Top 5 fun facts about the French Revolution
If you’re curious and want to know more about French history and events that influenced the world’s history, here is a little history lesson and some fun facts to go with it! You thought you knew everything about the French Revolution, the abolition of the privileges, the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and the Citizen of 1789? Well, maybe you will learn some new things today! Read on to find out our top 5 fun facts about the French Revolution.
Fun fact nº1: A very active “National Razor”
The revolution and the reign of terror that ensued, led by Robespierre, have caused thousands of casualties: over 18,000 people were beheaded in all, although some historians estimate the deaths to go as far as 40,000. But it’s a case of the biter bit because Robespierre himself was executed by the guillotine (more information about the guillotine here), on July, 28th of 1794.
Same goes for our dear Louis XVI. He experienced first-hand an “improvement” of the guillotine that he had contributed to. Indeed, word is that he was the one to suggest that a triangular blade might make the guillotine more efficient.
But you may have thought that the horror of the guillotine ended with the Revolution: well, it didn’t. Prisoners sentenced to death could still be executed by way of guillotine until death sentence was abolished in 1981, although the last execution happened in 1977.
Fun fact nº2: That’s unfortunate
Here is a little-known fact. When things really heated up in France, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and the family, afraid for their safety, tried to escape the country.
But they were caught right at the border. For people who didn’t live in Versailles, it was difficult to know what the royal family looked like. There were no pictures, no paintings available to the working classes. But there was still one direct “contact” between the French and the King: the coins!
It seems strange that this carefully planned escape failed because of coins, but it is true! A fun fact about the French revolution is that Louis XVI got recognized because of those small pieces of gold. Then, they were brought back to Paris and sentenced to death… But did you know that Louis XVI almost escaped the death sentence?
Fun fact nº3: Can’t count on anyone
Indeed, the fate of the King was voted in the Parliament. Three hundred and sixty-one voted in favor of the execution, two hundred and eighty-eight voted against it. But as it was later found out, many of the members of Parliament didn’t dare to go against the majority.
And a fun fact about the French revolution is that Louis XVI’s own cousin voted in favor of the execution! The King was executed at Place de la Concorde, that used to be called Place de la Révolution (Revolution Square, in English). Called Louis Philippe d’Orléans but most commonly known as Philippe Egalité, that man was more liberal than the rest of his family. Still, he ended up being beheaded as well. However, his unexpected gesture counted in the eyes of the revolutionaries, because after the revolution of 1830, it was Philippe Egalité’s son who was crowned king, as a sign of the renewal of the monarchy.
Fun fact nº4: Bastille Day: 14.07.1789
The event that is commonly known as marking the beginning of the French Revolution is the storming of the Bastille prison. But a fun fact linked to this is that there were actually only seven prisoners in the prison that day! One of them being the infamous Marquis de Sade, who gave his name to sadism.
And another fun fact about the French Revolution and Bastille is that the building was torn down by hand by the revolutionaries since most of them were peasants who didn’t have access to explosives or more destructive weapons. In fact, the attackers were way more interested in the stock of arms and powder kept within the walls of the prison than in the prisoners.
Fun fact nº5: The last day of Marie-Antoinette
Marie-Antoinette was despised during her life, but she is more loved today and more famous than any other French queen. This is why some historians have tried to rehabilitate her reputation: for instance, she was believed to have said, when the Parisians came to Versailles to ask for bread: “If they can’t have bread, let them have cake“. But, very likely, she never said that, and the rumors of the time distorted who she truly was.
In fact, the last words she is supposed to have said are “I’m sorry“, for stepping on the executioner’s toe… How sad! And another fun fact about the French Revolution and about the most famous Queen of France is that Marie-Antoinette supposedly gave the executioner a purse full of gold coins, to make sure that the blade was sharp and that her death was going to be clean and quick. Like the King, she was executed at Place de la Concorde.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our top 5 fun fact about the French Revolution. Beyond these fun facts about the Revolution, that one may find gory, keep in mind that everything that happened during that period had a durable impact on the French mentality. Don’t blame the French, blame the Revolution! And if you are interested in more facts about the French Revolution, go to the Palace of Versailles to relive those troubled times.