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February 8, 2017 31 mins

In 1789, a group of protesters -- mostly women -- marched from Paris to Versailles to pressure King Louis XVI to address France's food shortage.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class from how
Stuff Works dot com. Hello, and welcome to the podcast.
I'm Holly Fry and I'm Tracy V. Wilson. A Tracy.
You know what's all over the news at the moment, protests, Yeah,
protest marches. So I thought maybe we would talk about

the women's march, but not the one you're thinking about,
the one that happened on Versailles in the seventeen hundreds,
the one that the moment I heard about it, I said, hey, Holly,
I think you might want to do this episode. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And it's one of those things that I knew about
in sort of an abstract way, but I didn't realize

I was not really aware of all the details of it.
So this is an event that took place quite early
on in the French Revolution. As we've mentioned before, any
time we touch on the French Revolution, there's a long
and winding road. So this is at the very early
start of it. Uh, and it started with a bread shortage.
This is kind of one of the more famous aspects
of the French Revolution, and as with any historical event,

there are multiple causes that lead up to this thing. Happening,
So we're gonna talk about each of them and kind
of put the pieces together before we get to the
actual march, and first in the setup, we're going to
talk about Versailles. Versailles is located twelve miles which is
a little more than nineteen kilometers from Paris to the
southwest of the city. The site originally featured Louis thirteenth

chateau was a stonework hunting lodge designed to be a getaway,
but under the next king of France it became something
quite different, eventually evolving into a very opulent seat of
the monarchy. The palace and a complex of other buildings
built during the seven decade reign of Louis the fourteenth
at the time just prior to the revolution, included governmental

office buildings, the royal gardens, the Grand Trional, the pet
Trional stables, hunting grounds, and multiple ructures to house all
of the people who lived there, which included many many servants.
It's estimated that at the time of Louis the sixteenth
reign as many as sixty thousand people were living on
the grounds at Versailles. It was in effect its own city,

and it was a luxurious place. The palace, of course,
was the most lavish of all the buildings, with more
than two thousand rooms, more than seven hundred and twenty
thousand square feet which is about sixty seven thousand square
meters at floor space, more than four dozen staircases, and
then all that space was decorated with fine art and furniture.

There were at least fifteen thousand paintings in the palace,
plus tapestries and glass work and lots of gold leaf.
It took a staff of thousands just to maintain the
palace and the grounds. Yeah, so if you've ever visited Versailla,
you know it is massive, but it's one of those
things where you think about, like the house you live
in and whatever the square footage is, like, uh, you know,

an average sort of apartmenty thing in Atlanta is about
twelve hundred square feet. So then when you think about
how massive, I mean it's a small town. Just in
the palace, it was like multiply that time seven twenty
uh and in the views of the royals and the
nobility who occupied Versailles, it was a house of the people,

or at least that's what they told themselves. Anyone could
visit and wander around basically unimpeded. So um. But even
though the lower classes could visit, the really important thing
about Versailles is that it was where the king spent
basically all his time, and that meant that the seat
of government was it a remove from the city of
Paris and the common people. By the time Louis the

sixteenth was ruler in the mid seventeen seventies, the grain
market in France was deregulated. This was part of a
larger economic plan on the part of a Robert Jacques Turgeaux,
who was serving as the Minister of Finance, Trade and
Public Works under King Louis sixteen had at this point
become the ruler of France, and Turgeau's blanket philosophy was

no bankruptcy, no tax increases, no borrowing, and he did
have a positive impact on the French economy. His policies
led to a decrease in the deficit and an increase
in credit for a brief time. But while Turgeau did
seem to have some good ideas about handling France's money,
he ran into some pretty serious problems after a couple
of years. Around seventy first, he established a freedom of

enterprise and competition policy, and this made France's craft guilds
really angry because they had previously controlled all that. And
then he shifted the taxes in kind, where a portion
of agricultural production was used as a form of payment,
he changed that to a direct money tax. This was
intended to garner the government a more liquid income, but

it really made everyone angry. Yeah, so to him, this
would have fallen under no tax increase is because we're
still taxing the same we just now want the cash
instead of the crops um. But of course that's not
really the same when you're the person making the payment.
So Turgeau resigned at this point. Louis the sixteenth was

