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Part IV

Things took a turn for the worse for Louis XVI and family in 1791 when the Constituent Assembly was replaced with the Legislative Assembly. This assembly consisted of two factions. One group, known as the Freuillants were wealthy middle class men that supported a Constitutional Monarchy and felt the revolution had runs its course. The second group, the Democratic faction did not trust the king and felt the revolutionary principles had to continue to reform society and the government.

The reason the Democratic faction did not trust the king? That came on 1791. Louis was very discontent being a prisoner of the revolution. He had been conspiring behind closed doors with diplomats favorable to the king. Louis envisioned a congress consisting of French Émigrés that would, along with foreign troops, restore the king to his full powers and end the revolution.

This was not occurring swiftly enough and on the night of June 21, 1791 (223 years ago tomorrow)  Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette their two surviving children fled from the Palace. They were soon recognized, making it as far a Varennes where they were apprehended and arrested and returned to the Palace. The Legislative Assembly stripped Louis of his remaining powers. This flight was seen as a betrayal of the revolution and it greatly shocked the French people, who, up until then, saw Louis and the Royal Family as symbols of the revolution and champions for progress and change. The flight from the Tuileries Palace changed all of that and from that moment the monarchy lost considerable support.

Was this the point of no return for Louis? Was this his fatal mistake? As we shall see in the next section this was a monumental moment in the reign of Louis XVI. With the notion of absolute monarchy and the divine right of kings gone forever in France, the notion of popular sovereignty was keeping the monarchy alive. As long as a majority of the people supported the king then the throne was stable. This betrayal greatly weakened that support.

We shall see in the next and last section that this stumble was Louis’ last mistake. For the final events that toppled the crown from his head were not of his doing.