Royalists Desecrate the Revolutionary Cockade (3 October 1789)

Military officers in several regiments of the royal army favored a military strike to dispel the National Assembly, but by the fall of 1789 they saw clearly that this order would not be given. Their frustration with the National Assembly’s affront to the dignity of the royal family became evident to all on 3 October, in an event recorded by Bailly, then mayor of Paris, in his memoirs.


3 OCTOBER. Today the King's bodyguards gave a magnificent feast in the opera house at the palace of Versailles. The guests were the officers of the Flanders regiment, the Montmorency dragoons, the Swiss guards, the Swiss regiments, the Cent Suisses regiment, and others, including a few officers of the Versailles National Guard. During the meal there were toasts to the health of the King, the Queen, the Dauphin, and all the royal family. A toast to the nation had been suggested and, according . . . to many who were present, the royal guards expressly rejected this idea.

When the King returned from hunting he was brought to see the spectacle. . . . The Queen, holding her son by the hand, stepped forward to the entrance of the hall, which immediately rang with applause and acclaim. All the guests, drawn swords in hand, drank to the health of the august persons who honored them with their presence. The royal visitors accepted this homage and withdrew.

From this moment, the banquet degenerated into an orgy. Everyone's mind became heated by wine. . . . Someone sounded the charge, and the opera boxes were scaled. Finally, amidst highly indecent suggestions, someone dared to insult the national tri-color cockade and toasted the white cockade which had been displayed by, amongst others, several captains of the Versailles National Guard.

The central courtyard of the palace then saw the most scandalous disorder. Royal bodyguards and officers spewed out terrible curses against the National Assembly . . . [while] peaceful citizens were bewildered by such tumult and excess. Versailles remained uneasy until the revelers were finally reduced to total inaction through fatigue and drunkenness.

Source: Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Mémoires d'un témoin de la révolution, vol. 3 (Paris: Baudoin, 1821), 1–3.