French Revolution

  • Represeentatives from three estates meet at versallies

    This assembly was composed of three estates – the clergy, nobility and commoners – who had the power to decide on the levying of new taxes and to undertake reforms in the country. The opening of the Estates General, on 5 May 1789 in Versailles, also marked the start of the French Revolution.
  • The people of Paris storm the Bastille

    Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs, on July 14, 1789.
  • Louis XVI has the Third Estate locked out of the Estates General meeting

    King Louis locked the third estate out of the meeting because they were demanding more power in the government because they made up 97% of the population in France.
  • Louis XVI calls for the Estates General to meet

    The political and financial situation in France had grown rather bleak, forcing Louis XVI to summon the Estates General. This assembly was composed of three estates.
  • Third Estate takes the Tennis Court Oath

    Tennis Court Oath, French Serment du Jeu de Paume, (June 20, 1789), dramatic act of defiance by representatives of the nonprivileged classes of the French nation (the Third Estate) during the meeting of the Estates-General (traditional assembly) at the beginning of the French Revolution.
  • Louis XVI calls for the National Assembly to meet to create a constitution

    King Louis XVI, aware of the injustices of the French tax policy, tried to reform the tax code to make it more fair, but was repeatedly thwarted by the overrepresented nobles and clergy. This angered the Third Estate, which refused to vote in the Estates General, and formed instead the National Assembly.
  • The women of Paris arrest Louis XVI and take him back to Paris

    During their trip, Marie and Louis were apprehended at Varennes, France, and carried back to Paris. There, Louis was forced to accept the constitution of 1791, which reduced him to a mere figurehead.
  • Reign of terror begins

    Following the King’s execution, France goes to war with various European powers. This signals the most violent phase of the French Revolution. Infighting within the National Convention leads to the radical Montagnards taking power. This marks the start of the bloody Reign of Terror (la Terreur), a year-long period in which suspected enemies of the revolution are killed in their thousands.
  • The directory takes power

    A new regime – the Directory – takes power in France in 1795. The internal political situation remains unstable, but is silenced by the army, now led by a young general Napoleon Bonaparte. There follows a period of successes in war: what is now Belgium is annexed, the Dutch Republic surrenders and peace is made with the Prussians and Spanish.
  • Napoleonic era begins

    The Directory’s four years in power are a failure, with them ceding much power to the military to maintain order. On 9 November 1799, as frustration with their leadership reaches a fever pitch, Bonaparte stages a coup d’état, abolishing the Directory and appointing himself France’s ‘first consul’. This marks the end of the French Revolution and the start of the Napoleonic era.