Louis XVI, the Royal Hunt and Bastille Day

When Louis XVI wrote in his diary Rien (“Nothing”) on July 14, 1789, it did not mean that the King was oblivious to the events in Paris. On the contrary he had taken measures to prevent the unrest, in particular by posting foreign regiments in and around the capital. Those measures proved unsuccessful, and even counterproductive, but it is undeniable that Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were extremely concerned.

Ollivier Hunt at the chateau of L Isle-Adam

Hunt at the chateau of L'Isle-Adam, by Ollivier

The so-called diary was in fact a log, in which Louis XVI would record the number and species of the animals killed by the Royal Hunt on any given day (he was an excellent horseman and avid sportsman) and sometimes other brief notes on various topics. Louis XV never meant to express intimate political or personal thoughts. The Nothing entry on the 14th of July simply means that there was no hunt on that day, or that no animal was killed.

Furthermore, we should not forget that the storming of the Bastille occurred in the afternoon. Paris was in an uproar. Leaving the city was difficult and dangerous. The news did not reach Louis XVI and Versailles, ten miles away, until nighttime. By then, it must have been the least of the King’s worries to amend the entry in his diary.

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