10 Important French Revolution Dates


 

The French Revolution is one of the most important moments in French history. It also had a major impact on the rest of Europe, due to decades of wars that would follow the Revolution. It also inspired other nations’ revolutionary movements and led to the end of inequalities in Europe such as feudalism, upper-class privileges, and inequalities in general.

There were many aspects that led to the French Revolution, such as a corrupt monarchy with serious debt, unfairly high taxes, bad harvests, as well as the American Revolution. French citizens were inspired by the measures that the Americans took to free themselves from the British, and aspired to free themselves from the French monarchy.

There are several important French Revolution dates! Keep reading to find out the 10 most important!

1. Meeting with the Estates-General, May 5, 1789

Estates General

The opening of the Estates-General May 5, 1789, in the Salle des Menus Plaisirs in Versailles by Isidore-Stanislaus Helman & Charles Monnet – WikiCommons

The Estates-General was an assembly that represented the three classes, or “estates” in France at the time: the clergy, or the First Estate, the nobility, or the Second Estate, and the commoners, or the Third Estate.

The Estates-General had already met several times, but due to the fact that each Estate was granted one vote, the clergy and the nobility often ganged up against the commoners, leaving them powerless.

The Estates-General of 1789 was called by King Louis XVI in order to address the monarchy’s financial crisis. In learning more about the crisis and recognizing that the two other Estates could easily place the burden of solving the crisis on the commoners through taxes, the Third Estate formed their own National Assembly. On May 5, 1789, the new National Assembly attempted to negotiate with the clergy and the nobility, but an agreement couldn’t be reached.

2. The Tennis Court Oath, June 20, 1789

When the National Assembly and the First and Second Estates butted heads over the financial crisis, King Louis XVI decided to close the hall where the National Assembly held meetings.

Undeterred, the National Assembly gathered on a tennis court to make a plan. The group agreed to stay together until they could come up with a new constitution for France. Their agreement was dubbed “The Tennis Court Oath.”

3. The storming of the Bastille Prison, July 14, 1789

Bastille

The storming of the Bastille in 1789 by Jean-Pierre Houël – WikiCommons

By July, revolutionaries were fed up with the monarchy’s resistance to change. Plus, the general director of finances named Jacques Necker was fired by the king. Necker was sympathetic to the National Assembly, and the French saw his dismissal as a direct attack on the Assembly.

In response, a group of angry French citizens stormed the Bastille Prison in Paris on July 14, 1789. The revolutionaries stole gun powder and weapons in order to be able to defend themselves against the monarchy. The Storming of the Bastille is often considered to be the debut of the French Revolution.

4. Declaration of the Rights of Man, August 26, 1789

On August 26, 1789, the National Assembly released “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.” The document contained the basic beliefs of the revolutionaries. It boasted 17 articles, the most important declared that all men were born free and equal. The charter would inspire the new French constitution.

5. Women’s march on Versailles, October 5, 1789

Women's March

A contemporary illustration of the Women’s March on Versailles by Gallica Digital Library – WikiCommons

Due to irresponsible spending and poor harvests, the people of France were going hungry. Plus, the king raised the price of bread to make up for his financial problems. This only served to fuel the revolutionaries’ fire and there was much unrest. Groups of women began to protest in the Parisian markets, with little to no response from the monarchy.

On October 5, 1789, a group of mostly women marched from Paris to Versailles. They were frustrated that the royal family seemed to live in a world of luxury completely separate from their own. The group killed several palace guards and demanded that the king live in Paris amongst the people. Left with no choice, the royal family was forced to follow the mob back to Paris where they were placed under the watchful eye of the new National guards.

6. The Royal family attempts to escape, June 20, 1791

Louis XVI is brought back to Paris, by Duplessi-Bertaux – WikiCommons

Newly installed in Paris, the king began to fear for his own life and his family’s. He came up with a plan to flee from France and set up camp in Austria to wait out the Revolution.

On June 20, 1791, the royal family disguised themselves as servants and were able to sneak out of the Tuileries Palace where they were being held by the National guards. However, the very next day the king was recognized in Varennes. He and the rest of the family were quickly arrested and brought back to Paris.

7. The King’s execution, January 21, 1793

The execution of Louis XVI

The execution of Louis XVI by Georg Heinrich Sievking – WikiCommons

After the royal family’s attempt to flee France, popular opinion really began to turn against King Louis XVI and the French considered him a traitor. On August 10, 1792, a group of around 20,000 angry Parisians stormed the Tuileries Palace demanding justice. The king and the queen were arrested and placed in jail.

On September 21, 1792, the monarchy was officially abolished and France was officially a new Republic. The Republic charged the king with treason, and he was found guilty. On January 21, 1793, the King was executed in front of a crowd in Paris by guillotine.

8. The Reign of Terror, September 1793-July 1794

Reign of Terror

Many lost their lives during the Reign of Terror – WikiCommons

The Reign of Terror is one of the darkest periods in French history. Before it began, in March 1793, the National Assembly was replaced by the National Convention. Within the Convention was a group called the Committee of Public Safety, which was created to protect the new Republic against traitors. The head of the committee was a man named Maximilien Robespierre.

Robespierre arrested 500,000 suspected traitors. 17,000 were executed by the committee, and 25,000 died in custody.

9. Robespierre’s execution, July 27, 1794

Robespierre

The execution of Robespierre and his supporters on 28 July 1794 by History Stack – Flickr

Ironically, Robespierre let his newfound power go to his head and began to get out of control. Other members of the committee and the new government began to fear for their lives in the midst of Robespierre’s killing spree.

On July 27, 1794, Robespierre was guillotined like so many of his victims, bringing an end to the Reign of Terror.

10. Coup d’état, November 9-10, 1799

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte, 1805 by Unknown – WikiCommons

After Robespierre’s death, a new constitution was written. This new document created a group of leaders called the Directory which was made up of 5 members. But, as more time went on the Directory became corrupt and began to experience financial difficulties due to mismanagement.

On November 9-10, 1799, a coup d’état forced out the Directory and replaced it with three “consuls,” one of whom was Napoleon Bonaparte. This coup is sometimes called the Coup of 18th Brumaire (in reference to the date according to the new French Revolution calendar), and many historians consider it to be the end of the French Revolution.

Conclusion

You’ve likely already heard of the French Revolution, and now you know the most important dates of the movement! This inspiring moment in French history would go on to have an impact on France and Europe for decades to come, so it’s important to know at least a little bit about the details!

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