THE ROYAL RIDE VIA VARENNES
(Incl. Nostradamus Quatrains IX 20 and IX 27)
Taken from Madame Royale/the Duchese d’Angoloume’s written account and the notes of J.W. Crocker.
“During the whole of the 20th of June, 1791, my father and mother seemed very busy and much agitated, but I did not know the reason. After dinner, they sent my brother and me into another room, and shut themselves up alone with my aunt. I have since learned, that it was then that they communicated to my aunt their intention to escape.”
“My brother was wakened by my mother, and Madame de Tourzel brought him down to my mother’s apartment, where also came: there we found one of the bodyguard, called Monsieur de Malden, who was to assist our departure. My mother came in and out several times to see us. They dressed my brother as a little girl: he looked beautiful, but was so sleepy, that he could not stand”
“Madame de Tourzel was to travel under the name of the Baroness de Korff: my brother and I were to be her two daughters, under the names of Amelia and Aglaë; my mother was to be Madame Rocher, our governess; my aunt a female companion, called Rosalie: and my father was to be our valet-de‑chambre, under the name of Durand.”
“During the morning nothing particular occurred, except that about ten leagues fromParis, we observed a man on horseback, who seemed to follow the carriage: at Etoges, we thought we were known. At four o’clock we passed through Chalons-sur‑Marne, a large town; there we were certainly known. Several persons thanked God for the pleasure of having seen the King, and expressed their anxiety for his escape.”
“The troops advanced by M. de Bouillé as far as the post next Chalons created, wherever they appeared, uneasiness and commotion.”
“At the next post to Chalons, we were to find some cavalry to escort the carriage to Montmedi; but when we arrived, we found nobody. We waited in the hopes of finding these troops until eight o’clock.”
“Pont de Sommevelle; the troops here were under the orders of the Duke de Choiseul, and a M. de Goguelat, but the complicated delays which made the King some hours too late, and the rising impatience of the populace, induced these gentlemen to leave their post. The King was undoubtedly much disturbed at not meeting the troops here.”
“At the close of the day we passed through Clermont: there, indeed, there were troops; but the village was in a state of commotion, and they would not suffer the cavalry to march. An officer recognized my father, and coming close to the carriage, whispered to him that he was betrayed.”
“We were awakened by a dreadful jolt, and at the same moment they came to tell us, that they did not know what had become of the courier who preceded the carriage: judge of our terror, we thought we were discovered and taken. We were now at the entrance of the village of Varennes, which contains scarce a hundred houses; there is in this place no regular post, and travellers generally have horses sent from the next post in advance. They had taken this precaution for us, but the horses had been unfortunately placed near the castle, at the other side of the river, and at the other end of the town, and no one with us knew where to find them.”
“… if M. de Choiseul had waited a little longer, he would have seen the King pass, and his Majesty would have been informed of the spot where M. de Goguelat had placed the relay of Varennes — the ignorance of which was the immediate cause of failure.”
“After a great deal of trouble, the postillions were persuaded that the horses were waiting at the castle, and they proceeded that way, but slowly. When we got into the village, we heard alarming shouts of stop! stop! The postillions were seized, and in a moment the carriage was surrounded by a great crowd, some with arms, and some with lights. … they repeated their orders to alight on pain of being put to death, and at that moment, all their guns were levelled at the carriage. We then alighted, and in crossing the street, six mounted dragoons passed us, but unfortunately they had no officer with them; if there had been, six resolute men would have intimidated them all, and might have saved the King.”
“… the direct and immediate cause was, the not knowing where to find the relay at Varennes; for it was during the time lost in seeking the horses that Drouet arrived and alarmed the town. This mischief was caused, first, by the Duke de Choiseul’s and M. de Goguelat’s quitting the post of Pont de Sommevelle without leaving any one to apprize the King; and by M. M. de Bouillé junior, Raigecourt, and Rodwick, not having any one on the look out at Varennes.”
“… the extraordinary combination of circumstances, which, after a beginning apparently so prosperous, defeated the King’s attempt at the very moment when its success might be considered as complete.”
“The Chevalier de Bouillé, M. de Raigecourt, and M. de Rodwick, had sixty dragoons; the Duke de Choiseul should have had twice as many. Another detachment, under M. Deslons, arrived from the opposite quarter before the King was removed; but the surprise, the difficulties, the tremendous importance of the crisis, distracted and paralyzed the minds of every one; and it must, in justice to all the officers engaged in the affair at this critical moment, be confessed, that the irresolution and timidity of the King himself almost, if not entirely, justified their conduct. Even the high spirit of the Queen herself seems to have failed before the strenua inertia of the King. No one present except Louis had any right to command; and Louis’s only orders were, to do nothing. In the mean while arrived an aide-du‑camp of La Fayette with an order for the King’s arrest. This officer M. de Choiseul’s party should have intercepted; his coming accelerated the removal of the King, who was an hour and a half on the road to Paris before M. de Bouillé and his advanced guard arrived at Varennes.”
