1789-French Revolution: Women of Paris march to Versailles to confront Louis XVI

October 5, 2022

On the morning of October 5th, in the marketplace of Paris, a group of women began to gather.

The Price of Bread and a Drum

On the precipice of a revolution in France, the price of bread, and violence, were on the rise. Caused by poor policy decisions and a particularly bad harvest, shortages were common. A group of women had gathered at the marketplace in Paris and were outraged at these continuous shortages; on the outskirts of this group, a marching drum was struck. And the Women's March on Versailles began.

As they marched, their numbers began to swell until they reached the City Hall of Paris. There the group, which now numbered in the thousands, demanded bread and weapons. While these demands were initially refused, they acquiesced after the group rushed into the building and helped themselves to food and weaponry. With weapons in hand, they once again turned toward Versailles. As they did so, National Guardsmen who had heard of the crowd soon joined their ranks.

Revulsion and Revolution

As they left Paris, the crowd continued to swell, and the march took on more than just the desire for bread. One such goal that resonated with the crowd was moving the King, the Assembly, and his court to Paris, to live in "communion with his own people." For the more revolutionary amongst the crowd, this seemed like it would provide an opportunity to keep a closer eye on the king and allow them to push their reforms more easily. At the same time, for the monarchists amongst the crowd, bringing the king home to live with his people was a comforting thought.

Arrival in Versailles and the Siege

After six hours of marching, the group arrived in Versailles with weapons, including cannons, in tow. Once there, they were greeted by the Assembly, and one of their representatives, Stanislas-Marie Maillard, was invited in. As he spoke to the Assembly, the crowd slowly filtered in; tired and hungry, they slumped into the benches of the Assembly. Soon, the president of the Assembly gathered a small group from the crowd to speak to the king, and while some in the crowd left for Paris satisfied, the majority stayed.

The next morning at 6, the palace was attacked. After the crowd entered, the royal guard began barricading doors and retreating. However, a small contingent was stuck outside of the barricade rooms and fired on the intruders. A member of the crowd was killed, and they surged. One guard lost his life, another, his head. And another was severely wounded. Lafayette appeared in the chaos and brokered an unsteady peace between the crowd and royals. The crowd demanded that the family return with them to Paris, and seeing no other choice, the king agreed.


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