Undoubtedly the most exciting day of our entire trip. Even though I had visited before, I was easily overcome by the grandeur and elegance of the place. And yet, I felt the frivolous excess, too. Estimates put the cost of maintaining Versialles during the 1700’s at between 6-25% of the entire governmerntal budget. It was easy for me to imagine the throngs of peasants who crashed the gates of Versailles in October 1789 demanding their monarch and the rest of the French government return to Paris to address the problems facing the city and indeed much on the nation. While the king and his cohorts were frollicking in splendor, much of the city starved. From Wikipedia:
The Women’s March on Versailles, also known as The October March, The October Days, or simply The March on Versailles, was one of the earliest and most significant events of the French Revolution. The march began among women in the marketplaces of Paris who, on the morning of 5 October 1789, were near rioting over the high price and scarcity of bread. Their demonstrations quickly became intertwined with the activities of revolutionaries who were seeking liberal political reforms and a constitutional monarchy for France. The market women and their various allies grew into a mob of thousands and, encouraged by revolutionary agitators, they ransacked the city armory for weapons and marched to the Palace of Versailles. The crowd besieged the palace and in a dramatic and violent confrontation they successfully pressed their demands upon King Louis XVI. The next day, the crowd compelled the king, his family, and most of the French Assembly to return with them to Paris.
These events effectively ended the independent authority of the king. The march symbolized a new balance of power that displaced the ancient privileged orders of the French nobility and favored the nation’s common people, collectively termed the Third Estate. Bringing together people representing disparate sources of the Revolution in their largest numbers yet, the march on Versailles proved to be a defining moment of that Revolution.
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