Sunday, July 12, 2009

Camille Desmoulins Incites the Revolutionary Mob

July 12:
Rioting in the capital city of Paris due to the sacking and disappearance of Jacques Necker. The government orders all theatres as well as the Opera closed. A mass of people descends on the Palais Royal.

While dining there, Camille Desmoulins, a poor journalist from north-eastern France and Third Estate delegate, finds himself surrounded by an angry mob. The people are frightened by the advance of the King’s troops on Paris. How will they defend themselves against the King’s soldiers if they attack?

Desmoulins is known for his awkward stutter. But on this day he loses it, at least for a little while. He knows where to find weapons. They will steal them from the King! They will capture the royal munitions stored at Les Invalides!

He climbs onto a table here at the Palais Royal’s CafĂ© des Foy. “Aux armes, Citoyens!”, he shouts (To arms, Citizens!). “Plunder the Arsenal!”

In France, the color green represents hope. Desmoulins tears a leafy branch off a nearby tree and puts it in his hat. The rowdy mob also tears tree branches to adorn their hats until they have stripped bare the trees of the Palais Royal.

From that moment, wearing or waving a tree branch symbolizes one’s support for the French Revolution.

Come back tomorrow to see the surprise that awaits the mob when it reaches Les Invalides.

Print of Camille Desmoulins exhorting the people to take to the streets, courtesy of

Towle, Sarah B. Time Traveler Paris Tours: Beware Madame La Guillotine. In development.

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