- Well, after reading "The Journey" which did a great job refreshing
my memory on the whole flight to Varennes affair I figured it's time
to post my opinion here.
1. Why did the Royal family's attempt to escape on 21st of June fail?
I think there are a number of reasons, one of them being the string of
bad lucks which they had encountered during the journey which caused a
lot of delays (e.g breaking of harness, wrong turning, etc).
And the main reason was probably what happened in Varennes.. according
to the book, by the time they got there, there was an urgent need for
fresh horses, yet no one "had the faintest idea where the new horses
where supposed to be found". Now that was a problem. They ended up
searching for them in the upper part of the town, while all along the
officers and the horses were waiting in the lower part of the town.
The whole time I was reading it, I thought "If only they'd had mobile
phones then!" That would have solved most of their problems.
Another reason was the route they had chosen seems like the King was
unwilling to leave France in the first place, which made them choose a
longer route (The book suggests that it would've been easier to head
for Belgium, which come to think of it, is true indeed).
Unless Axel knew all the details that the rest of the party had
missed, I don't particularly see his presence would have been of much
As for the reason why the King didn't want Axel along, there is a
number of speculations. Well, from reading RoV, although not
explicitly stated, I got the impression that it was because of the
King's jealousy.. although it's probably not true.
According to Fraser, it was probably "the fact that Fersen was a
foreigner, for all his French military command, and everything was
being done to avoid any foreight taint touching the King's escape when
he arrived at Montmedy", which very much makes sense, I suppose.
As for the question of "was there any point in the escape", it was
probably to save their lives from the fates that awaited them, or to
hope for a better life elsewhere. Especially given the circumstances
they were under in Paris. As Marie Antoinette said, "Life has become
unbearable" for them.
2. Where was the royal family going?
As far as the history goes, their final destination was Montmedy. It
was never stated anywhere whether they were gonna go across the border
to another country. On the question whether MA was planning to
convince her husband to go over the border once they got there,
although we don't know for sure, it is of course not impossible. After
all, she was so unpopular in France, and given that she was only
human, it was likely that she would like to seek protection from her
It was probably true that Antoinette never felt truly at home in
France.. but I suppose it was understandable. From the beginning the
anti-Austrians in France had never fully accepted her as one of them
(ie "the Austrian woman" nickname). Another factor was that her mother
and later on brother, the Emperor Joseph II, who always tried to put
her both by persuading and pressuring as "Austrian ambassador" and
to use her influence in France for Austria's benefits. This, arguably,
more or less would influence her decisions and point of views,
although on a number of occasions it was indicated that she did put
French's interests first.
Well, that's my opinion from the information I've gathered from my
previous knowledge, RoV, and most of all Fraser's book "The Journey".
Any opinions or "arguments" are most welcome. I'd love to hear your
--- In Images_of_Marie_Antoinette@yahoogroups.com, "doritmi"
> this fasicnating episode raises for me at least two questions:
> (1)Why did the Royal family's attempt to escape, on the 21st of June,
> 1791, fail?
> is it because of Louis XVI indecisiveness, which caused him to lose
> valuable time at the final stop, at VArennes? would Axel's presence
> have helped? (and there rises the interesting side question, why
> didn't Louis XVI want Axel along?)
> or was it because of a series of bad luck and bad planning the family
> had on the way?
> Was the attempt doomed to fail from its start, because the Royal
> family had no real touch with reality and planned anachronistically,
> as STephan Zweig seems to be saying?
> also, given the fact that the escape did not cause friendly frenchmen
> to rally to them, supposing the royal family has gotten to their
> destiny; what would they have done there? was there any point in the
> (2) the other question is, were was the royal family going? if they
> were headed to the border, they took a damn long and circular road to
> get there; however, their announced destination was very close to the
> border. was Marie Antoinette planning to actually convince her
> husband to go over the border once they got near it? (there is
> evidence that Louis XVI did not want to cross the border, at least
> initially - the reason was, he was afraid of a 'James II' being
> played on him: in 1689 the english parliament took advantage of James
> II leaving the country to declare that he has abdicated the crown
> which could therefore go to his son in law, William, and his daughter
> Mary). if she was, is that morally wrong? does it go, as some have
> claimed, along with her 'Austrian' sympathies? and if yes, how should
> we see those?
> in 1791, she had good reasons not to feel to close to the French. and
> many of her letters express contempt of them. did we have a division
> of views, with Louis trying to get free to rally the french and Marie
> Antoinette wanting to ally herself with foreign aid?
> I'd like to hear what anyone thinks about these issues.