"in token of surrender to the Republic"

France was ruled by an absolute monarchy until 1789, when the Bastille prison was stormed.  The passing of the 'Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen' called for aristocratic power to be abolished, and asserted the rights of the citizen.  Individual aptitude was to be the new criteria for public office and power, not inherited priviledge or the 'divine right of kings'.  The Republic was officially declared in 1792, leading to the arrests of the royal family for treason.  The struggles against this new regime, both domestically and from abroad, precipitated the blood soaked Reign of Terror in 1793.