The King sat at his writing-table, agitated and perplexed.
Continuing The February 1848 Revolution in France,
our selection fromPopular History of France From the Earliest Times by by François P.G. Guizot and by his daughter Mme. Guizot De Witt published in 1869. The selection is presented in six easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The February 1848 Revolution In France.
There was no fighting on either side. The staff were besieged by the entreaties of a crowd of respectable men, who in terror and consternation conjured Bugeaud to withdraw the troops because they excited the anger of the populace, and leave to the National Guard the duty of appeasing the insurrection. The danger of such counsel was obvious, and the Marshal paid no attention to it, till Thiers and Odilon Barrot, who had just accepted office, came to the staff with the same advice, and it therefore became an order. The Marshal at first refused the ministers as he had done the citizens, and then the same order was sent by the King. “I must have a government,” the Marshal had recently said; and, as he was now without the government, which thus relaxed the resistance agreed upon, he in his turn gave way. His instructions for retreat were thus given to his officers: “By order of the King and ministers, you will fall back upon the Tuileries. Make your retreat with an imposing attitude, and if you are attacked, turn round, take the offensive, and act according to my instructions given this morning.”
Meanwhile the formation of the Ministry was posted up everywhere. A mixed crowd carried Odilon Barrot in triumph to the Home Office, which Guizot and Duchactel had just left. Those round him shouted, “Long live the father of the people!” but most of the notices posted up were torn. At the moment when the new ministers were about to leave Bugeaud’s staff on horseback in order to pass through the city, Horace Vernet, the artist, arrived out of breath. “Don’t let M. Thiers go,” said he to the Marshal. “I have just passed through the mob, and they are so furious against him that I am certain they would cut him in pieces!” Odilon Barrot presented himself alone to the crowd, but was powerless to calm the fury he had assisted in unchaining. “Thiers is no longer possible, and I am scarcely so,” said he on his return to the staff. The King on one occasion showed himself in the court of the Tuileries, when reviewing several battalions of the National Guard. There were some shouts of “Long live the King!” but the most numerous were “Long live reform! Down with Guizot!”
“You have the reform; and M. Guizot is no longer a minister!” said the King; and on the shouts being again repeated, he returned to the palace. The palace also was thronged with a confused crowd, animated by various feelings and agitated by evident fears or secret hopes. Some urged the King to abdicate in favor of the Comte de Paris; others vigorously opposed such a relinquishment of power in presence of the insurrection. The great mind of Queen Marie-Amalie was displayed in all the simplicity of its heroism. “Mount on horseback, sire,” said she, “and I shall give you my blessing.” She had recently urged the King to change his Cabinet; a very kind message, entrusted for Guizot to one of his most intimate friends, at the same time proved her regret.
The King sat at his writing-table, agitated and perplexed. He had begun to write his abdication, when Marshal Bugeaud entered, having just learned what was taking place in the Tuileries, and excited by the sound of some shooting which had already begun. “It is too late, sire,” said he; “your abdication would complete the demoralization of the troops. Your Majesty can hear the shooting. There is nothing left but to fight.” The Queen seconded this advice, and Piscatory and several others were of the same opinion. The King rose without finishing his writing, and then other voices were raised to insist upon the King’s promise. He sat down again, wrote and signed his abdication. By this time the troops had received orders to fall back, and Marshal Gerard took the place of Bugeaud as commandant-general. The columns were marched toward the barracks, and there was no detachment around the Palais-Bourbon, where the same disorder reigned, and the same efforts were made in vain.
The Duchesse d’Orleans presented herself before the Chamber of Deputies as soon as the abdication of the King was known. The Duc de Nemours accompanied her, leading the Comte de Paris by the hand; and the Duc de Chartres, who was weak and ill, was wrapped up in a mantle and leaned on Ary Scheffer’s arm. Before joining the Princess at the gate of the Chamber the Duc de Nemours had, with his brother the Duc de Montpensier, seen the King, their father, take his melancholy departure, to escape the insurrection, against which he could not make up his mind to use force.
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