Events of the French Revolution

Valorie Delp
Narbonne's 'beheaded' sculptures.

The events of the French Revolution can be seen as a domino effect. It was a whole series of issues and debacles that caused the Revolution, and the Revolution itself was driven by a variety of forces. The French Revolution lasted for almost ten years and during that time the tide of violence and bloodshed ebbed and flowed as did the thinking of France. It began with financial crisis and essentially ended with Napoleon Bonaparte establishing a more just government.

Events of the French Revolution

The French Revolution truly started with a combination of ideas propelled by simultaneous financial crisis brought on by the superfluous spending of the French monarchy.

Feudalism, Enlightenment, and the American Revolution

In 1788, France was still under the feudal system and taxation was unfair. Essentially, the poor were taxed excessively to boost the coffers of the monarchy and fund the Seven Years War. By this time, the ideas of Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu were floating around among a people who were essentially ready to hear them. On top of all that, the American Revolution had served as a model of sorts to the French people that revolution was possible.

The Estates General

In 1789, King Louis XVI had called to order the Estates General in the hopes of finding a tax solution to prevent France from going bankrupt. However, the Estates General was flawed in its composition and practices, and, consequently, the meeting was a failure to the monarchy. The Estates General was made up of three parties: the clergy, the nobility and the general public. The clergy and nobility were tax exempt, making it impossible for the Estates General to come to a suitable agreement. Secondly, each group in the Estates General got one vote. . .thus unfairly excluding the largest group in the estates-the people. Consequently, the third estate (the people) decided to declare themselves a sovereign National Assembly... and so the Revolution began.

The Storming of the Bastille

On July 14, 1789, Parisians took to storming the Bastille in order to get ammunition for the weaponry they had already taken from L'hôtel des Invalides. It's often said that they stormed the Bastille to free the prisoners that were held there, but in truth, there were only six prisoners there at the time, and only one of them was a 'political prisoner' of sorts. This date is celebrated in France and is often seen as the beginning of the French Revolution.

Reign of Terror

The National Assembly essentially established a code of justice and removed the power from the monarchy. However, France was still very much a floundering country and several factions of politicians were vying for power. The Committee for Public Safety was established in 1792 and was led by Robespierre. Tens of thousands of people were beheaded during this time and it is one of the darkest periods of French history. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded in January of 1793. The Reign of Terror ended when Robespierre was captured and beheaded in 1793 and Napoleon seized power of France becoming the most powerful emperor since Charlemagne.


All of these events of the French Revolution are integral in French history. Had any of these events not transpired, the revolution could have gone quite differently, or even been stopped in its tracks, changing French history forever.

Events of the French Revolution