Invasions of the Tuileries

The Mayor of Paris heightened the threat of popular violence directed at the monarchy by distributing pikes to the sans-culottes, where the King had recently dismissed his Girondin ministry in direct opposition to the Revolution.

While pikes were notionally distributed for the sans-culottes to act as a domestic protective force amidst the failings of the French army in the war against Austria and Prussia, they effectively encouraged the application of direct democracy. This manifested itself on 20 June 1792, where many of the sans-culottes stormed the Tuileries Palace, the residence of the Royal family, as a means of both retaliating against the division of active and passive citizenship imposed by the Assembly and applying significant pressure on the King to recall his Girondin ministers. This situation was dealt with relatively calmly by the King who drank a toast to the Revolution and put on a revolutionary cockade, but it was highly symbolic as it was the first open display of direct democracy against the monarchy, trying to force change.

However, on 10 August 1792, 20000 fully-armed sans culottes, 400 fédérés (volunteers from Marseille) and hundreds of National Guards stormed the Tuileries Palace for the second time, under direct order from the Insurrectionary Commune, who were now effectively making decisions for France even though they only legally represented Paris. It is considered one of the most vital turning points in the Revolution, at least as significant as the fall of the Bastille.

Against the 900 Swiss guards and 700 royalist volunteers who were charged with the protection of the King, the insurrectionary forces prevailed with over 500 Swiss guards slaughtered and a further 300 defenders killed; the insurrectionary forces themselves only lost about 90 men in the fighting. This attack was one against both the monarchy and the National Assembly, and the use of direct democracy was a blatant display of impatience with the representative democratic system. The result was that Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned and the Feuillants were rejected as being royalist sympathisers and traitors, which left the Legislative Assembly to be dominated by the Girondins. Since the Invasion was led under the direction of the Insurrectionary Commune, the success of the invasion meant that the Commune now has more influence of the general public than the Assembly itself. Historian Simon Schama sees the Second Invasion as the Revolution’s “logical consummation” and according to William Doyle, the King’s “authority fell with his palace”.


See Also

Louis XVI


Insurrectionary Commune