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Online History Dictionary A - Z

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Fall of the Bastille - July 14, 1789


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Joan of Arc in a Nutshell


French Revolution Glossary A-Z

:: Ancien Régime
Ancien régime is French for Old Rule, also translated as Old Order, and refers to the government, the political and social order of France before the Revolution.

:: Calendar
or rather French Republican Calendar
The French Republican Calendar was the official timetable of the French from September 22, 1792, until December 31, 1805.

For the French revolutionary soul, the Gregorian Calendar, the one we are using today, reminded too much of religion.

On October 5, 1793, the National Convention decided to use the Republican Calendar instead of the Gregorian Calendar.

On that day, the Republican Calendar was put in place retroactively. The first day of the first year of this calendar was the date of the proclamation of the Republic — September 22, 1792.

September 22, 1792, was 1 Vendémiaire, year I.

Weeks were replaced by décades of ten days. Each of the twelve months had exactly 30 days, or 3 décades.

At the end of the 360 days, five public holidays were added and a sixth day every fourth year, to celebrate the sanculottide.

The 12 months of the Republican Calendar were poetically named with reference to agriculture and climate:

Vendémiaire (vintage)
September 22 to October 21

Brumaire (mist)
October 22 to November 20

Frimaire (frost)
November 21 to December 20

Nivôse (snow)
December 21 to January 19

Pluviôse (rain)
January 20 to February 18

Ventôse (wind)
February 19 to March 20

Germinal (seedtime)
March 21 to April 19

Floréal (blossom)
April 20 to May 19

Prairial (meadow)
May 20 to June 18

Messidor (harvest)
June 19 to July 18

Thermidor (heat)
July 19 to August 17

Fructidor (fruits)
August 18 to September 16

Here is an excellent French Republican Calendar Converter put up by Stephen P. Morse:

Go to Stephen's French Calendar converter

:: Committee of Public Safety
The Committee of Public Safety was established on April 6, 1793. There were 9,  and later 12, members of this committee, who were to be re-elected each month.

The National Convention thought it would be a good idea to set up this committee in order to be able to more effectively coordinate measures against foreign and domestic threats.

First president of the Committee was  Georges Danton, who was a moderate. Too moderate, people thought, and in July 1793, he was replaced by Robespierre and other men of Robespierre's caliber.

Power thus centralized in the hands of a few radicals, the Committee became bigger than its creator and introduced the Reign of Terror. Georges Danton himself ended up on the guillotine in April 1794.

The power and importance of the Committee of Public Safety faded after Robespierre's execution in July 1794.

However, it still had power over matters regarding foreign affairs and war. In March 1796, for example, the Committee decided to make Napoleon commander of the army of Italy.

The Consulate was the French government from 1799 to 1804.

Officially, three consuls ( Napoleon,  Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, and  Pierre-Roger Ducos) were in power. Unofficially, Napoleon was the only one in charge.

In 1804, Napoleon decided to drop the pretense and declared himself emperor.

:: Corvée
The unpaid labor that you owed to your lord (seigniorial corvée) or to your king (royal corvée) if you were a vassal.

The word derives from Latin corrogata opera, which means requested work.

A French peasant who lived in the year 800 was obliged to work 180 days per year for free for his lord.

In time, free labor for a lord was replaced by a tax.

Louis XIV brought back a royal corvée for road and highway constructions.

In 1787, Louis XVI decided that the royal corvée had to be paid in form of a tax, which was added to your regular tax, the taille.

In 1789, the Constituent Assembly abolished the corvée.

Today, spoiled French teenagers still complain about corvée when told to clean up their rooms. But only the educated ones.


:: Directory
The Directory (French: Directoire) was the French government from November 1795 to November 1799. It had been created by the  National Convention, which prepared its constitutional foundation.

The Directory had two chambers: The lower house, also called the Council of Five Hundred, or Conseil de Cinq-Cents, with 500 delegates, and the Council of Elders, or Conseil des Anciens, with 250 delegates.

The 500 were to suggest laws, the 250 were to approve them. Executive authority was in the hands of five directors, elected by both chambers. These directors were Barras, Rewbell, Lareveillère, Letourneur, and Carnot.

The Directory was a complete disaster because it was corrupt and had no teeth, i.e. it could not implement or enforce its own decisions.

