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 So who was guillotined? 
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Comte/Comtesse
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Post Re: So who was guillotined?
The spot where the king and queen were executed at the Place de la Concorde is marked:

Image

I also think that this place is deserving of a better monument. I found the Place de la Concorde quite bland when I was there.

Also, at one point the guillotine was also put up at the Place du Carrousel closer to the Louvre. I assume it was later moved to the Place de la Concorde.

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Thu Jun 28, 2012 6:33 am
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Post Re: So who was guillotined?
Another interesting point is that there is a difference in the way we talk about aristocrats and the way the term was used during the revolution. A while back I read Simon Schama's huge book about the revolution (it's called "Citizens"). According to him the feudal system wasn't nearly as rigid as we learned in school: more people than ever before were being ennobled under Louis XVI and in many parts of France the aristocracy's privileges (including tax exemption) had in reality already been substantially erroded. This explains why so many of the people who were spearheading the abolition of privilege (and thus the revolution) were in fact aristocrats themselves.

These changes go hand in hand with the birth of modern capitalism. Many of the king's reforms were meant to modernize the country. Most of the aristocracy (excluding the impoverished) were happy to abolish their traditional rights because they didn't need them anymore - they were already transforming themselves into modern day capitalists: using their land and money to start or invest in businesses and treating the peasants as tennants that would pay them rents. To make the French economy more competitive and give industry a boost, the government tried to establish a free market: abolishing fixed prices and allowing people more freedom in selling their products in any market in the country (instead of being forced to sell it at local markets). So everything would be governed by supply and demand.

According to Schama, the revolution was, at least in part, a backlash against all this modernisation. People actually wanted a lot of things to stay the same: they didn't want common land to be privatised; they wanted the government to guarantee the price of food and even luxuries, believing that a free market would lead to higher prices (this issue provoked riots even early on in Louis XVI's reign); they wanted products to be restricted to local markets, thinking that otherwise there would be no food available and so on.

Anyway, aristocrats - often being involved in these early capitalist enterprises - became associated with capitalist greed, enriching themselves at the expense of the common people. But many of the capitalists were commoners who started with nothing and ended up owning factories. These commoners would eventually be branded "aristocrats" even though they werent members of the nobility at all. The term became a political slur for anyone that even looked like they might be in favour of accumulating riches. So a lot of the people who were guillotined were accused of being "aristocrats" even though they actually weren't. Long story I know, but just something I found quite interesting...

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Thu Jun 28, 2012 7:09 am
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Post Re: mesdames tantes
doritmi wrote:
I read in a book about Robespierre that the two surviving Mesdames tantes were caught when they tried to flee to Rome and were guillotined in 1793. surprisingly, Robespierre spoke against their execution.

I think he actually questioned (sarcastically) why the entire government was coming to a halt because "two old ladies want to say mass" although I might be getting Robespierre confused with someone else. Not necessarily a defense, but not necessarily a condemnation either. As others pointed out, the two were never arrested so were never tried/guillotined. Regardless, it would hardly be surprising for him to speak against their execution. Aside from the King's, Robespierre didn't take much of an interest in the execution of royals (he asked for Marie's once, but this was around the Hebertist uprising so every politician was trying to cater to the bloodthirsty mass) and he did intercede for a few nobles when he found evidence against them lacking. Madame Elisabeth for one, possibly Madame Royale as well depending on the sources we're going to accept as legitimate.

But moving away from my pet topic, I've read Schama's Citizens. It's actually a good work, though it does have a nasty tendency to skewer facts - as someone pointed out to me once, it was hastily slapped together to commemorate the bicentennial, so Schama didn't have time to painstakingly double-check every word. For example, he uses Buchner's play - play, not work of nonfiction, but fictionalized play for entertainment purposes - as a source at one point. That's --- that's not good. But it's argument that the revolution came about because of Louis' liberalism rather than his totalitarianism is hardly new. I think it's the generally accepted conclusion from the more conservative factions, while the more liberal ones gesture wildly to the doctrine that a ruler can only rule with the consent of the governed, regardless of his virtues. But whatever her political bias, I think everyone would agree that Louis XVI wasn't overthrown because he was a tyrant but because he wasn't tyrannical enough. Unfortunately, he wasn't necessarily 100% 'let my people be free' either. He was straddling the line, he wanted to rule by divine right yet he wanted to encourage his people to exercise some liberty. The contradiction toppled him, in my opinion.


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Anyway, aristocrats - often being involved in these early capitalist enterprises - became associated with capitalist greed, enriching themselves at the expense of the common people. But many of the capitalists were commoners who started with nothing and ended up owning factories. These commoners would eventually be branded "aristocrats" even though they werent members of the nobility at all. The term became a political slur for anyone that even looked like they might be in favour of accumulating riches. So a lot of the people who were guillotined were accused of being "aristocrats" even though they actually weren't. Long story I know, but just something I found quite interesting...

I've recently read a work that outlined that it was very rare for a commoner to dabble in capitalism. Ironically, it was usually the already-rich who even tried to get richer. Usually a commoner would make his fortune and then enjoy his wealth rather than continue to amass it. Unfortunately, you are right and innocent capitalists were beheaded. I know Barras and Freron took a particular delight in beheading those who 'straddled the bourgeois reminiscent of ancien regime capitalism' (Schama quote!). Theoretically, having money was not enough for decapitation, but in practice tragedy ensued.

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Thu Jun 28, 2012 4:11 pm
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