Camille Desmoulins and the Orators of the Palais-Royal
On July 12, 1789, Parisians learned about the dismissal of the minister known to be the most opposed to despotism: Necker, in charge of Finances. This news caused an uproar. In the Palais-Royal, orators, perched on tables or benches, harangued passersby on the crisis of the kingdom, galvanizing minds. Tables were put out in front of the Café de Foy, which was located at 57-60 in what is now the Montpensier gallery. One of the orators attracted more attention than the others: Camille Desmoulins. Ripping a leaf from one of the trees in the garden, he proposed wearing it as a sign of patriotism and called for insurrection. This was the beginning of the uprising that would lead to the storming of the Bastille two days later.
Since the police could not easily enter the Palais-Royal, it became the preferential refuge for all those who opposed the absolute monarchy. The owner of the premises, the Duke of Orléans, more moderate than his cousin Louis XVI, happily protected free speech against the regime. In 1789, the Palais-Royal even became a center of resistance in the middle of Paris. On June 30th, soldiers from the French Guards regiment (in charge of maintaining order in Paris), who had refused to shoot into the crowd of insurgents on June 23rd, were freed from prison by the mob. They were then led to the Palais-Royal, where they were fed, protected and honored peacefully as heroes in the garden’s pathways! The images of patriots in the Palais-Royal hurt the regime greatly.