If there were one person to blame for the Revolution, it would be Duke of Orleans. This is how the French Royalists see it. The taking of the Bastille, the Women’s March on Versailles, the financial support of the Club of Jacobins and the use of Palais Royal, the Orleans hereditary residence, as the headquarters of the French Revolution seem to justify this view.
To avoid any further confusion, I will refer to Louis XVI’s cousin, Duke Orleans, as Philippe Egalité, the name our Duke has chosen for himself in 1792. What were Egalité’s motives for his anti-monarchist stand? The obvious ones are two — the year 1778 has exposed Philippe as an incompetent Navy officer; so, the wounded pride is one explanation: a prince of blood couldn’t stand being made a laughing-stock of Versailles! Then follows his anglophilia — Philippe’s love of all the things British, the parliamentary institutions included. Whatever the motives, by 1788 the eye-witness accounts make frequent references to the Orleans faction as the financial muscle of the events: Philippe Egalité is accused of driving up the price of bread in Paris and simultaneously bankrolling and arming discontent.
Among the Third Estate representatives Philippe’s popularity had peaked in 1789, the year when he was hoping to replace Louis XVI. In 1892, as a member of the National Assembly, he voted for the death of Louis XVI. The Assembly vote was pretty close and his decision disgusted not only the royalists, but Robespierre himself. By 1793 Egalité’s popularity reached its lowest point, the former allies fled him: in the days of Terror, when guillotine was cutting a few dozen heads a day, nobody needed an ex-prince whose fortune had been spent. When he got arrested, there was very little nostalgia in the Assembly. Climbing up the scaffolds, frustrated Philippe Egalité refused to take off his boots, “You can do it after,” he told the executioner, “don’t waste my time.”