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Count Reinhold Johan von Fersen. The king's authority is totally annihilated, so is that of the parliaments and the magistrates. If I have not arrived at Arlon by twelve on Friday night, come back to Paris, unlock my bureau, and burn everything you find By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Swedish Army French Army.

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They are hunted everywhere, and yesterday, in one spot, we captured ; many more will probably be taken Disorder is increasing throughout the country. The [new militia in Paris] has better pay than in our regiments and there are no means not employed to entice them.

It is said that The king's authority is totally annihilated, so is that of the parliaments and the magistrates. The States-General themselves tremble before Paris, and this fear greatly influences their deliberations. Months later, with the revolution spreading to the rest of the country and the royal army in disintegration, the Flanders Regiment was brought to Versailles to replace the French Guards who had mutinied.

The King's bodyguard decided to host a fraternal dinner party for the regiment, and von Fersen and Beaumont attended. Despite having reservations at first, the King and Queen made an appearance towards the end. This banquet, however, provided fuel for the Women's March on Versailles four days later, when it was rumored that the tricolor cockade was trampled upon at the banquet.

On the morning of October 6, , an armed crowd made their way to the royal apartments. Two of the royal bodyguards were killed before the National Guard restored order. In order to calm the protestors, Louis agreed to go to the balcony of the Cour de Marbre and tell the crowd that he would return with them to Paris.

I was witness of it all and I returned to Paris in one of the carriages of the king's suite: God keep me from ever again seeing so afflicting a sight as that of those two days. It is supposed that I am going to Varennes to join my regiment. If I have not arrived at Arlon by twelve on Friday night, come back to Paris, unlock my bureau, and burn everything you find But I hope it will not come to that, for we have so arranged matters.

The situation of the royal family became considerably more desperate on April 18, , when they were prevented from traveling to Saint-Cloud to attend Mass by a large hostile crowd. Escape plans had been broached earlier between Comte de Mirabeau and von Fersen, but Mirabeau's death on April 2, put an end to that discussion.

The escape was arranged to take place on June 20, coinciding with a particular guard change. A half hour later they were still waiting for Marie-Antoinette. However, she came out at the same time as the torchlit carriage of Marquis de Lafayette , who was responsible for the royal family's custody, appeared with some of his men, Marie-Antoinette was able to conceal herself and the royal family slipped away.

The royal family took the post road and von Fersen took a different route to Bourget. The royal family reached Varennes on June 22 around 11 p. They departed Varennes surrounded by 6, armed citizens and National Guardsmen. Having left behind him a long declaration which had been read and published in all the newspapers in his absence, Louis himself had made it impossible to sustain the pretence that he had been "abducted". Even before the royal family returned to Paris, it was discovered that von Fersen was one of the people who facilitated their escape, and a warrant was put out for his arrest.

In Brussels, von Fersen worked out a cypher code and secret methods of writing with Beaumont and Marie-Antoinette:. The simplest plan was to write an ordinary letter with the lines rather far apart, and then to write the real information between the lines, using milk instead of ink. The milk calligraphy was invisible until the paper was covered with coal or other dust; when the dust was shaken off, the secret writing stood out as black as that for which ink had been used. In this manner we wrote to each other, and sent the letters by couriers.

On August 27, the Declaration of Pillnitz was issued from Pillnitz Castle near Dresden ; it declared the joint support of the Holy Roman Empire and Prussia for King Louis XVI against the Revolution but stipulated that Austria would only go to war if the other European powers followed them into war, which at this point in time was not likely to happen.

I can see clearly that they are dragging things along purposely to prevent the king of Sweden from sending troops this year; they fear his activity, and also that he may command in person. They want to avoid acting, or else to act alone if it becomes necessary.

Nothing is being done; the requisitions have not been sent, although they assure me the troops are to march at once I see a well-formed plan to do only trifling things over the winter, to try to patch up matters for the time being, and not to act until spring, and not then unless it is absolutely necessary.

In December , von Fersen confided to Beaumont about another possible escape attempt for the royal family. Because the roads were closely watched, it was decided that Louis should escape through the woods and then by sea, while von Fersen conveyed Marie-Antoinette and the children by another route.

Because security was tight around the royal family, von Fersen traveled to Paris in a large wig and false moustache, and assumed the identity of a minister plenipotentiary of the Queen of Portugal.

They arrived in Paris without difficulty, and were able to sneak into the Tuileries and speak with Marie-Antoinette. As he told von Fersen:. I know that I am called feeble and irresolute, but no one has ever been in a position such as mine.

