Louis XVIII to Charette

The "Central Committee" organizing royalist efforts in 1795 was led by François–Athanése de Charette de la Contrie, a former nobleman. He had participated in the Vendéan uprising in 1793, with the goal of restoring to the throne the nearest living relative to the executed Louis XVI—his brother the Count of Provence who had already taken the name Louis XVIII. (For royalists, the son of Louis XVI, who had died in 1795, had been Louis XVII.) In the letter below, Louis XVIII writes to Charette, expressing the need not only for military action, but also to win over public opinion through a declaration of principles to the people.


Verona, 8 July 1795

Sir, it was with pleasure that I received the demonstration of your affection for me, but I did not need a demonstration of your faithfulness, for I would not deserve to be served by you and your brave companions-in-arms if I had had the least doubt on this question.

Providence has placed me on the throne. The first and most important use that I can make of my authority is to confer a legal title to the command that until now has been yours due to your courage, to your exploits, and to the confidence of my brave and faithful subjects. I therefore name you general in my Catholic and Royal army. In obeying you, it is me that they shall be obeying. I have not as yet had the opportunity to tell you that I had named you Lieutenant-General in July 1794.

But it is not only with weapons that you can serve me. One of my first duties is to speak to my subjects, to encourage the good and reassure the timid. Such is the purpose of the Declaration that I am sending you and that I am asking you to publish. I could not confide it to anyone who could give it more weight than you. It is possible, though, that your truce with the rebels will still be in effect when this Declaration will reach you, so it would probably be imprudent for you to publish it yourself. But even in this case, I think that you are still more able than any other to have it circulated throughout my kingdom. If, on the contrary, you have again taken up arms, nothing should delay a work as essential as this.

I work with all my strength to speed the moment when, reunited with you, I will be able to show you how a sovereign can gloriously demonstrate his appreciation for you, and to my subjects, for whom I am less a king than a father. I flattered myself that England was finally to bring my brother to you, but at this moment, it seems to me more unsure than ever. It does not matter, . . . the greater the obstacles, the more energy I expend in overcoming them. And I shall overcome them.

Sir, continue to serve me as you served my predecessor, and have faith that if something can alleviate this burden that Providence has ordered me to carry, it shall be by that same Providence that I shall be able to reward the most important service a king has ever received.

Signed, Louis.

Source: Anonymous, Correspondance secrète de Charette, vol. 1 (Paris, 1798–99), 19–20. Translated by Exploring the French Revolution project staff from original documents in French found in John Hardman, French Revolution Documents 1792–95, vol. 2 (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1973), 423–24.