really frustrated. Uh Marie Antoinette and the Minister of State
kind of urged Trejau to step down, and he was
eventually replaced by Jacques nick Care, but his legacy in
the grain market would continue. After the grain market went
free trade without any price controls. There were a number
of years where the grain harvest was also poor, and

the crop was especially bad. Then the following winter was
a lot colder than normal. Once the temperature rose enough
to melt some of the freeze, there was flooding which
affected grainaries and fields, making seventeen eighty nine and especially
hard year for farming before there was even a chance
to plant anything. Yeah, it was basically kind of doomed

from the start at this point. And this was in
a into the fact that the population of France had
grown by about eight million people over the course of
approximately eight decades, while France's agriculture, which was its primary
economic driver, had stayed roughly the term the same in
terms of size. The grain shortage drove up prices, first
making it difficult for the average citizens to afford to

buy grain, and then there was so little of it
that only the very rich could actually purchase it. In
seventy eight, the laborers of Paris were spending about half
of their wages just to purchase bread, and by the
following year, the shrinking supply had pushed that percentage up
to about eighty percent of wages just going to bread. Yeah,

and that's an approximation, because you'll see figure sited that
are anywhere from seventy to nine. So I just went
right in the middle at eighty. And for his part,
Naicare had actually retired from government finance, but he returned
to the position of Director General of Finance in sevente
at the request of Louis the sixteen. He would also
be dismissed and recalled again. Uh. You know, the king

and his directors of finance had some problems uh in
nine and during his two times being recalled to office,
he did make efforts to assuage the suffering of France's
hungry people by banning the export of grain, regulating the
grain market again, and arranging to have additional grain imported,
but it was not enough to make up the huge

gap that had been created by all of these poor harvests.
Coming up, we'll get into an effort on Louis the
sixteenth part to try to address these problems, but first
we're going to take a break for a quick word
from a sponsor. King Louis the sixteenth had already inherited

an economic train wreck from his grandfather, and things had
only gotten worse while he had been on the throne.
So to try to find a way to solve the problem,
he assembled the Estates General, and this general assembly consisting
of representatives of the estate of the realm that would
be the clergy, which was the first estate, the nobility,
which was the second estate, and the commoners, which were
the third estate, had not been brought together since the

early sixteen hundreds, but this situation was dire. At this point,
France was spending almost fifty percent of its national income
to pay the debt accrued over a very long period
of poor fiscal management. Of the remaining fifty percent, six
percent was allocated to the maintenance of Versailles. The rest
of it went to the military and public works. In

this assembly, and what came out of it could easily
be its own episode. There was a lot that happened,
but for the purposes of discussing the women's march on Versailles,
we're gonna keep it fairly simple and do pretty much
the broad strokes. So after a long series of squabbles
an as seeming impasse, the third Estate broke away and
formed its own initiative under the name of the National Assembly.

You've probably heard of the tennis Court Oath, but just
in case you haven't or you're fuzzy about the details,
this was a ow made by the members of the
General Assembly on a tennis court after being locked out
of the hall where they had been meeting quote, not
to separate and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the
constitution of the Kingdom is established and consolidated upon solid foundations. Yes,

so they wanted to develop a constitutional monarchy and they
were going to write that constitution, and they promised they
were going to stick together and do it and work
together until it was done. And after the king concluded
the Estates General Meeting which had spawned the General Assembly,
and nothing had really um, you know, been resolved by
that estate's general gathering, the group known as a General

Assembly sort of disbanded. You'll also just see it said,
uh written that they've renamed, but they reformed as the
National Constituent Assembly. And at that point too, we should
note that there were even though it's often called the
gathering of the Third Estate, there were people from the
clergy and the nobility that we're on board with this
and we're kind of joining in. And this group was

meeting at a hall in the Versailles complex when the
Women's March took place. So in October one nine, there
was a raucous party at Brassailles and the Opera House
that got a lot of publicity and at the space,
the Royal Flanders Regiment was welcomed by the King's bodyguard.
At the palace, there was a banquet, lots and lots

of wine, and things quickly lost any sense of behavioral constraint.
The soldiers in particular got very drunk and allegedly started
slurring insults about the revolution. Stories appeared in the press
that some of the soldiers had even thrown the tricolor
cocads those are those pleaded ribbon badges that had become