Varennes was a short night’s drive to the royalist fortress at Montmédi and safety.
This foreshortened, forsaken flight occurred on June 20th 1791. On the following day the National Assembly suspended the functions of the King. On the 1st of September they passed another decree, that should Louis XVI follow the will of the people and become Constitutional King he will be accepted. He duly signed and swore two weeks later. The title of King of the French was established in the October.
The journey to Varennes was recorded by plenty of eyewitnesses and several others only one person removed from an eyewitness. I favour the above translations but no accounts agree completely in particulars, leaving IX 20 as just one more – yet written over two centuries before.
Nostradamus Quatrain IX 20
1568 Lyon Benoist Rigaud
De nuit viendra par la forest de Reines,
Deux pars vaultorte herne la pierre blanche,
Le moine noir en gris dedans Varennes
Esleu Cap. cause tempeste feu, sang tranche.
By night will come through the forest of Reims,
Two pairs, valet and lady, the white stone,
In Varennes the melancholic monastic in grey
The Capet Elect admits the tempest, the fire, the blood, the slice.
This escape was long-planned and now somewhat out-of-date. According to the Memoirs of the Marquis de Bouillé,
“He informed me that he would leave with his family in one carriage that would be fit for that purpose. In the response I gave to the king, I took the liberty to represent once again that the Varennes road offered great inconvenience, because of the need to place relay (horses) to supplement the (absence of a) poste” and then “I persuaded His Majesty to take the road through Rheims, or that of Flanders, through Chimay, and then passing through the Ardennes to get to Montmédy. I represented to him the inconveniences of traveling with the Queen and her children in one (large) car designed to that end, and that would be noticed by everyone”
Line 1. OF ‘forest de Reines’ must be the Forêt de Reims which was en route or else it means ‘the Queen’s forest’. La Reine is the wife of the French King or her intimate surroundings/the items fit for a queen. It suggests rarity, beauty, intelligence, wealth, majesty. Also a dominant female.
Line 2, OF ‘deux pars’ would literally mean two married couples. It underlines that the royal couple and their two children in one carriage would draw much attention. OF ‘vaultorte’ is probably ‘val d’or’, an alternative to Orval. (The modern French location ‘Airvault’ also describes itself as the Valley of Gold.) Orval Abbey was just across the border and not far from the fortified royalist stronghold of Montevédi. The white stone ‘la pierre blanche’ could be one of several things. Marie Antoinette’s hair went white overnight under the stress of her situation. She donated a lock to a lady in a case inscribed ‘Blanchis par le malheur’. There is an English expression ‘white as chalk’ to describe a drained countenace. Some say that there was a white stone at the original Orval Abbey but, now, who can say? Out of interest, OF ‘vautour hernie’ would mean a ruptured vulture! Perhaps the marked stone was a milestone or the rendezvous marker for the loyal hussars-dragoons. It has been suggested that OF ‘herne’ represents a lady of good breeding, a gentlewoman, but I cannot find any support for it. Nevertheless, ‘gentlewoman white as stone’ has a ring to it. If ‘herne’ were applicable to the Queen disguised as a society lady, then ‘vaultorte’ should represent the King playing at being her servant. Breaking this word into two produces a variety of paired meanings to choose from in OF, from flowing and twisting to superficial and lame.
Line 3. A melancholic monastic in grey could mean with the manner/habit of, say, a hooded Carmelite. We read that he was to portray a servant if necessary but better that he stay out of sight. He didn’t, he recklessly or unthinkingly exposed himself seeking directions and finally when challenged in Varennes.
Nostradamus Quatrain IX 27 makes an extra-strange reference,
1568 Lyon Benoist Rigaud
De bois la garde, vent cloz rond pont sera,
Haut le receu frappera le Daulphin,
Le vieux teccon bois vnis passera,
Passant plus outre du duc le droit confin.
The forester, a wind around the covered bridge, will be
Highly received, he will strike the Daulphin,
The old craftsman will pass through the wood together with them/will be as hard as wood,
Overreaching the right borders/the prisoner’s rights of the Duke.
The little Prince was the Duc de Normandie. One eyewitness account, not very safe in particulars and probably deluded as to place, mentions a highly excited common stranger, a jolly redfaced man in a nightdress, who propelled himself into their carriage. He trampled on the little Prince asleep on the floor who then bravely held-in his whimpers. He had been brought to the carriage by their courier who had ridden out for information. He purported to carry a great secret but when the Queen checked his knowledge of the occupants he said he knew nothing, left the coach and disappeared into the night.
According to how Line 4 is interpreted, there could be another explanation. The Madame Royale imprisoned in the Tower would regularly hear the Lost Dauphin scream from beatings. Undoubtedly the Paris Commune intended him to die slowly and dishonourably from lack of nutrition, physical weakening and a broken spirit. They succeeded when after two years maltreatment in solitary confinement the beautiful royal child died of tuberculosis. Was the visiting woodsman his only companion and his torturer?
Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012