March to Versailles

 

Early in the morning of October 5, 1789, a large group of French women came together in the central marketplace of Paris. What followed was the March to Versailles, one of the most violent episodes that occurred during the French Revolution. The March to Versailles was staged in an effort to obtain bread and force the high prices of bread down. Versailles was known as a royal paradise, reserved for the royal families and their entourages. Versailles was a symbol of the excessive luxuries available only to the king and his family. This naturally became the destination for the angry French women who merely wanted to feed themselves and their families.

Bread was the main diet of the French people during the 1800s. Working people often spent nearly half of their income on bread. In August 1789, however, the price of bread increased dramatically. The people had so much trouble getting bread that they began resorting to desperate measures.

The original crowd of women, numbering around 6,000, reached the Hotel de Ville in Paris and were encouraged by onlookers to march all the way to Versailles. As they marched through the streets, more women left their homes and joined in the march. The women were armed with pitch forks, muskets, pikes, swords, crowbars, and scythes. Once the women reached Versailles they stormed through the gates and demanded bread. The king was awestruck by the crowd of women and quickly gave in to their demands. The king ordered that all of the bread in Versailles be delivered for the people to Paris. Much to the surprise of the citizens of Paris however, the king then left Versailles, moving his royal court to Paris. This decision would have dire consequences as the revolution continued to unfold.