emblems of the revolution onto the floor and both urinated
on them and stomped on them. And then they allegedly
put on the white ribbons of the Bourbons or black ribbons,
which were associated with the aristocratic counter revolution, and swore
their loyalty to Louis the sixteenth and his queen. And
while Louis the sixteenth had been at the party for

some period of time, it was fairly brief, but some
accounts claimed that he had been there for hours partying
with these soldiers. This event was commemorated by printmakers that
they were largely fabricated depictions of this event, as the
artists were working from descriptions from other people and maybe
even rumors, they were basically filling in the details. Both

the stories and the prince were not considered to be accurate,
but boy, they were really proliferating throughout France at the time.
But though they were overblown reports, they still garnered the
ire of the public. For one, Guests and Versailles were
bad mouthing the revolution, which was just in its infancy,

and people were really angry to think that the king
was hosting people that were basically saying that that was
stupid and useless. For another, these men were being treated
to a massive east when many of France's people were
going hungry. And because this October First Party was just
another in the long line of incidents of waste on

the part of the monarchy while the common people suffered,
it sparked lots of protest. Yeah, certainly not the first protest,
but we'll talk about that a little in a moment.
And additionally, there had been an expected bump in the
availability of bread, so the grain harvest had taken place
in September. Uh, there wasn't a lot, but there was some,

so it seemed like there should be some bread available,
and there had, as we said, benefforts on the part
of the French government, under the stewardship of Director General
of Finance Jacques Nicare, to import additional grain, so people
thought that there should be some food to eat, but
those supplies had not arrived yet. In early October when
this was going on, the lack of grain, even though

there had been assurances that shipments had been arranged, caused
all kinds of rumors to circulate. As lines for even
meager portions of bread stretched for city blocks, people started
to gossip that the shortage was purposely being arranged by
the government to weaken the populace and make them more submissive. Yeah.

When you combine the fact that there is no food
with the fact that there are obviously these lavish parties
and a lot of spending going on at Versailles. Uh,
you know this ties in, of course to the whole
let the meatcake falsehood. Uh. It is often reported that
has been talked about on the show before, I think
my previous hosts, and we've certainly referenced it. Yeah. I

think that's like a really short episode back in the
CANDUs and maybe even Josh Days maybe yeah, je long
time ago. Yeah, but I mean basically everything that was
being reported was largely rumor, but people were so upset
that conspiracy theories were just sort of like the standard
of the day, and it was easy to believe that

there must be something the ferry is going on if
they were having parties in the palace while no one
else could even get a loaf of bread. Uh So
that is why rumors were so rampant at the time.
There had been multiple calls for organized protests in the
days and weeks leading up to October, but this grain issue,
combined with the bad press around the party at Versailles,

served as a catalyst. Protests started on October four, with
people marching in the streets to decry this rumored party
at Versailles as well as the food scarcity, but they
didn't really come together until the following day. On October five, nine,
a march started that would eventually cover the twelve plus

miles from Paris to Versailles, but it didn't begin with
that intent, so when the first part of the crowd
assembled in the morning, it was outside the Hotel de
Ville that was the seat of the Parisian City Council,
somewhere between five thousand and ten thousand people again that's
one of those things that the reporting is very, very

widely varied. Uh. It was mostly women. They stood outside
this administrative building demanding that all the remaining green stores
be released to the people. There was no response from
the Hotel de Villa, So at that point the crowd
decided to march right to the monarchy with their protests,
and by noon the group had armed themselves with clubs, muskets,

pikes and the like and headed out of Paris to
walk to Versailles, basically the length of a half marathon.
I know. That's what I kept thinking, is that, Um,
you know Tracy has done a half. I've done quite
a number of half marathons. This is not a small distance.
It's one of those things that, um, if you've ever
walked a mile and been that person has been like,
I could do that twelve more times. Yes, you probably could,

but it's exhausting. You might hurt yourself like I did.
And now imagine doing that when you haven't had enough
to eat in months. It's a no small undertaking, and
it speaks to the level of frustration that was prevalent
at the time among the people of Paris. The royal
family had received word of the protesters headed towards the palace,

