The End of the Monarchy: Count of Artois, Jacobin, Girondins, Duke of Brunswick

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  • 0:01 A Monarchy in Decline
  • 1:24 Factions Galore
  • 2:51 War & Turmoil
  • 4:25 Farewell Monarchy
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will explore the end of the French monarchy. In doing so, we will take a close look at the events and leaders of the French Revolution from 1791 to 1793.

A Monarchy in Decline

By the middle of 1791, King Louis XVI knew that things were looking very bad for the French monarchy. He decided that his best course of action was to sneak out of France and organize some sort of resistance to the revolution from afar. After his escape attempt failed in June of 1791, however, he lost the faith of the French people. They simply couldn't stomach a king who seemed to be running away from his responsibilities.

Other nobles, army officers, and members of the royal family were more successful than Louis in getting out of France. Since the fall of the Bastille in July of 1789, these émigrés had scurried out of the country like rats off a sinking ship. They traveled to sympathetic nations like Austria and Prussia, where they worked to drum up support for the French monarchy. Among the émigrés was the king's brother Charles-Philippe, the Count of Artois.

Spurred by the Count and his fellow Frenchmen, Austria and Prussia warned the French government against harming Louis in any way or risk the threat of war. In September of 1791, France adopted a new constitution that established a new executive body, the Legislative Assembly - a constitutional monarchy which sharply limited the king's power. The monarchy was sliding downhill quickly.

Factions Galore

Although French leaders had hoped that the new constitution would unite France, the country continued to splinter into new factions. Let's meet a few of them:

First, we have the Girondins, led by Jacques-Pierre Brissot. Members of this faction, who were mostly bourgeois, supported the revolution, but they were moderates. They realized the necessity of a constitutional monarchy for the stability of the country, and they hoped to set up a decentralized government that would not have much influence on the economy. The Girondins tended to talk a lot, but not do much.

The Jacobins, on the other hand, proved to be more radical revolutionaries. Led by Maximilien de Robespierre, these members of the bourgeois longed for a republic. They wanted to get rid of the monarchy once and for all and develop a centralized government that would have control over the economy. Unlike the Girondins, the Jacobins were aggressive; they were ready to act.

Finally, we have the sans-culottes, literally 'those without breeches,' who were lower class peasants and urban workers. The sans-culottes despised the upper classes, who vainly tended to wear knee breeches rather than the long pants of the common people. Violent and unpredictable, the sans-culottes were willing to work with bourgeois leaders to a point, and they could be quite helpful to revolutionaries who wanted to cause a ruckus.

War and Turmoil Everywhere

There was certainly plenty of ruckus in France as 1792 progressed. Although Louis had invited the émigrés back home to support the new constitution, most of them, including the Count of Artois, refused. This made the Assembly extremely nervous that Austria and Prussia, encouraged by the exiles, would attack France. On April 20, the Assembly, led by Brissot, declared war on Austria. The war started out poorly when a French offensive in the Austrian Netherlands fell apart almost immediately. Prussia entered the war in May.

As tension rose throughout France, the king was subject to numerous threats, especially on June 20 when an angry mob attacked the royal family's residence. Such insults enraged the émigrés and their allies. On July 5, the Duke of Brunswick, who was in command of the Prussian-Austrian army, issued his Brunswick Manifesto. He warned the French government that if the king and his family were hurt or humiliated in any way, the city of Paris would be subject to an 'ever memorable vengeance' of 'military execution and complete destruction.'

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