On September 4, 1797, the Directory had royalists and other undesired individuals not only banned from the administration but also deported, just to be sure. This was the Coup of 18 Fructidor, year V. Executive in charge was General Augereau.

Napoleon was behind the coup that ended the Directory on November 9-10, 1799, also called the Coup of 18-19 Brumaire, year VIII.

The Consulate became the new government of France.

The Conseil des Cinq-Cents existed from October 27, 1795 - December 26, 1799.

:: Émigrés
French aristocrats who emigrated because of the French Revolution and who tried to re-establish their power from abroad. French nobles in exile.

:: Estates-General
Also called the States General (French: États-Généraux or simply États), this was an assembly of deputies from the three estates, also called the three orders:

the clergy
(First Estate)

the nobility
(Second Estate)

the commons
(Third Estate)

The Estates-General existed under the French monarchy and met more or less regularly to discuss matters of public interest. Their powers were advisory only.

The Estates-General assembled for the first time on April 10, 1302, prompted by French King Philip IV the Fair who needed support in his struggle with Pope Boniface VIII.

The Estates-General assembled for the last time on May 5, 1789, at Versailles.

Technically, they met once more on July 9, 1789, only to confirm the creation of the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale), that had been proclaimed on June 17, 1789.

:: Ferme Générale
The Ferme Générale, or General Tax Farm, was an organization that collected indirect taxes for the King.

The lease for the royal permission to collect was awarded every six years.

The Ferme Générale employed its tax collectors, the fermiers-généraux, or farmers-general.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert created the Ferme Générale in 1681. It was abolished in 1791.

:: Gabelle
The gabelle, or gabela, was a tax on salt established back in 1341 under Philip VI of Valois.

By 1789, the salt tax had become a ridiculously unequal tax in France.

Here is a map:

Map Gabelle France 1789
Map Gabelle France 1789

The gabelle was abolished in 1790.

Here is more about the gabelle.

:: Girondists
A Girondist, or Girondin, was a member of the moderate republican party of France from 1791 to 1793. Their policy was also referred to as Girondism.

It's leaders were the deputies from Gironde, a department located in southwestern France. See map

Map of the Gironde Department, France 1790
Gironde Department, France 1790

:: Jacobins

A Jacobin was a member of the radical Jacobin Club, the most famous political group of the French Revolution, associated with extreme views and violence. The Jacobins led the French Revolutionary government from mid-1793 to mid-1794. Their goal was absolute equality.

The Jacobins started out calling themselves the Society of the Friends of the Constitution (from 1789 to 1792) and then switched to become the Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Liberty and Equality (from 1792 to 1794.)

The name Jacobins derives from their club house, a former convent of the Dominicans, who built it near the church of Saint Jacques (Saint Jacobus or Saint James) in Paris.

One of the Jacobin leaders was  Maximilien de Robespierre. Another famous member of the Jacobins was  Napoleon.

In the National Convention, the Jacobins were known as the Montagnards.

:: La Plaine (The Plain)

La Plaine were those deputies in the National Convention who were seated on the floor and had the majority. Members of La Plaine were mostly moderate.

At first, La Plaine voted with the Girondins, but later, when it came to Louis XVI's execution, with the Montagnards. In the end, they acted against the Montagnards and against the Committee of Public Safety.

:: Lettre de Cachet
Cachet is the French word for stamp or seal.

By means of a lettre de cachet, a letter with the royal seal and co-signed by a secretary of state, the King could summon anyone anywhere willy-nilly.

Some of these letters put individuals into prison without trial or hearing (see  Bastille), some summoned political bodies of people to assemble or to appear before His Royal Highness.

The lettres de cachet appeared in the mid-sixteenth century and were used, at first, exceptionally. Later, their usage grew proportionally to the usage of royal absolutism.

Originally, the King issued these letters because he felt like doing so. Later, more and more individuals sent applications for such a letter.

As a police officer in Paris you could apply for lettres de cachet to keep your streets crime free, the advantage being a, if not necessarily just but speedy incarceration process. In the 18th century, lieutenants of the police have been using these lettres more than 60,000 times.

Families could seek a lettre de cachet for their "libertine son", "unfaithful husband", "promiscuous wife", or simply "insane uncle" etc.

Under King Louis XV, who ruled 1715-1774, the lettre de cachet was in demand like it had never been before. A massive amount of ministers was required to go through these applications and to approve or deny them.