so they sought refuge in their private apartments and the
gates were locked. While women made up the majority of
the marchers, they were accompanied by a National Guard officer
named Stanislaus my Yard. This was not for many of
the marchers their first protest. A lot of the women,
as well as my Yard, had been part of the
storming of the Bastille several months earlier on July four teenth,

and the group as it made its way from Paris
to Versailles grew. The exact numbers of the protests are
difficult to gauge because they're varying accounts, and as we
know from more recent history, it's kind of tough to
estimate crowd size. Sometimes numbers vary anywhere from ten thousand
to thirty thousand people. And the crowd had more than

one aim in this protest, and that happened because it
had become a combination of the initial group of women
who were marching largely over food shortages, and other groups
that had joined in with their own agendas regarding the revolution.
So by the time they reached Versailles, there were several
demands kind of being put forth by different factions of
the group. One was for the monarchy to address the

food shortage, which had really been the initial driver for
this whole march. Another was for the king to relocate
to Paris and reign from a position where he was
with his people and not solely influenced by the aristocracy.
And then there were people who just wanted to harm
the king or really, more specifically Marie Antoinette, because she
sort of became too many people of France emblematic of

the fiscal problems they were having, because she was known
for spending a lot of money when they had nothing.
We will talk about how things played out once this
protest actually got to Versailles, but first we will have
another quick word from one of our sponsors. The protesters
would end up spending about twenty four hours at Versailles.

The two days of the protests are to or fifth,
and six are sometimes referred to as the October Days
or the October Days March, in addition to being called
the Women's March Undersigh. To add tention to the situation,
it was raining when the march got to the Versailles complex,
so some of the women about twenty made their way
into the hall where the National Constituent Assembly was meeting,

along with my Yard. While this took the Assembly by surprise,
the group spoke with the protesters and heard them out,
and my Art did most of the talking on behalf
of the demonstrators. The women and my Yard explained that
there was no bread in Paris and that they needed
the Assembly's help, and so the men drafted a proposed
decree requesting that the king make every effort to get

greens circulating through the population, and this proposal was read
to the women and my Yard for review. Jean Joseph Munier,
who was President of the National Constituent Assembly, deputized six
of the women present so they could enter the palace
and make their case directly to King Louis the sixteen,
and for his part, the King seemed receptive. He heard

what the women had to say and assured them that
he would take action to address the food shortage. The crowd, however,
was not placated by the words of the king. In
an attempt to mollify the situation, Louis the sixteenth declared
that the food stores of Versailles should be open and
that the supplies within should be distributed among them. Still
the crowd was not soothed to add tention to the moment.

A National Guard regiment led by the Marquis de Lafayette.
Still the crowd was not soothed to add attention to
the moment. A National Guard regiment led by the Marquis
de Lafayette had arrived at Versailles. Should military intervention be needed,
but Louis sixteenth was against the idea of using force
in the situation. Tensions waxed and wane throughout the night,

and although there were occasionally straight shots fired, the situation
did not escalate into violence. Allegedly, there was even a
fairly friendly relationship between some of the guardsmen and the crowd. Uh.
Given the Marquis to Lafayette's reputation in both the United
States and France, that does not completely surprised me. Yeah,

Apparently some of some of the guardsmen were just kind
of mingling with the people that were there hanging out.
They were trying to kind of make a go of it,
like we're all stuck here for the night, I guess um.
But as the night stretched on and uh dawn of
October six approached, it became apparent that there were factions
in the crowd who had gotten really restless with the situation.

They wanted more action on the part of the monarch
to come to the aid of the people, and they
had become convinced that the Queen, Marie Antoinette, would reverse
the seemingly magnanimous efforts of her husband. The section of
the protesters became more and more agitated and eventually made
their way into the palace in the early morning in
search of the queen. Their intent was to harm her and,

according to some accounts, to kill her. But as the
queen fled, the angry faction was unable to keep up
the pursuit. For the palace's complex floor pun and it's
any many doors. Yeah, all of those two thousand rooms
really paid off, because if you didn't know the entry
and exit points, it was hard to keep up with
someone that was running through them, that knew them very well.

And in the midst of this pursuit, those things turned
violent when a guard fired upon two of the women protesters.
One of them was killed, which fomented the rest of
the group into retaliatory violence. Two soldiers were killed and dismembered.
The Marquis de Ferrierer, nobleman who was at Versailles at
the time, wrote of that morning, and here's what he said.

