Book Analysis: In When The King Took Flight By Timothy Tackett Book Review Examples
Timothy Tackett is a widely popular author and is known to many historians of the French Revolution. His acclaim is a result of his work on the Civil Constitution of the Clergy as well as the politics of the Constituent Assembly. Tackett was one of the most prominent opponents of the 1980s revisionist school and he was known to extensively use exhaustive archival research to debate about the revolution, which according to him was driven more by rationality and exigency rather than by philosophy and semantic inexorableness.
When the King Took Flight, a gripping novel written by Timothy Tackett describes the most dramatic events of the French Revolution. In the month of June 1791, King Louis XVI and his queen Marie-Antoinette had fled Paris in disguise and had slipped into the eastern border of France. This act of King Louis was essentially his plan to escape the increasing chaos of the French Revolution. Louis had left behind a powerful declaration that basically shunned the constitutional empire, which he had supported earlier.
The consequential outcome was that he decided to live in exile, before France was rallied against the revolution and returning later victoriously. Unfortunately, this escape of King Louis and the Queen turned out into a flop and resulted into a big mess. The couple were stopped a few miles ahead of their target location at Varennes and the papers of their carriage checked. However, as suspicion continued, the couple were humbly requested to wait for a little more time until everything was clarified and in the midst of all this, one of his loyal men – the local judge identified him to be the King and instantly knelt before him and said, "Ah, Your Highness." "Yes, I am your king," Louis replied. "I have come to live among you, my faithful children, whom I will never abandon." After this, the couple were forcibly sent back to Paris. Two years after this fiasco, the royal couple get executed.
Timothy Tackett extraordinarily recounts this gripping story and the eventual happenings that led up to the French Revolution and beyond in his book in an extremely novelistic manner. This was one of the ultimate and emblematic instants of the revolution. King Louis had himself revealed his personal world view that was of an unrepentant nature. Whatsoever were the declarations of the revolution, it was obviously clear from his own admission that he actually never embraced the premise that his power was less than unconditional. And this disastrous fiasco of King Louis and his Queen is the primary thesis of the entire book of Tackett.
A number of unique characters who were actually struggling very hard to confront the colossal makeovers that were set in motion during the late years of the 1790s were brought to life in Tackett’s work. By bringing such unique characters to life in the book, Tackett provides significant and innovative explanations and versions about the French Revolution. By laying increased stress upon the erratic, volatile and provisional character of the account of the French Revolution, Tackett emphasises the power that just one event has in irrevocably altering the entire course of not just the French Revolution alone, but also the entire world history in one go.
Tackett presents majority of the French revolution’s account in this book, neatly extending it from the basic human tragedy to aspects related to the local politics in France. He explains in an excellent manner as to how the news about King Louis’s flight echoed all over France, eventually resulting in anti-royal criticisms and the casing the royal cyphers in all public spaces. Most prominently, the way in which King Louis sealed not just his own fate, but also resulted in the political life to become tense for the likes of Lafayette and Dupont de Nemours has been presented beautifully by Tackett. All these people were discredited by ability of their opponents to depict King Louis as deceitful and treacherous and his infamous flight from Paris that became a fiasco at the end.
The whole narrative of King Louis’s flight and his eventual capture is presented in an adept and elegant manner by Tackett. But still, the main theme and strength of the book actually is in its cautious contextualisation of the various incidents that led to the revolution and also the disentanglement of their eventual impact on the French Revolution. \
One of the most important planks in the revisionist row has been the disagreement and controversy, which held that horror and republicanism were unspoken in the treatise of revolution starting from 1789’s autumn period.
Tackett appropriately castoffs this explanation, as he points to the enormous amount of love and fondness for King Louis that was voiced in the complaint lists in 1789 and in a number of speeches and pamphlets during the initial years of the French revolution. Perceptibly, a majority of the French believed their king when he disputed and remonstrated his backing for the constitutional reforms of the Assembly. Irrespective of this kind of enormous fondness and liking of the people, the prolonged and unequivocal repudiation that he left behind in the Tuileries at the time of his flight from Paris in disguise, devastated that impression and eventually exposed his insincerity and duplicity.
Louis XVI arises out Tackett’s account both as a well-intentioned, kind-hearted yet as an imperfect individual who failed to learn his lessons from the various mistakes he had committed in the past. Varennes was extremely vital in the French Revolution and the course of its development. Had this incident at Varennes failed to have happened and had King Louis sincerely united liaised with the Revolution, neither conflict nor trepidation would have occurred and the entire European history would not have been the same as to what is being read today. A constitutional monarchy would have possibly fascinated and enticed numerous and adequate support among the affluent classes of the society that would have helped in marginalizing both counter-revolutionary fanaticism as well as popular extremism in the whole of Europe. Instead, if King Louis would have crossed Varennes without any difficulty and successfully reached his planned destination, the outcome certainly would have been a civil war, that would have eventually progressed into a broader conflict of Europe as his flight would forcibly have crossed the borders of France and finally reached the Austrian Netherlands. Hitherto in the due course, through his own prejudice, stupidity, and inability, King Louis symptomatically fell between the above two pews.
Tackett, Timothy. 2003. When the King Tookj Flight. USA: President and Fellows of Haravard College.