It is true that I lost the opportune moment; it was July 14 , I ought to have gone then, but you must remember that monsieur himself entreated me to stay, and the Marechal de Broglie said, "We can go to Metz certainly, but what is to be done when we get there? That night von Fersen saw the King and Queen for the last time. After the meeting, von Fersen and Beaumont headed back north.

Outside Cambrai , their carriage was stopped by a Frenchman doubting the authenticity of their passport but, with von Fersen feigning sleep, Beaumont managed to talk himself out of trouble and they continued on.

On June 20, the Tuileries was stormed by a large crowd and Louis was made to wear a red bonnet of liberty and drink a toast to the health of the people of Paris and the Nation.

Three days later Marie-Antoinette was able to get an encrypted letter out to von Fersen: His illness is making terrible progress Tell his relations about his unfortunate situation". Breteuil came to tell me that the Austrians have been defeated before Mons For two days there had been orders to give no post horses without permission The whole road from Mons was covered with war equipages and carts with wounded.

Von Fersen heard the news while in Cologne: The general in charge of the northern army, Dumouriez , was defeated March 18 at Neerwinden and Louvain.

On 18 March, von Fersen was able to meet with him:. We struggled through a crowd of people and found him in a lower room, the windows besieged by the people outside. He was alone with three aides-de-camp. He recognized Simolin [Russian ambassador to France]; I named myself; he made me a compliment, saying he ought to have known me by my handsome face On the whole, I found him a true Frenchman, vain, confident, heedless; with much intelligence and little judgment.

His scheme failed through excess of confidence in his strength and in his influence with the army. On August 2, Marie-Antoinette was moved to the Conciergerie while awaiting her trial. During this time von Fersen was still attempting to find a way to save her and the remaining royal family.

On 11 August he wrote:. Having talked with La Marck on the means of saving the queen, and agreeing that there were none except to push forward at once a strong body of cavalry to Paris - which would be the easier to do at this moment, because there are no troops before the city and the granaries are full, - I went to see Mercy about it and found him all ice to the idea He believes the royal family lost and that nothing can be done for them.

He does not think the factious would negotiate. On October 6, , von Fersen paid a visit to Jean-Baptisite Drouet at the Saint-Elizabeth prison on the slim hope of hearing news that might be of use.

Drouet was the postmaster who recognized Louis on his flight to Varennes and was able to alert the authorities in time to stop them. Beaumont related the scene from his memoirs:. Fersen stood with his back to the light, wasted as few words as possible, and was stony in manner; even when both Drouet and the officer had the effrontery to assure him that Madame Capet was very well treated, had all she wished, and was in no danger, he did not comment.

Could Madame de Staël have witnessed, she would doubtless have reiterated her usual observation as to his icy coldness of temperament, and his absolute insensitivity and passionless. I should have said that his nerves were strained almost to snapping, and that to see and speak to this Drouet was an almost unbearable test, even of his remarkable self-control.

Marie-Antoinette was executed ten days later. Though I was prepared for it and expected it since the transfer to the Conciergerie , I was devastated by the reality. I did not have the strength to feel anything I thought about her constantly, about all the horrible circumstances of her sufferings, of the doubt she might have had about me, my attachment, my interest. That thought tortured me. Von Fersen returned to Sweden, from where he was forced to watch the ever-increasing expansion of the French revolutionary empire , [25] and in late December , he was suspected of possible complicity in Baron Armfeldt's conspiracy to deprive the Duke of Södermanland of the regency.

As a result, von Fersen was deprived of his diplomatic appointments and his post as ambassador. Von Fersen and his best friend, Baron Taube, became two of the most influential advisors to the young king, inculcating in him a "steadfast opposition to Revolutionary France, close relations with Russia, and hostility to Denmark, with the ultimate objective of acquiring Norway". When I called at his hotel to pay my compliments he asked would I be kind enough to tell him what minister from Sweden is now in Paris.

As you know, there is none. My reply was necessarily vague. Then he said that it was astounding that the Court of Sweden should behave in such a manner towards a nation, with which it had been on more or less friendly terms for a long while.

Before I had time to respond, he remarked that the Court of Sweden seemed to take a pleasure in sending agents and ambassadors who were personally disagreeable to every French citizen. On the same principle, the French Republic ought not to allow men too well known for their connection with the late King and Queen of France to be sent to mock the minister of the first nation on earth. It was impossible not to understand this. I felt somewhat as I had felt the day we interviewed Drouet , and I preserved the same apparent indifference.