At six o'clock in the morning, a crowd of women
and armed men assembled in the square. Summoned by the
beating of drums, shouts of rage against the royal bodyguards
were heard. One of those columns marched up to the
royal gate but found it locked. Another got through by
the gate of the chapel, which was open. One of
the national guards of the Versailles Militia led the way

up to the king's staircase. Some of the bodyguard ran up, quote,
my friends, you love your king, and yet you even
come to his palace to disturb him. No one answered.
The column continued to advance. The bodyguard mustard in their hall.
The doors were soon broken down and they were forced
to evacuate it. The conspirators approached the queen's apartments, crying, quote,

we are going to cut off her head, tear out
her heart, fright her liver, and that won't be the
end of it. Mialmandra flew to the door of the
first anti room, opened it hurriedly, and called to the
lady whom she saw save the Queen. They mean to
kill her. I am alone, facing two thousand tigers. My
comrades have been obliged to quit their hall. After these

few words, My Almandra shut the door and bravely waited
for the conspirators. One of them tried to stab him
with his pike. He parried the blow. Another, taking the
pike by the head, struck him a blow with the butt,
which felled him to the ground stand back of the
National guardsman who led the column. The crowd made room
for him. Then, measuring the butt of his musket against

Mountainder's head, he struck him with all his forces so
that the trigger penetrated his skull. Mailmandra, streaming with blood,
was left for dead, and eventually, with more manpower summoned,
the military was able to get all of the protesters
out of the palace, though the now angry mob remained outside.

Lafayette suggested that Louis the sixteenth addressed the crowd, and
the king went along with this plan, walking out to
the balcony to tell the gathered people that he and
the rest of the immediate royal family would travel to Paris,
and he declared his love for his people. He also
put on a tricolor cocade, and Louise's words sort of

did the trick. Uh. His words were well received by
the crowd, and they did begin to cheer for him,
and he then left the balcony to be replaced by
his wife. And while she was not up with the
same cheers, it was not lost on the crowd that
she was showing an incredible level of trust in making
this appearance. So immediately after this foiled attempt on her life,

the morning was spent preparing for travel, and that very afternoon,
Louis the sixteenth, Marie Antoinette, and their children left Versailles,
accompanied by several members of the National Constituent Assembly and
the crowd that had been at Versailles throughout the protest.
King Louis the sixteenth and the National Constituent Assembly moved
into the Palais de Tuilerie on the right bank of

the Sin And while the Tuileri was a palace originally
built in the sixteenth century, it had not been an
active residence for decades, so there was some effort required
to make it livable as a home and serviceable as
a governmental hub. And it's one of those things where
people go, well, you moved into another palace, but it
really was a significant shift in their lifestyle from what

they had been living in at Versailles. This is the
first time in a hundred years that France was governed
from Paris rather than from the Versailles complex, and Louis
the sixteenth and his family never saw Orsi again. Yeah,
so that was the women's march on Versailles. That seemed effective.
A little bit of bloodshed unfortunately, but uh, yeah, I

mean we you and I talked about it before we
started that. I have this whole thing where I when
I read about Marie Antoinette and Louis the sixteenth, and
there have been some writings in recent years that have
fallen more in this angle rather than the sort of
more vilifying versions, which is probably what I'm most influenced by. Uh,
they made so many stupid, stupid moves, but I really

think they just were not prepared for the roles that
they found themselves in. Yeah, they sometimes are portrayed as
like mustache twirling villains, cackling over everybody else's misfortune. Yeah,
are just completely callous, and really I think they just
didn't get it. They had no grasp of the reality

of France. I think Louis the sixte wanted to do
the right thing, but didn't know how. He didn't know
who to trust, He didn't he wasn't ever confident enough
in any of his advisers to really follow through on
any plans that may have helped in the long run.
There are some historians that theorized that if Turgeau had
been allowed to stay in his position running finances, that

he actually could have prevented the later events of the revolution.
But we don't know, uh, But yeah, I I oh,
they made so many poor choices and just bad decisions.
But I really think above all else, they were just
foolish and oll prepared. And the whole situation was exacerbated
so much by like huge feud shortages and this enormous

disparity between the like the world of Versailles and the
world of everyone else. Yeah. Yeah, it's it's a thing
like how how can you govern people you don't even
know or understand? Uh, And it's it's a fascinating. So
I think that's why people are continue to be fascinated
by Louis the sixteenth and Marie Antoinette. It's just it's

such a bizarre concept. They're so completely divorced from the
people that they are allegedly ruling. It's there's a surreal
level of out of touchness going on, which is again
it's fascinating. But I have listener mail that's uh nicer. Yeah.

