Friday, 25 April 2014

The Royal bodyguard on 6th October (cont.)

Here are some translations of eye-witness accounts by three of the gardes-du-corps who were prominently involved in the events of 6th October. The first two are depositions made to the inquiry held at the Châtelet, by Miomandre and Du Repaire.  The third is a letter from Delisle, the guard near the chapel, who subsequently accompanied the royal family on their slow journey to Paris.

Criminal investigation carried out at the Châtelet concerning the events of 6 October 1789, printed by order of the National Assembly 1790:

Deposition of François-Aimé de Miomandre de Sainte-Marie, aged 33 years, guarde-du-corps du roi, from Château-Neuf in Limousin, lodging in Paris, hôtel du Croissant....

Anonymous garde-du-corps
Portrait sold recently at Sotherby's
...On the 6th of the said month of October, at about six o'clock in the morning, he was on the balcony of the King's Hall, when he saw a large crowd armed with pikes, sticks and other weapons, enter by the Cours des prince and make its way towards the vaulted gallery which led to the chapel.  A member of the National Guard (small, with coal-stained hands, black sunken eyes, sparse hair, aged about thirty), together with an infantryman, placed themselves at the head of this troop and advanced to the King's staircase.  He and his comrades went to the staircase to meet them.  He went down four steps saying to these people, "My friends, you love your King, and yet you come and disturb him in his palace".  They did reply but tried to get hold of him by his cross-belt and hair; but one of his comrades seized him by the coat and helped him back up the stairs.  One of the men seized his musket but, having shaken it violently, returned it to him.

He and his comrades fell back into their Hall; at the same instant the crowd forced the doors and compelled them to leave.  Finding himself opposite the windows of the Great Hall, he saw the sentry from the Queen's chamber taken and dragged out onto the staircase.  Seeing the danger which faced the Queen, he flew to her chamber.  When he entered, he observed the Sieur du Repaire, his comrade, lying on his back, with a man holding a pike to his stomach.  He managed to pull the man off.  Du Repaire did not let go of the pike but carried it with him, as he heard the words that these wretches were saying against his Queen: "We want to cut off her head, cut out her heart, fry her liver and it won't stop there!"  He rushed to the Queen's chamber, opened the door and cried out to a woman that he saw at the far side of the room, "Madame save the Queen; they want to kill her; I am alone against two thousand tigers; my comrades have been forced to leave their Hall".  

Then he shut the door and, after a few minutes of fighting, a man tried to strike him a blow with a pike which he had the good fortune to parry. The man then took hold of the pike by its head and struck him with the butt and he was felled to the ground. Then he heard the National Guardsman previously mentioned say, "Standback"  and, measuring the butt of his musket against his head, he struck him with all his force so that the trigger penetrated his skull.  Seeing him bathed in blood, the man left him for dead.

Summoning all his strength, he saw that there were only four people at the door of the Great Hall, got up, picked up his hat and ran as fast as he could to rejoin his comrades.  He crossed the King's Hall, the Guard Room and the Oeil-de-Boeuf, where he met the sieur du Repaire. 

Both realising that they were useless to their comrades, they crossed the gallery to the door of the King's apartments where they found a Swiss guard who lent him a woollen bonnet and a grey coat and kept his uniform. Together with the Sieur du Repaire, he was led by another Swiss guard who opened the doors, out via the theatre to a courtyard below the chapel.  Here in a kitchen they found two women who helped them; he was weak and the women and Du Repaire gave him water and vinegar to drink, which revived him.  He asked for a sedan chair to be carried in to the royal infirmary, but one of the Swiss guards made him see the danger he ran in going outside;  signalled by a cook that it was not safe to go back, he took a archway and found an open cellar, where he rested on the steps  until he was found by a kitchen help.  He was (eventually) taken to a darkened room, bandaged up by the surgeon of the prince de Poix and transferred at nine o'clock in the evening, under the name of André, to the royal infirmary  in a coat of the prince's livery.   When he was knocked down, his watch had been stolen.

We catch a further glimpse of  Miomandre at a later point in the memoirs of Madame Campan, where she describes how he left Paris at Marie-Antoinette's insistence.

M. de Miomandre was at Paris, living on terms of friendship with another of the Guards, who, on the same day, received a gunshot wound from the brigands in another part of the Château. These two officers, who were attended and cured together at the infirmary of Versailles, were almost constant companions; they were recognised at the Palais Royal, and insulted. The Queen thought it necessary for them to quit Paris. She desired me to write to M. de Miomandre de Sainte-Marie, and tell him to come to me at eight o’clock in the evening; and then to communicate to him her wish to hear of his being in safety; and ordered me, when he had made up his mind to go, to tell him in her name that gold could not repay such a service as he had rendered; that she hoped some day to be in sufficiently happy circumstances to recompense him as she ought; but that for the present her offer of money was only that of a sister to a brother situated as he then was, and that she requested he would take whatever might be necessary to discharge his debts at Paris and defray the expenses of his journey. She told me also to desire he would bring his friend Bertrand with him, and to make him the same offer.

The two Guards came at the appointed hour, and accepted, I think, each one or two hundred louis.  A moment afterwards the Queen opened my door; she was accompanied by the King and Madame Élisabeth; the King stood with his back against the fireplace; the Queen sat down upon a sofa and Madame Élisabeth sat near her; I placed myself behind the Queen, and the two Guards stood facing the King. The Queen told them that the King wished to see before they went away two of the brave men who had afforded him the strongest proofs of courage and attachment. Miomandre said all that the Queen’s affecting observations were calculated to inspire. Madame Élisabeth spoke of the King’s gratitude; the Queen resumed the subject of their speedy departure, urging the necessity of it; the King was silent; but his emotion was evident, and his eyes were suffused with tears. The Queen rose, the King went out, and Madame Élisabeth followed him; the Queen stopped and said to me, in the recess of a window, “I am sorry I brought the King here! I am sure Elisabeth thinks with me; if the King had but given utterance to a fourth part of what he thinks of those brave men they would have been in ecstasies; but he cannot overcome his diffidence."

