The ideals and aspirations of the French Revolution are best described with the words of one of its many mottoes: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”! The words were first spoken by Maximilian Robespierre in a 1790 speech that echoed and spread around France. He even advocated that the words “The French People” and “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” be written on uniforms and flags, but his proposal was rejected. It was a time for the establishment of civil equality in the country and radical social change.
To feel that wind of change in 18th century’s France we’ve prepared a stack of interesting facts about the French revolution…just for the revolutionary in you!
The wasteful spending by King Louis XVI and his ancestors had left the country on the brink of bankruptcy.
The political and social rebellion in France that began in 1789 as a result of the inequalities that existed between the rich and poor was known as the French Revolution.
There were many reasons for the revolution to occur. Even though the bourgeoisie—merchants, manufacturers, professionals had achieved financial power they had no political power.
When was that crucial moment for the revolution to become inevitable? When the king intended to increase the tax on the poor and expand it to classes that had previously been relieved.
The French Revolution started on the 14th of July, 1789 when the people of France raged the Bastille in Paris, the royal stronghold that had been transformed into a prison.
The people overthrew the monarchy and took control of the government.
On the 17th of June, 1789, members of the Third Estate (commoners) met alone and formally adopted the title of the National Assembly.
Three days later they met in a nearby indoor tennis court and took the so-called Tennis Court Oath swearing not to disperse until constitutional reform had been achieved.
Most of the clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles had joined them and on June 27 Louis XVI reluctantly absorbed all three orders into the new assembly.
The revolution lasted for 10 years from 1789 to 1799.
The 14th of July is now the celebrated Bastille Day. It’s the French version of America’s 4th of July.
There were only seven prisoners in the prison the day when the people stormed in the Bastille. One of them was the notorious Marquis de Sade, who gave his name to sadism.
The Bastille 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.
The invaders were way more interested in the supply of arms and powder kept within the walls of the prison than in the prisoners.
Feudalism was abolished on the 4th of August, 1789, by the National Constituent Assembly.
Found in the Museum of Lausanne is a copy of the French Republican Calendar
The Assembly also adopted the Declaration of the rights of man and the citizen.
The Assembly’s commitment was to replace the old regime with a system based on equal opportunity, freedom of speech, popular authority, and representative government.
Between late 1793 and 1805, the Gregorian calendar was replaced with the French Revolutionary Calendar. 12 months were divided into three ten-day weeks, each ending in a day of rest and fiesta equivalent to Sunday.
A 1793 verdict from the National Assembly required all privately owned exotic animals to be transferred to the zoo at Versailles or be killed, stuffed, and donated to the scientists. Luckily the animals’ lives were spared and a new zoo opened within the park.
The French Revolution resulted in the abolition of the French royal family, followed by a change in government, further armed conflicts with other countries in Europe, and the execution of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, and the family tried to escape the country, but they were caught right at the border.
For people outside Versailles, it was difficult to know what the royal family looked like, but unfortunately, the royal family was recognized from the coins.
It’s quite strange that this carefully planned escape failed because of coins, but it is true!
The King’s fate was voted in the Parliament.
There were three hundred and sixty-one votes in favor of the execution, two hundred and eighty-eight voted against it. Why so many votes against execution? Because many of the members of Parliament didn’t dare to go against the majority.
Even Louis XVI’s cousin voted in favor of the execution.
The King was executed at Place de laConcorde, also called Place de la Révolution.
Arrest of the royal family
Marie-Antoinette allegedly gave the executioner a purse full of gold coins, to make sure that the blade was sharp wanting her death to be clean and quick. She was executed at Place de la Concorde just like the King.
The revolution led by Maximilien Robespierre caused thousands of casualties. Over 18,000 people were beheaded, though some historians estimate the deaths to go as far as 40,000.
On the 28th of July, 1794 Robespierre himself was executed by the guillotine.
On the 22nd of August, 1795, the National Convention accepted a new constitution that created France’s first dualistic legislature.
The executive power was in the hands of a five-member Directory appointed by parliament.
On the 9th of November, 1799, Bonaparte staged a coup d’état, eliminating the Directory and appointing himself France’s “first consul.”
This event marked the end of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era.
The French Revolution played a crucial role in modeling modern nations by showing the world the essential power in the will of the people.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about the French Revolution that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!