So I have a couple of postcards. The first is
from our listener Michelle. It is a postcard that she
sent us um of the Wild Bunch, which we referenced
in our Robbers Roost episode that we did in Salt Lake.
She says, Tracy and Holly, after listening to your recent
live show about Robert's Roost and how you love that,
tell your ride Colorado uses Butch Cassidy as their claim

to fame. I had to write to you. I grew
up in mont Pelio, Idaho. We not only have a
plaque in front of the bank he robbed. The bank
is now a museum commemorating that robbery. We even have
a festival business and business is named for him. I
love the show, keep it up. So it is that
famous photograph of the Wild Bunch that we talked about
in the episode where they all look for all the
world like fancy businessmen in their lovely suits and not

in fact like men on the run from the law. Um,
it's such a good picture. It's one of those that,
even though it's like the one picture that gets used
all the time, I love it every time I see it. Uh.
The other one is from our listener Whitney, and it
is a little bit uh Jermaine, not even just a
little bit. It's Germaine to what we talked about today,
She says, highlight these. I wanted to drop you a

line from Boston, a city rich in history. Um, My
husband and I are on our way home from the honeymoon,
from our honeymoon and azors and we couldn't resist a
forty eight hour layover in a city filled with history.
Thank you for all you do in the Fantastic podcast.
But the postcard that she sent us is uh a
postcard with a quote from Abigail Adams that says, remember

the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them,
and the bad explains that it is part of the
Adams Letters. The quote on the front of the card
and what follows are both part of a letter sent
by Abigail Adams to her husband John Adams, dated March
seventeen seventy six. So again that's at the same time
all of this stuff is playing out. Uh if particular
care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we

are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold
ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no
voice or representation. So that just seemed pertinent today's discussion
of the women who marched on Versailles. Again at the
same time that all of the Abigail Adams was doing
her writing, or around the same time, I should say
so thank you, thank you both for sending us postcards

and everyone else who has sent us cards that we
haven't gotten to read on the air. I have a
massive pileo at my desk and I'm trying to figure
out what I want to do with them, because I
don't want to get rid of them, but I have
to figure out a better storage plan than piling them
on my dad, which is I have quickly become like
an Oscar the gratch level trash monster of things just

piling around my desk. I'm not good at organizing spatial relationships.
Uh So, anyway, if you would like to write to us,
please do so at History podcast at how stuff works
dot com. You can also find us across the spectrum
of social media is at mist in History that includes
Twitter at misston History, Pinterest, as missed in History, Facebook
dot com, slash mist in History, missed in History dot

temblor dot com, and we're on Instagram as at mist
in History. If you would like to visit our site,
which is missed in History dot com, you can do that.
You will find an archive of every episode of the
podcast that has ever existed, as well as show notes
for any of the episodes Tracy and I have worked
on together, as well as some other cool stuff. And
you can visit our parents site, how stuff works dot com.

Type in a search term in the search bar and
you're gonna come up with lots of stuff. If you
type in re Intwinet, lots of things will happen. You'll
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a while, So we encourage you kind of visit us
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3. Amy and T.J. Podcast

3. Amy and T.J. Podcast

"Amy and T.J." is hosted by renowned television news anchors Amy Robach and T. J. Holmes. Hosts and executive producers Robach and Holmes are a formidable broadcasting team with decades of experience delivering headline news and captivating viewers nationwide. Now, the duo will get behind the microphone to explore meaningful conversations about current events, pop culture and everything in between. Nothing is off limits. “Amy & T.J.” is guaranteed to be informative, entertaining and above all, authentic. It marks the first time Robach and Holmes speak publicly since their own names became a part of the headlines. Follow @ajrobach, and @officialtjholmes on Instagram for updates.

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