The Radial Phase Of The National Assembly

The execution of Citizen Louis Capet. (Public Domain photo. Info can be found here)

The military victory at Valmy would convince the leaders of the revolution to take things even further by trying to export the revolution further. Many of the moderates of France would leave when this happened, correctly seeing the possibility of a sharp left turn in politics. The one major hurdle standing in front of them was the fact that the King was still in limbo, and that would have to be handled before moving forward.

Louis XVI would be put on trial by the Jacobins for conspiring against the revolution (1793). On top of committing treason, they decided that he had abdicated the throne by deciding to leave the country. This trial represented a confirmation of the ideals of the revolution, and many believed that they would have to put him to death in order for the revolution to be able to survive. The one vital flaw in all of this was that the Assembly did not have the legal right to put him on trial based on the constitution so the King refused to cooperate with the trial in any way. Since the Assembly had already made the call on the trial they based their judgement on the trial, and since the King didn’t cooperate, he was found guilty under French law.

The group, consisting almost completely of Jacobins, would unanimously

find him guilty, but he penalty was a highly debatable subject. After much debate 361 people would vote for his immediate death and 261 would vote for a variety of other options. Louis’ cousin, Philippe Egalité, even voted for his death, which is ironic because he would be put to death soon afterward.

Louis would be stripped of all of his titles and honors and would be executed as a simple citizen (1793). The Assembly would have him executed as ‘Citizen Louis Capet,’ a mocking reference to Hugh Capet, who was his most recent ancestor to use a last name (in 987). He would try to speak to the crowd, saying that he was innocent but that he forgave those who did this, but the drummers were ordered to drown out his words. The crowd would shout “Vive la Nation! Vive la Republic!” as he was executed by the guillotine, and his severed head would be held up for all to see afterwards. This would be the only monarch ever executed in French history, ending over 1,000 years of monarchy in France. Conservatives across Europe were completely horrified at the fact that they actually went through with the execution of the King.

Marie Antoinette would be put on trial soon after her husband was executed, based nearly completely on lies and false accusations. She appeared in court as a shell of her former beautiful self. Her hair had turned white (possibly from stress) and she had become very sick. Current scholars believe that she probably had tuberculosis, and possibly uterine cancer on top of that. She would give an impassioned speech about her innocence of the charges against her, which were absolutely false, but despite swaying some of the court, she was still found guilty. After she was beheaded her body would be thrown in an unmarked grave in Madeleine cemetery.

A new vote would officially end the Assembly and would start a political body known as the National Convention, which was known for being significantly more radical than before. They would make a number of changes in France, including the adoption of a new calendar which was based on the revolution dates instead of the life of Jesus. Maximilien Robespierre (1758-94), who had been the outlandish radical in previous bodies, would become the leader of this government and would be admired for his amazingly radical views. He would be give the nickname “the Incorruptible” for his complete devotion to the revolution at all times. Robespierre would base much of his beliefs on his own radically skewed readings of Rousseau, and would idolize the man with near religious obsession.

Another leader of the revolution was Jean-Paul Marat (1743-93), who ran the newspaper “L’Ami du Peuple,” which would constantly call out “enemies of the revolution.” He would be given names of anti-revolutionaries on a consistent basis and would publish the names in his paper, which would cause their immediate execution. His newspaper showed his paranoid delusions about anyone who had even the slightest bit of power at all times. This would put him at odds with many powerful people, but he was so well loved by the people that no one dared to

take him out. That is, until a young Girondin woman named Charlotte Corday decided that she had enough of the murders in his name. Marat was known to have been soaking in his bath at most times of the night, due to a skin disease he had received while living in hiding in the sewers, but that anyone could deliver names to him for his next paper. Corday simply walked in, claiming she had a few names for him, and stabbed him with a knife. She was immediately put to death and the people mourned the death of Marat to near religious extremes, but this would be the slow start of a movement of backlash that would materialize later.