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Bill Thayer

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Royal Memoirs
on the French Revolution

The documents in this section of my site are all important primary sources for the history of France, written by people directly involved and participating in the events: the French royal family's abortive escape from Paris in June, 1791; the King's brother's escape to Mons, also in June, 1791 but successful; and the resulting imprisonment in Paris of the French royal family, in which three died: it is the fourth, a teenage girl, who tells the tale while she is still in prison; after more than three years in the Temple, she would be released a couple months later.

Text Source and Copyright

The text on this site is my transcription of the translation by John Wilson Croker published in London in 1823. It is in the public domain.

The translator was of some importance himself. A fairly senior British political man and bureaucrat, he served as Secretary to the Admiralty for twenty years, he was the first to use the term "Conservative" to refer to his party (and conservative indeed he is), and edited Boswell's Life of Johnson. Notwithstanding, I can't say he comes off here as a very likable figure: his translation is tendentious (and downright wrong in spots), and his notes are intrusive and occasionally obnoxious.

Not wishing to fall into the same trap, and knowing (from my own experience as a French translator) that, as Croker himself says (p71), "the most ungrateful task in the world [is] the correcting another person's work", I've left the notes alone except where he himself makes a point of commenting on the editions of the original French text. In the translator's defense, he may well have been working from a text that was incomplete or tampered with, without his knowledge, by redactors and editors. The careful reader of these pages is therefore strongly advised to refer to the original French: of the five narratives, Madame Royale's account of the Captivity in the Temple is online in an excellent transcription by James Eason, and linked in the headers of my own pages; for the other four, as of writing (May 2007), a library will have to be your resource.

For the Temple Narrative, an alternative to the contemporaneous translation by Croker on this site can be found offsite: the 1912 English translation by Katherine Prescott Wormeley; it includes annotations added by Louis XVIII.

For technical details on how this site is laid out, see below after the Table of Contents. The maps of the King's route to Varennes and Monsieur's route to Mons are mine, as is the division of the longer narratives into Parts, to fit the text into webpages of a convenient size; in the Temple Narrative, for the convenience of the reader, I followed Mr. Eason's divisions.

The Flight to Varennes

Narrative of the Journey to Varennes of Louis XVI and his Family, in June, 1791

by Madame Royale, Duchess of Angoulême.

Monsieur's Flight to Coblenz

Narrative of a Journey to Bruxelles and Coblentz in 1791

by Monsieur, now Louis XVIII.

1: The preparations

2: The journey from Paris to the French border

3: On foreign soil

The Imprisonment of the Royal Family in the Temple

Private Memoirs of what passed in the Temple, from the Imprisonment of the Royal Family to the Death of the Dauphin

by Madame Royale, Duchess of Angoulême.

1: From August 13, 1792 to the death of the King, January 21, 1793

2: From the death of the King to that of the Queen, October 16, 1793

3: From the death of the Queen to the death of Louis XVII, June 9, 1795


I: Excerpts from the journal of M. de Malesherbes, Counsel to King Louis XVI during his trial

II: Report of Jean-Baptiste Harmand, one of the revolutionary government commissioners appointed to inquire into the condition of Louis XVII

Technical Details


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

Inevitably, though the print edition seems to have been well proofread, I've still caught a few errors in it, not all of them even strictly typographical. Those I could fix, I did, marking the correction each time with one of these: º. If for some reason I could not fix the error, I marked it º: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet to read what was actually printed. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles. Very occasionally, also, I use this blue circle to make some brief comment.

Inconsistencies in punctuation have been corrected to the author's usual style, in a slightly different color — barely noticeable on the page, but it shows up in the sourcecode as <SPAN CLASS="emend">. Finally, a number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, apparently duplicated citations, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have the printed edition in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is indicated by local links in the sourcecode and made apparent in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line p57 ). Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the editor's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

Background Image

The background image on these pages is the coat of arms of France, taken from James Eason's site.

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Site updated: 3 May 07