Criticism grew, accusing the monarchy of targeting innocent victims of private vendettas and family feuds. The arbitrary use of the lettres de cachet became a symbol of intolerable absolutism.

The Constituent Assembly abolished the lettre de cachet in 1790, carefully seeing to it that a good number of those imprisoned at the time would stay where they were.

:: Montagnards
A Montagnard (French for Mountain Man) was a Jacobin in the National Convention, and so called because they were seated on the higher benches at the convention.

:: National Assembly
The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) grew out of the
Estates-General, a solely advisory council to the King.

The National Assembly was established by the Third Estate on  June 17, 1789, and became the first French revolutionary parliament.

It existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, when its legitimacy was confirmed by the First and the Second Estate, and it was renamed National Constituent Assembly.

The National Constituent Assembly was active until September 30, 1791. On October 1, 1791, the Legislative Assembly, became its successor.

National Assembly — Achievements:

Abolition of feudal privileges
August 4, 1789

Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
August 26, 1789

Nationalization of Church property
November 2, 1789

Civil Constitution of the Clergy
July 12, 1790

Prohibition of strikes and workers' unions
Le Chapelier Law, June 14, 1791

Constitution of 1791
Accepted by the King on September 14, 1791

Penal Code
September 25, 1791

And here is a list of the
presidents of the National Assembly 1789-1791.

:: National Convention
The French National Convention (Convention Nationale) was the government of France from September 21, 1792 until October 26, 1795.

The National Convention replaced the Legislative Assembly (Assemblée Législative,) which had been in session from October 1, 1791, to September 21, 1792.

This assembly, the National Convention, consisted of 749 elected deputies. They met for the first time on September 21, 1792, and immediately abolished the monarchy. The very next day they established the French Republic.

Altogether, the National Convention issued 15,414 decrees.

National Convention — Timeline & Factions:

- From September 1792 to May 1793, the National Convention was overshadowed by the power struggle between the  Montagnards and the  Girondins.

- The Girondins lost and the Montagnards controlled the National Convention from June 1793. They set up the  Committee of Public Safety, which dominated the National Convention until July 1794.

- The Reign of Terror ruled from September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794, during which a suspect had no rights whatsoever and people were executed by the bunch.

- The Committee became too radical for many moderate members of the National Convention from the center, also called The Plain (La Plaine) and was toppled by them. This was the Revolution of 9 Thermidor, year II, or July 27, 1794.

After the overthrow of the Committee, the Girondins were recalled to the convention.

The National Convention was replaced by the Directory in November 1795.

:: Parlement
A judicative, administrative, and political institution in France during the Middle Ages and under the ancien régime.

Not to be confused with the English parliament. (nervous chuckle)

The parlements represented the nation while the  Estates General was not in session.

Its members (referred to as legislative representatives, judges, magistrates, or Nobles of the Robe) were expected to register royal edicts, thus writing them into law. But they could refuse to do so, in which case the king could still overrule their decision via mail (lettre de jussion) or in person (lit de justice).

And it would sound like this,

"Il n'appartient point à mon parlement de douter de mon pouvoir, ni de celui que je lui ai confié."

In other words:

"It does not belong to my parliament to doubt my power, nor that in which I have invested it."

The king could also direct someone to stage a lit de justice in His Majesty's name.

Lit de justice, by the way, means literally translated bed of justice, referring to the original seat that was created with great pomp for the king when he visited the parlement in the 14th century. It was a pimped out portable throne, including platform, seat, drapes, canopy, and fleur-de-lis wall coverings.

The parlements did not have the power to create laws on behalf of the nation.

Other than "law making," the parlements were judges of civil and criminal cases, in fact, they were the highest courts of justice, the supreme courts.

In 1789, the jurisdiction of the parlement of Paris covered a third of the kingdom, and France had 13 sovereign courts plus 4 minor courts (Artois, Alsace, Roussillon, Corsica).

Here is the map

Laws, Courts, Parlements - France 1789

Depending on the issue at hand, there were next to the parlements a few other supreme courts, such as the Chambre des Comptes, the Cour des Aides, the Cour des Monnaies, and the Châtelet.


:: Sansculottes
A Sansculotte, or Sans-Culotte, was a supporter of the French Revolution from the poorer or lower class.

