Threshold of Terror: The Last Hours of the Monarchy in the French Revolution by Rodney Allen

Threshold of Terror: The Last Hours of the Monarchy in the French Revolution by Rodney Allen is an exciting and engaging piece of work. Allen brings to life the last vestiges of Louis XVI’s reign.

The book primarily centers on August 10 and 11, 1792 – when “the mob” stormed the Tuileries to end Louis’ reign. Allen pays particular attention to the fate of the Swiss Guards – a unit charged with defending the king after his personal guard was disbanded. In describing their fate, Allen dispels many myths about the Swiss Guards – one of which is that the Guards were overwhelmed and in many instances massacred, Allen contends through his research that many Guards were killed, but the unit was far from being completely annihilated.

Although Allen has a particular affinity toward the king, he justly criticizes Louis when he failed to act at certain points (Allen argues that the Revolution could have been halted in its tracks if Louis had just shown some leadership and backbone). For example, Allen argues that the monarchy may not have fallen if Louis had allowed more ammunition to be disbursed to the Swiss Guards and other loyal national guardsmen.

I think that Allen may have been able to make the book more succinct if he had cut down the number of chapters devoted to the escape of four men (each man’s story of escape had a chapter). Although the stories were different, I just do not think that including all four adds anything extra to the book.

All in all, I think the book is an entertaining and enlightening look at the last hours of the French monarchy in the French Revolution.

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