Part 4.5 is the penultimate part of Chapter 4, and the second of two parts about the royal family’s disastrous, failed flight to Varennes in the summer of 1791.
A Childhood at Versailles consists of the first 5 chapters of the memoirs of Mme de Boigne (1781-1866), née Adèle d’Osmond, who was a French salon hostess and writer. She was born in the Château de Versailles and lived at the court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette until her family fled to England during the Revolution. Later in her long life, she married a rich soldier of fortune 30 years her senior, hosted a brilliant salon in Paris, and became an intimate of the last French queen, Marie-Amélie, consort of King Louis Philippe (r. 1830-1848). Childless herself, Mme de Boigne addressed her memoirs to her grandnephew. The memoirs were not published until 1907, under the title Récits d’une tante, or An Aunt’s Tales. They’ve never been published in English, as far as I know, so I’ve decided to translate the first 5 chapters, the ones that take place mainly at Versailles, and post them here on this blog for interested readers to enjoy for free.
The chapters are quite lengthy, so I’ve broken each one into several parts. In Part 4.5, the author sets down what she remembers of the Marie Antoinette’s account of the flight to Varennes, as told by the Queen to her father.
A Childhood at Versailles, Chapter 4, Part 5 (4.5)
There are many accounts of these events, but the authenticity of this one, from the Queen’s own lips, has decided me to set down the details that have remained in my memory of those that I heard my father recount.
The traveling carriage had been ordered by Mme Sullivan (since then Mme Crawford), who had been so employed by M de Fersen on behalf of one of his friends, the Baronne de Korff. It was for this same baroness, her family, and her suite that a passport in perfectly good order and a permit for post horses had been obtained. The carriage had for several days been on Mme Sullivan’s premises. She had taken it upon herself to put in it the necessary items for the royal family’s use.
One would have wished for the inhabitants of the Tuileries to disperse, but they did not want to be separated from one another. The danger was great, and they wanted, they said, to escape or perish together. Monsieur and Madame, who each consented to leave on their own, got away without obstruction. In truth, they only needed to reach the nearest frontier, while the King, not being able to leave France, had but one route to follow. Many precautions were taken, but one was lacking.
The Baronne de Korff’s berline was to have been occupied by the King, the Queen, Madame Élisabeth, the two children and the Baron de Viomesnil. Two bodyguards in livery were on the box. Mme de Tourzel was only informed of the departure at the last minute. She asserted the rights of her office (les droits de sa charge), which authorized her never to leave the Dauphin. The argument was overriding for those to whom it was addressed, and she replaced M de Viomesnil in the carriage. From then on, the royal family had no one able to act for them in case of an unexpected circumstance. No ordinary bodyguards, as devoted as they might be, would assume that responsibility. This decision was seen for what it was too late for it to be remedied.