Culottes were knee-breeches worn by the upper classes. The lower class wore pantalons, or long trousers. Sans is French for without.

The Sansculottes were associated with an extreme radical and militant view. Hence, it was also possible to run into people from the upper class who shared these views and called themselves Sansculottes while wearing culottes.

Just FYI, today's culottes look like this:

Victoria's Secret Boxer Culottes

And if someone today describes you as being culotté (adjective), you're being sassy, cheeky, or daring.




French Revolution 1789 – 1799
La Liberté ou la Mort ! – Liberty or Death!


French Revolution 1789–1799

The French Revolution is also called The Revolution of 1789.

Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood was one of the mottos in the French Revolution. Such honorable goals, however, could not prevent the gruesome Reign of Terror.

The Revolution also introduced the guillotine, the infamous device for decapitation, in 1792.


Image Above

La Liberté ou la Mort ! – Liberty or Death

Gouache by Jean-Baptiste Lesueur, who lived 1749-1826, and who created this artwork around 1792.
Formerly attributed to Pierre-Etienne Lesueur.

Underneath it reads on the left:

"LE CRIS FRANCAIS / Des Citoyens de tous états se rencontrant dans les rues / se réunissoient, et poussoient ensemble le terrible cris de / La Liberté ou la Mort."

And on the right it reads:

"Départ pour les frontières d'un Citoyen / Volontaire, accompagné de sa femme, de ses / enfants et d'une parente son cousin Le / serrurier porte le Havresac."

In other words:

The French cry / Citizens of all estates come together in the streets / they gather and shout out unitedly the terrible cry of / Liberty or Death.

A citizen's departure to the frontiers / A volunteer, accompanied by his wife, his / children and a relative his cousin The / locksmith carries the knapsack.

Musée Carnavalet

What Caused the French Revolution?

The immediate cause of the French Revolution was France's financial crisis after having supported the American Revolution against Britain.

France was broke. Which lead to the question, Who should come up with the money — the clergy, the nobility, or the common people? Which lead to the question, Shouldn't these three social groups be treated equally when it comes to paying taxes? Which lead to the question, If everyone is equal, what's a king doing in France?

People were done with the monarchy and wanted a change. (Ironically, the monarchy returned to power in 1814 with  Louis XVIII.)

But revolutions are never as simple as that. In a nutshell, the French Revolution was the result of many economical and social problems.


France Before the Revolution

The Country
Before the French Revolution, France looked like this on a map:

France 1789
France before the Revolution
Click to enlarge

His Majesty the King
The King of France had absolute powers. He was responsible to God alone, which could heighten his sense of accountability, but effectively meant nothing if it didn't.

With God or without, it had become common practice in law making to consult with His Majesty's ministers. What were their powers? They could refuse to register the king's edicts. It was frowned upon not to consider the opinion of his parlement. But in the end, the King could always overrule his minister's veto with impunity.

France had no written constitution. Royal power was executed according to tradition.

The Administration
In 1789, France was divided into 34 généralités, each one taken care of by a royal intendant. Here is a map of the generalities or intendancies:

Map of the generalities (généralités) or intendancies and their capitals.
Map of the generalities (généralités) or intendancies and their capitals.
Click to enlarge.

The French Nation
In 1789, France was the most populated country in Europe. France represented one sixth of the European population. By 1914, it was less than one tenth, and in 1950 one fourteenth.

Eighteenth century France had a population of about 26,000,000 people. Around 21,000,000 of them depended on farming.

French society was a social order of privileges.

If you were male and a member of the clergy (First Estate) you belonged to a group of about 120,000 people, but you owned 1/10 of the land. But you had to be a bishop. There was not much money in being just a regular priest.

If you were male or female and belonged to the nobility (Second Estate) you belonged to a group of around 250,000 to 400,000 people, but you owned 1/5 of the land.

If you were anything else (Third Estate) chances were 50/50 that you couldn't read. Although you guys owned over 1/4 of the land, it stood in no proportion to the number of your population and it was by no means enough to feed all of you. The Third Estate represented at least 96% of the French nation.

Many offices could be bought or inherited. Attached to these offices came ennoblement and tax privileges.

And speaking of taxes and tolls, smuggling was rampant to such an extent that in 1783 a wall was built encircling Paris.

See also Taxation in Pre-Revolutionary France.