Uniform of a garde-du-corps, end of the reign of Louis XVI;
and standard of the gardes-du-corps. 
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire militaires de l'Empéri, Salon-en-Provence

Deposition of  Sieur Guillaume-François Tardivet du Repaire, aged about 33 years, living in Paris, passage des Petits-Pères, at the house of M.Lardens.

On 5th October last, at about half-past five to six o'clock,  he saw leave the King's apartment a considerable group of women who cried out, "Long live the King; we have obtained what we asked for and are returning to Paris"; one of the women had even kissed him. The rest of the night had been quiet, apart from at two o'clock in the morning, when, as he was standing watch, he had seen a man in the dark pass his pike through the gate...but he had said nothing, since his orders had been not to act.

He had been relieved from his sentry post, but on the morning of Tuesday the 6th, just after six o'clock, he heard people in the Great Hall, shouting;  "Where is that bloody tart? We will eat her heart"; He ran towards the door of the Queen's apartment, in order, if possible, to stop them from entering. A large crowd, of both sexes, fell upon him, seized him by his cross-belt and threw him to the ground, crying, "Kill him!".  Raining down blows to every part of his body, they dragged him to the door onto the great staircase, where they said, "We must cut his throat!"  A man, whom didn't  recognise ,at that moment attacked him with a pike.  He seized the shaft of the pike in self-defence, his attacker withdrew and he managed to lower himself into a sitting position from which he could parry the blows against him. He noticed at this moment, a pair of coloured breeches beneath the skirts of one of his attackers and an infantryman, dressed in white who was trying  to stab him with his bayonet. It  was impossible to recognise the face of the man or the details of his uniform. Noticing that the door to the King's Hall was half-open, he managed to get to it and was seized by the coat by two of his comrades, namely Desudes the elder (inhabitant of Aurillac in the Auvergne) and Vidot de la Barre (from La Barre near Limoges).  At that instant there was  a pistol shot, probably aimed at him by one of the assassins, and one of his most determined attackers fell at his feet.

He tried to get across the Hall  to go to the infirmary but, unable to do so, took refuge with the Concierge.  He and Miomandre de Sainte-Marie, who had was also wounded and had taken refuge with him, were warned not to go out because people were waiting at the gates to kill them.  He took some clothes belonging to a servant and fled in disguise into the forest of Saint-Cloud. He was sick several times and forced to drink muddy water.  He was eventually helped by a woodcutter and his son to get to Saint-Cloud where he arrived at about eleven-thirty.  At the entrance to the park he met two individuals armed with heavy white sticks, who asked what was going on in Versailles  and whether the guards were still resisting.  He replied that he knew nothing, and was on his way home to Paris to get his wounds dressed...

Entry of the King into Paris (print)

Memoir written in 1814 by Charles-Louis Delisle, requesting his promotion to captain, promised verbally by Louis XVI in 1789.

Charles-Louis Delisle, born at Boulieu in Vivarais (in the Ardèche) 11th August 1759, joined the Royal Bodyguards, in the Company of Villeroi, 28th September 1778.  He was present on the "days" of the 5th and 6th October 1789.  He passed the night, like all his comrades, in terrible suffering, and survived miraculously.  On 6th October, at 6 o'clock in the morning, he was placed on guard at the Chapel at the same time as Messieurs Deshutte and Varicourt were placed at the gate, to prevent the crowd entering the palace.  At that moment the crowd entered the Cour royal via the Cour des princes, seized Messieurs Deshuttes and Varicourt, cut of their heads and came for Delisle to suffer the same fate.  He opened the gate of the chapel, next to the gardens, to escape.  The crowd followed him, seized him, and wanted to do the same to him as to Messieurs Deshuttes and Varicourt, but a National Guardsman persuaded them to spare him and send him to be judged.  He was taken to the barracks of the French Guards, which was surrounded by an immense crowd crying : "A la Lanterne".  He was left to  wait.  Then an officer of the Versailles National Guard appeared who told him not to be afraid, he would soon be saved.  After about an hour a company of the Parisian National Guard came to his rescue, he was taken to the gallery in the palace, where his comrades were gathered.  He was received with transports of joy, for they feared he was lost.

The apartments of the King and Queen had just been broken into.  He never left the King and Queen and the royal family.  He went to the stables after the King decided to go to Paris, and accompanied him on horseback.  He dismounted at the place de Grève to stand to attention at the hôtel de Ville, held back the crowd, accompanied the King indoors crying "Vive le Roi".  He then accompanied him from the hôtel de Ville to the Tuileries,  He got down from his horse in the courtyard of the Pavillon de Flore, to drive back the crowd which pressed in on the coach from all sides.  He took the Queen by the arm and led her to the staircase.  When he came out to rejoin his horse, M. le comte d'Agoult, aide-major de cour, came up to him and asked him for news of the terrible events.  Note that in the journey from Versailles to Paris, he and M. Delabellive, his comrade, had rounded up two horses which the brigands had stolen from the Guard's hôtel in Versailles, that these had been ridden by some "gens du people" who  stayed close to them on the journey to Paris and cried, "Vive le Roi".

Some time later, M. le comte d'Agoult wrote to him that the King had given him the commission of Captain of Cavalry, which was never sent due to the circumstances.

Posted in French on

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