3. Why did Constitutional Monarchy collapse in 1792? (Section B: First Controversy)

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  • Created on: 28-05-13 20:14

Flight to Varennes and Louis’ mistakes:

·         Louis decision to flee to Varennes played a significant part in damaging the reputation of the new constitutional monarchy.

·         The main reason he fled was to be in a place of better strategic strength, rather than be where he felt restricted, as he was practically being held hostage in Paris.

·         As the flight was symbolic of his rejection of the revolution it suggested he intended to overthrow it and restore the old order so was a threat to the sustainability of the revolution.

·         This was supported by declaration to the French people he had written previously stating: ‘The king does not think it would be possible to govern so large and important a kingdom as France by the means established by the National Assembly such as they exist at present’.

·         Although he appeared firm in intentions, Louis failed to understand the popularity of revolution: after he was revealed en route to Varennes, the French people were forced to take further action against his power.

·         At a time when Louis held very little constitutional power , reducing again would mean that he would have no power at all – raised the question as to whether France needed a monarch.

·         Louis decision to flee Paris decreased his popularity and increased support for republic – therefore dashed any hope of implementing a constitutional monarchy as support for a republic grew as a result.

·         Champs de Mars massacre: July 1791: political demonstration by poorer sections of Paris population. Showed the Assembly’s attitude towards the rise of Republicanism – martial law had killed about 50 and sent leaders of radicals (Hebert, Marat and Danton) into hiding. This radicalism had risen from the reaction to the Flight to Varennes.

·          13th September 1791: Constitution signed by Louis. Despite this and the Legislative Assembly that formed as a result was deeply divided. Another problem faced by Assembly: émigrés were visible sign of counter-revolution. Before Varennes, 1200 noble officers had joined émigrés, after flight: 6000 had joined.

Civil Constitution of the Clergy:

·         National Assembly’s decision to create a civil constitution of the clergy also great mistake.

·         Although intentions were correct (remove indulgences such as plurality/absenteeism/ tithes) reformation of the church caused huge conflict both within and with the French people.

·         For the first time in hundreds of years the church was divided – although some accepted government reforms, many didn’t as the constitutional monarchy had not received approval from pope.

·         Completely adapted the organisation and framework of the church – i.e. number for bishoprics reduced from 135 to 83.

·         Democracy intended to be applied to church, i.e. meritocratic election of priests and bishops – outraged those who had supported to old order where opposition was proportional to wealth.

·         Oath of loyalty: decreed clergy




Detailed notes on the causes of the revolution that are organised into clear sections. Excellent for the A2 controversy question.