The Revolution Builds — Brief Summary

After supporting the Colonists in the American Revolution (1775-1783,) France faced serious national debts. Representatives of clergy, nobility, and the common people (also called the Third Estate) met at Versailles to discuss their options.

Conflict of interests made negotiations impossible. The deputies of the Commons finally declared they were prepared to proceed alone, and, on June 17, 1789, formed a  National Assembly.

The king, Louis XVI, was not pleased and locked them out of their meeting hall.

This prompted the Commons to occupy Louis' indoor tennis court, taking an oath not to leave until a written constitution had been agreed upon. This was the Tennis Court Oath of June 20, 1789.

The Tennis Court Oath, June 20, 1789
The Tennis Court Oath, June 20, 1789*
Le Serment du Jeu de Paume, le 20 juin 1789
In the center standing on a table is the astronomer Jean-Sylvain Bailly, who was appointed president of the Third Estate on May 5, 1789. He reads the text of the oath.
Oil on canvas by Jacques-Louis David, who lived 1748-1825.
Musée Carnavalet

* Please note that the official English title of this painting might be misleading, especially if you are into sports. Tennis and Jeu de Paume are obviously not the same thing.  For more see here. Thanks Marleen for kindly prodding me to double clarify this.


On July 10, 1789, the National Assembly was renamed National Constituent Assembly.

On July 11, 1789, the king fired his popular finance minister, Jacques Necker.


What Started the French Revolution?

The French Revolution officially begun with the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789.

A mob stormed the Bastille prison in Paris and demanded from the guards to hand over the arms and ammunition that were stored there.

The guards refused, the mob wouldn't take a no for an answer and captured the prison, thus proving that power resided with the people. The days of the ancien régime were over.

La Prise de la Bastille (The Storming of the Bastille) - Jean-Pierre Hovel 1789
La Prise de la Bastille (The Storming of the Bastille)
Illustrated in the center of the painting is the arrest of Bernard Rene Jourdan,
the Marquis de Launay
. He was the last governor of the Bastille.
The mob had him lynched later that day.
Painting by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel, 1789.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France


Here is more on the Bastille, its history, its prisoners, and what it stood for.


The Great Fear of July 1789

Rumors of a conspiracy by the king and the aristocracy prompted peasants to pillage and burn the houses of nobles and to destroy feudal records.

This became known as the Great Fear of July 1789. These developments led to the abolishment of the feudal regime and the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.

One of the new laws of this declaration seized lands from the Roman Catholic Church in order to pay the national debt. Additionally, the church was subjected to severe reorganization. Pope Pius VI was not amused.

King Louis didn't show himself cooperative and the people of Paris decided to pay him a visit at his castle at Versailles, forcing the royal family to relocate to the Tuileries Palace at Paris. These were the October Days (October 5 and 6, 1789.)

Central Europe 1789
Click map to enlarge



The French Revolution Runs Its Course

Compared with 1789, the year 1790 seemed all in all more harmonious for the French, especially with a draft of the constitution in their pocket, and with patriotic events like the  Festival of the Federation being held etc.

But in 1791, Louis XVI made a big mistake when he tried to flee the country.

This act showed everyone who still had doubts, that Louis secretly desired that the Austrian and Prussian armies would help him restore absolutism. He was caught, forced to return, and the little credibility that he had left was gone for good.

Meanwhile, the monarchies of neighboring nations were alarmed by the French Revolution.

In France, war was desired by royalists and revolutionists alike because they believed it would rally the nation to their respective causes.

France declared war against Austria in 1792 and the  French Revolutionary Wars began.

Originally, France experienced reverses, and these made the French population susceptible to the ideas of extremists. The revolution turned radical.

The French Republic was proclaimed. The king was tried for treason and executed. Countless arrests of royalist and supposed sympathizers followed.

The news of the advance of the Coalition added panic to radical. The killing of more than a thousand political prisoners within six days in 1792 became known as the  September Massacres and indicated what was still to come.


July 28: Liberty Leading the People - Eugène Delacroix
July 28: Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix


Image Above

This painting was created by Delacroix in 1831. "July 28" refers to July 28, 1830, which puts it in the middle of the July Revolution. The July Revolution was fought for three days — from July 27 to July 29, 1830.

How does this painting relate to the French Revolution?