I looked down serenely at M. In , following von Fersen's return to Sweden from Germany, he was appointed as one of the Lords of the Realm. According to Adlerbeth, this amounted to "a declared French royalist being made the Swedish Jacobins' schoolmaster". In April, an attempt to trick the Uppsala orchestra into performing a composition containing an excerpt from the " La Marseillaise " led to the trial and punishment of four known radicals of the university, one of whom was dismissed.

The "Music Trial" proved the deathblow to Uppsala radicalism. With the state bordering on financial bankruptcy , and poor harvests and declining trade undermining his efforts to resolve the issue without recourse to parliament, Gustav IV Adolf reluctantly announced the first assembly of the Riksdag. The Riksdag , dissolved in mid-June but not before several prominent aristocrats walked out and renounced their noble status.

Though creating a much-talked about sensation, they had virtually left a vacuum in the political field which their rivals filled.

In , von Fersen was appointed Marshal of the Realm. He was now the highest official in the court of Sweden. Around this time, von Fersen's sister, Sophie, returned to Sweden from Germany and took over his household in lieu of a wife. Following the overthrow and exile of King Gustavus IV in , a dispute over the Royal succession divided the nobility and much of Swedish society.

On May 28, , while reviewing troops in Scania , Charles August fell from his horse and died from apoplexy. Rumors ran strong throughout the country that he had been poisoned by the partisans of Gustav IV Adolf; von Fersen and his sister Sophie were seen as prime suspects. They were abused in public, and von Fersen received anonymous death threats.

June 20, was the date set for the Crown Prince's public funeral. The Livgarde till Häst Horse Guards formed the advance guard in the procession; von Fersen, as Marshal of the Realm, and other court dignitaries, rode in coaches before the coffin, while the rear of the procession was brought up by a squadron of cavalry which had accompanied the Crown Prince's remains from Scania. Foot Guards paraded on the Riddarhustorget.

General Silfversparre, commander of the Stockholm garrison, was alerted to the possibility of disturbances but may himself have been a member of the court party that opposed von Fersen. First curses then copper coins and various missiles were hurled at the carriage till its windows were broken; then savage threats and showers of stones become continuous, and, at last in the Riddarhustorget , at the instant when the escort was turning to the right, a tremendous crowd barred the way of Fersen's carriage Von Fersen, with a violent effort, flung back one of the ruffians who grasped him and shook himself free of the others who were pressing round.

There was a momentary lull; the curses shrank from shouts to mutterings. Von Fersen's face bled where a stone had cut it; his decorations were glittering in the sun; the guards, who were supposed to protect him, gazed at him with a sort of curious expectancy. It was at this moment when Beaumont arrived on the scene with General Silfversparre and a small detachment of troops. This intervention further enraged the large crowd. Von Fersen, realizing that the authorities planned to do nothing, turned and dashed into the first door he could find.

The crowd converged on this spot, and a few ran into the house in pursuit of him. Silfversparre, and I, and our sixteen men were utterly helpless, so tightly were we wedged in the crowd that we might just as well have been blocks of wood for all the power we had of independent movement.

We were carried along by the surging crowd, and it seemed to me as though hell were let loose around us. Before long, one man appeared at the window "and with a triumphant shout" hurled down von Fersen's cloak and sword, which were seized by the angry crowd.

Von Fersen was dragged back out into the square. His gloves were pulled off and thrown in his face, and his coat torn off and trampled upon. Silfversparre, attempting to save von Fersen, offered to arrest him and have him tried in court for the Crown Prince's murder. At this moment, the mounted escort turned and rode away. The mob "which had been almost quiet, but now raised yells of delight and triumph, and fell upon von Fersen".

Von Fersen's contemporary, Baron Gustaf Armfelt , stated afterward:. One is almost tempted to say that the government wanted to give the people a victim to play with, just as when one throws something to an irritated wild beast to distract its attention.

The more I consider it all, the more I am certain that the mob had the least to do with it But in God's name what were the troops about? How could such a thing happen in broad daylight during a procession, when troops and a military escort were actually present? Axel von Fersen died that day in Stockholm as Sweden's highest-ranking official next to the King; his death sent shock waves throughout the country. The cause of death was determined to be "crushing of the ribcage" when the Swedish-Finn Otto Johan Tandefelt jumped with both feet on Fersen's chest.

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