne" ("to the lantern") was no strange sound in the
streets of Paris.
 After Foulon's death, Charles, the brother of the king, as well as many of the
nobles, felt that their lives were not safe in France, and they escaped to other
It was selfish to leave their king, but it was treachery to sell their country as
they tried to do when they went to foreign courts. For the French nobles begged the
princes of Europe to send armies into France to conquer it, and to restore to them
rank and riches.
The queen, too, was forsaken by her favourites. It is true that she bade them go
where they would be safe, yet she had hoped that they would not all desert her. It
is true that some of the nobles had begged her to leave France, but Marie Antoinette
had too much of the pride and obstinacy of her mother to desert a difficult post.
She determined to stay with the king.
It was not only in Paris that the people began to wreak their anger on the nobles.
In the country the peasants rose against their lords, so that they were forced to
fly from their castles and their palaces.
The National Assembly encouraged the rebellion of the people, for in August of this
fateful year, 1789, it made a new law, by which all the rights of the nobles as well
as their titles were taken away. There were no longer to be princes, dukes,
marquises; henceforth every one was to be addressed as "citizen" or "citizeness."
Louis XVI., having now no soldiers and not too much courage, was forced to sign the
new constitution or form of government planned by the National Assembly. In reality
he lost the last trace of his kingly power thereby, placing it in the hands of the
deputies of the people.
Soon after this a regiment was ordered to relieve the guards at Versailles. A great
banquet was given by the guards to welcome the officers of the new regiment.
The king and queen went to the feast to show their pleasure at the arrival of the
regiment. They were greeted with cheers, while the officers, being young and
 began to sing a well-known national song, "O Richard, O my king,
all the world deserteth thee."
Then, tearing the Tricolours from their hats, they flung them down, trampled upon
them, and in their place put the white cockade, the emblem of the Bourbons.
When the people of Paris heard of the banquet and of the trampled Tricolours, they
were roused to fury, which partly at least was due to their desperate hunger.
The king and the queen could feast, but they must starve or wait for hours outside a
baker's shop, a long line of hungry folk, waiting to buy a loaf, if perchance their
turn should come before the day was ended.
Starving women determined to go to Versailles. A banquet of bread, that they must
have ere they would be content.
So, early in October, thousands of hungry women, many of them fishwives of the
roughest manners, met together. Armed with tongs, brooms, rusty pistols, anything
indeed that they could find, they set off for Versailles. "Bread! Bread!" they
shouted as they marched along.
Having reached Versailles these hungry women broke into the hall of the National
Assembly, crying, "Bread! Bread!" and demanding to be taken to the king.
After some delay five women were chosen and actually taken into the presence of Louis XVI.,who received them graciously, and sent them away promising that bread
should be sent into Paris.
The five women came back to the crowd, pleased to have seen the king, content with
his gracious promises. But the others, cold and wet, weary, too, with long waiting,
mocked at "mere words." They must have the king's promise in writing.
La Fayette, Captain of the National Guard, now arrived at Versailles with his
troops, followed by a great crowd of idle cruel men. The National Guard, as well as
the mob, encamped for the night in the open squares and avenues of the town.
 La Fayette believed he had guarded all the entrances to the palace, but he had
left one door unwatched, and early in the morning some of the mob found it out and
tried to enter the palace.
The soldiers inside the palace tried to push them back, and when they persisted, one
of them fired among the crowd.
In a frenzy of rage the people then poured into the palace, heedless of the royal
guard. Up the great staircases they ran, reaching at length the door of the queen's
Here the Swiss Guards held them back, while Marie Antoinette escaped by a secret
passage to the king's apartments.
A moment later, killing two of the Swiss Guards, they forced their way into the
queen's room, only to find it empty. In their anger they thrust their pikes into the
bed from which the queen had but just fled.
Before more mischief was done. La Fayette arrived with his National Guard. He
speedily cleared the mob out of the palace, and then persuaded the king to go out on
the balcony that the people might see him.
"Long live the king!" cried some, as they looked at Louis XVI., more kingly in the
time of danger than ever he had been before. But others shouted fiercely, "The king
to Paris! the king to Paris!"
Louis bowed his head to show that he was willing to go to the capital, and at that
sign the cheering was redoubled.
Urged by La Fayette, the queen also stepped out on the balcony, holding her little
son by the hand.
"No children," yelled the mob, and Marie Antoinette obediently put the child behind
her, and stood there, quiet and proud, facing the crowd who hated her. If she knew
that there was danger, she showed no sign of fear.
Seeing her courage. La Fayette knelt to kiss her hand, and the people, moved, it may
be, by her beauty or her bravery; shouted, "Long live the queen!"
The officers, who had so lately boasted of their loyalty
 and trampled the
Tricolour under their feet, had been unable to do anything to help their king. If
they had moved, their own soldiers, who had deserted to the National Guard, would have killed them.
Meanwhile the mob never ceased to shout, "The king to Paris! the king to Paris!" So
the royal carriages were ordered, and at length Louis, Marie Antoinette, and their
children set out for the capital. La Fayette riding close to the royal coach, which
could move but slowly through the dense crowd that surrounded it.
The fishwives, too, formed part of the procession, all fear of starving forgotten.
They were bringing the king with them, and now he would allow no minister to raise
the price of bread.
So, marching gaily behind the royal coach, the women cried in their rough and ready
way, "We shall not starve any longer. We have got the Baker, the Baker's wife, and
the Baker's little boy with us." They meant, as you know, the king, the queen, and
the little dauphin.
Paris was reached at last. The king and queen were taken to the Town Hall, where,
weary as they were, they were forced to listen to long and tedious speeches. When
they were ended, the king gravely declared "that he came with pleasure and with
confidence among his people."
Then the king and queen went out in the torchlight and stood on the balcony, the
king wearing no longer the Lilies of France, but the Tricolour. Once again the
people appeared to be content.
As the long day drew to a close, the royal family was conducted to the Tuileries,
which had long been unused, nor did the hurried preparations that had been made to
receive the king hide its gloom.
Even the little dauphin, child as he was, felt the terror of its forlorn and empty
look, and clung to his mother, crying, "Everything is ugly here."
"Louis XIV. lodged here, my son, and was content, answered the queen. "We must not
be more exacting than he."