Let the smart people from the Louvre explain:

The allegory of Liberty is personified by a young woman of the people wearing the Phrygian cap, her curls escaping onto her neck. Vibrant, fiery, rebellious, and victorious, she evokes the Revolution of 1789, the sans-culotte, and popular sovereignty. In her raised right hand is the red, white, and blue flag, a symbol of struggle that unfurls toward the light like a flame.


The towers of Notre Dame represent liberty and Romanticism — as they did for Victor Hugo — and situate the action in Paris. Their position on the left bank of the Seine is inexact, and the houses between the Cathedral and the river are pure products of the painter's imagination.


This realistic and innovative work, a symbol of Liberty and the pictorial revolution, was rejected by the critics, who were used to more classical representations of reality.


It is now perceived as a universal work — a representation of romantic and revolutionary fervor, heir to the historical painting of the 18th century and forerunner of Picasso's Guernica in the 20th.

And if you are wondering why Liberty couldn't get her shaving together, or why the other guy lost sock and pants, go to the  official site of the Louvre and read all about it.

Back to the French Revolution of 1789.


The Reign of Terror

Extreme revolutionary actions triggered counterrevolutionary unrest. This, in turn, was met with even more brutality.

During two years of terror (July 1792 to July 1794) approx. 300,000 suspects were arrested and 16,594 individuals had been condemned to death by the Revolutionary Tribunal. Among them was former  Queen Marie Antoinette.

All in all, the victims of the two years of terror were approx. 35,000 to 40,000.

Strictly speaking, the Reign of Terror refers to the phase from September 5, 1793, to July 28, 1794.

Many died in prison or were killed without trial. Meanwhile, the revolutionary government had launched a mass military recruitment (August 1793) and became victorious at war (the  French Revolutionary Wars.)

The Reign of Terror, now spearheaded by Robespierre, kept gaining momentum. 

Between June 10 and July 21, 1794, also called the Great Terror, the terror reached its peak. Within these six weeks, the Revolutionary Tribunal had 2,554 persons guillotined. Soon, Robespierre himself was guillotined.

Resistance broke out in form of the White Terror led by the royalists.

The Directory, notorious for its corruption, became the new revolutionary government. This government maintained power for the remaining four years of the Revolution.

France in Provinces, showing the Customs Frontiers, 1769 - 1789
1769 - 1789 France


What Ended the French Revolution?

By a coup, on November 9-10, 1799,  Napoleon became First Consul of France and proclaimed the end of the Revolution. This also ended the Directory.


And here's a map of Paris during the Revolution:

Paris during the Revolution
Click to enlarge



Key Events of the French Revolution — Brief Timeline

1789, May 5 - The Estates-General (États généraux) opens session at Versailles.

1789, June 17 - Formation of the National Assembly. Unofficially, the Revolution has just begun.

1789, June 20 - Tennis Court Oath. Declared goal to switch from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy. Hence, a written constitution was needed.

1789, June 27 - Louis XVI orders the clergy and the nobility to join with the Third Estate in the National Assembly.

1789, July 14 - Storm of the Bastille. The Revolution officially begins.

1789, August 4 - Abolition of privileges and the feudal regime.

1789, August 26 and 27 - Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, a draft of a constitution.

1789, October 5 and 6 - The royal family has to move from Versailles to Paris.

1790, July 14 - Festival of the Federation (Fête de la Fédération)

1791, June 21 - The king and his family try to flee the country. They are caught at Varennes and brought back to Paris.

1791, July 17 - Champs-de-Mars Shooting (Fusillade du Champs-de-Mars)

1791, August 27 - Austria and Prussia issue their  Declaration of Pillnitz in which they call on all European monarchs to aid in the restoration of the French monarchy.

1791, September 13 - King Louis XVI accepts the new constitution. The next day, he signs it in front of the National Assembly.

1792, April 20 - War declaration against Austria. The French Revolutionary Wars begin.

1792, June 13 - Recall of the Girondin ministers

1792, August 10 - Storming of the Tuileries. Overthrow of the monarchy. France is now a republic. The First Terror begins.

1792, August 13 - The royal family is thrown into the Temple prison.

1792, September 2-6 - September Massacres

1792, September 21 - Formal abolition of the monarchy. The  National Convention is the new government of France.

1792, September 22 - Proclamation of Republic.
First day of the French Republican Calendar.
Today is 1 Vendémiaire, year I.

