On This Day in Napoleonic History – 21 January 1793

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Louis XVI is executed by guillotine at the Place de la Révolution in Paris

The king’s execution marked the turning point of the French Revolution. On hearing about Louis’s death, Napoleon said, ‘Oh, the wretches. The poor wretches. They will go through anarchy.’

Napoleon saw the king’s execution, followed in October by Marie-Antoinette’s, as a tactical error. ‘Had the French been more moderate and not put Louis to death,’ he later said, ‘all Europe would have been revolutionised.’ As it was, the king’s death would propel all major European powers to start arming against France.

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