1792, December 25 - Louis XVI signs his Last Will

1793, January 21 - Execution of Louis XVI

1793, March 11 - The Wars of the Vendée begin.

1793, June 2 - Fall of the Brissotins (Girondins)

1793, June 24 - Constitution of the Year I

1793, July 13 - Charlotte Corday, a Girondin, assassinates Montagnard leader Jean-Paul Marat in his bath.

The Assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday
The Assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday
Oil on canvas by Paul Baudry, who lived 1828-1886
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes


1793, September 5 - July 27, 1794 - The Reign of Terror

1793, September 10 - The National Convention decrees the Revolutionary Government until peace is restored.

1793, September 17 - The Law of Suspects is passed, authorizing the creation of revolutionary tribunals to try those suspected of treason against the Republic and to punish those convicted with death.

1793, October 5 - The French republican calendar replaces the Gregorian calendar. It is implemented retroactively and will be used until January 1, 1806.

1793, October 16 - Execution of  Marie Antoinette.

1793, December 4 - The National Convention confirms the creation of the Revolutionary Government by passing the Law of 14 Frimaire, year II.

1794, June 8 - Festival of the Supreme Being (Fête de l’Être Suprême)

1794, June 10 - Beginning of the Great Terror

1794, July 28 - Execution of Robespierre

1795, May 20 - Insurrection of the Sansculottes

1795, August 22 - Constitution of the year III

1795, October 27 - The Conseil des Cinq-Cents replaces the Convention Nationale

1795, October 31 - Inauguration of the Directory

1796, April 10 - Beginning of the Italian Campaign.

1797, September 4 - Coup d'état of 18 Fructidor, year V. Encouraged by Napoleon, the Directory eliminates the royalists from the government.

1798, May 11 - Coup d'état of 22 Floréal, year VI. The Directory invalidates half of all elections to eliminate the Jacobins.

1798, July - Beginning of the Egypt Campaign.

1799, November 9  Napoleon takes power (Coup d'Etat du 18 Brumaire). The Revolution ends. The Directory is replaced by the Consulate.


Political Aftershocks, Mini-Revolutions, and Coups Following July 14, 1789

Filtered from the list above, the following events redefined or challenged the government.

December 4, 1793
Law of 14 Frimaire, year II
The National Convention establishes the Revolutionary government.

July 27, 1794
Revolution of 9 Thermidor, year II
The National Convention ends the Reign of Terror that was created and kept alive by the Committee of Public Safety.

May 20, 1795
Revolt of 1 Prairial, year III
The uprising of the Sansculottes.

September 4, 1797
Coup of 18 Fructidor, year V
The Directory extracts royalists and other undesired individuals from the administration.

May 11, 1798
Coup of 22 Floréal, year VI
The Directory monkeys with the election results to get rid of the Jacobins.

November 9-10, 1799
Coup of 18-19 Brumaire, year VIII
The Directory ends, the Consulate begins.

May 18, 1804
Proclamation of the Empire
The Consulate declares Napoleon I Bonaparte Emperor of France.


French Revolutionary Slipper
French Revolutionary Slipper
Liberty Heels at the Musées de France


More Timelines

Here is a different  French Revolution Timeline, illustrating the revolution in the stream of time alongside the American Revolution and the American Civil War.

And here are the detailed timelines:

French Revolution Timeline: 1789

French Revolution Timeline: 1790

French Revolution Timeline: 1791

French Revolution timelines for the years 1792-1799 are combined with the French Revolutionary Wars timelines:

French Revolutionary Wars Timeline - 1792

French Revolutionary Wars Timeline - 1793

French Revolutionary Wars Timeline - 1794

French Revolutionary Wars Timeline - 1795

French Revolutionary Wars Timeline - 1796

French Revolutionary Wars Timeline - 1797

French Revolutionary Wars Timeline - 1798

French Revolutionary Wars Timeline - 1799



See also  Governments of France

And maybe Forms of Government

And here is a chart of the French armies from 1791-1802, their creation, their commanders, their timeline.



More French Revolution Maps

France in 1789. The "Gouvernements", The Generalities or Intendancies, The Salt Tax, and Laws and Courts.
1789 France

Paris 1789
1789 Paris

Revolutionary Paris
1789 Revolutionary Paris

Versailles in 1789
1789 Versailles

France 1790
1790 France




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