10 Facts about the French Revolution

The French Revolution, which is also known as the Revolution of 1789, shook France for more than a decade from the year 1787 to 1799.

It was the time of social and political rebellion which began due to the financial crisis and inequalities between rich and poor. 

The revolution started with the fall of the Bastille (14th July 1789) and ended with the abolishment of the Monarchy (1799).

It changed the course of modern history by ending the monarchy and replacing it with liberal and republic democracy.

French Revolution was a crucial period where thousands of people lost their lives, the king and the queen were executed, numerous wars took place, the national anthem was composed, and the Coup of 18th Brumaire brought an end to this revolution.

Here are 10 fascinating facts about the French Revolution.

10. Revolt of Aristocratic ( 1787-1788)

Revolt of Aristocratic

Revolt of Aristocratic is also known as the Pre-Revolution of 1787-1788. The revolution of the aristocratic is the initial stage of the French revolution.

It was a suggestion made by the controller general of finances, Charles-Alexandre Calonne, against the economic reforms.

This reform was later on followed by the minister of finance, Etienne Charles Loménie de Brienne.

Charles summoned the assembly including noblemen, representatives of Bourgeoisie, and prelates in February 1787. 

He proposed economic reforms to notables to raise the taxation of the higher classes to eradicate the deficit of budget, which was a result of overspending by the noble class.

Charles’s proposal was not accepted by the notables, which led to the meeting of Estates-General, consisting of members from all three Estates. This disapproval resulted in the Aristocratic Revolt.

9. Financial Crisis and unequal distribution of wealth amongst rich and poor

Land ownership before french revolution

France was already in massive debt due to the Seven Years’ War (1756-1783) and involvement in the American Revolution ( 1775-1783). With the bias tax structure and extravagant spending by the noble class, the situation got worse.

Unfavourable weather led to poor harvests resulting in a price rise of bread, which was the necessary food for the French people. The cost of buying bread was higher than their earnings. 

First and Second Estates were exempted from paying tax, but the Third Estates were compelled to pay very high taxes to the King, which made the commoners angry, hungry, and unemployed. 

Before the French Revolution, the rich were living an extravagant life, and the poor had to starve. This crisis was the primary cause of the French Revolution.

8. The fact behind the Tricoloured Flag

Nationalism french revolution

 Colours: White – equality, Red- fraternity, Blue- freedom

The French flag has three colours: white, red, and blue. It symbolises the motto of the French Revolution – white being the colour of equality, blue being the colour of freedom, and red meaning the fraternity(brotherhood).

Military of Paris wore a blue and red coloured Cockade during the Fall of the Bastille. White being the ancient colour of France, it was pinned to the cockade.

After the Storming of the Bastille, the tri-coloured cockade became the National Guard’s Uniform. With the victory of the Paris militia, the tri-colour was used to design French Flag.

The French Flag was divided into three equal bands with equally distributed colours, white in the middle, red floating, and the blue attached to the hilt of the flag.

Many other nations copied the colours of French Flag as it was the most impactful flags in history.

7. The Royal Couple Guillotined

Élisabeth of france before guillotine

During the Reign of Terror, Guillotine- the national razor, was used to behead people. Almost 40,000 people were beheaded. 

King Louis was the last and a terrible king of France. His inefficiency led to a protest against him. Queen Marie was also not preferred much by the citizens due to her unkind behaviour.

When the royal family were imprisoned, they attempted to flee from Paris to Northern part of France (June 21, 1791) and take foreign assistance from Austria. Jean-Baptiste Drouet recognised them.

The citizens of France did not accept it, and the King was viewed as a traitor and found guilty of treason(August 10) whereas Queen was taken into custody for various crimes.

King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette were the first royal couple to be guillotined. King was executed on January 21, and Queen on October 16, 1793.

6. Division of members of National Assembly – Left and Right political labels

Division of members of National Assembly - Left and Right political labels

The National Assembly during the French Revolution was divided into two political labels: a left-wing and right-wing. 

The division was a system of identifying the political positions, their parties, and their ideologies.

Members of Assembly who sat on the left side of the parliamentary, presidential chair were in support of the revolution and against the monarchy. They were in favour of equality.

Members who sat on the right side of the presidential chair were against the revolution and supported the monarchy. They were in favour of hierarchies and social orders.

Left and Right wings were having disputes on how much authority to be empowered by the King. The Right-wing wanted the King to have full authorisation. Whereas, Left-wing wished to be free from the power of the King.

5. French Revolution – A watershed moment

French Revolution - A watershed moment

French Revolution went on for about 10 years from 1788 to 1799 and was a watershed moment for the world, including Europe. It had a tremendous impact on history. 

Various remarkable events took place during this revolution such as the abolishment of feudalism, execution of royal couple, end of monarchy-start of revolution, the rise of liberalism, declaration of rights for men and women, and reign of terror. 

These events had a significant impact on the rest of the world. Is it also known as the age of revolutions which brought significant other revolutionary movements in numerous parts of the world: America and Europe.

Numerous movements, including the First Italian War of Independence, Sicilian Revolution(1848), Irish Rebellion(1798), and Italian revolutions (1848) occurred after the impactful French Revolution.

4. Composition of French National Anthem

french national anthem composed by engineers Rouget de Lisle

National Anthem of France was composed by a captain of engineers Rouget de Lisle on April 25, 1792. He was asked to write the song by French Baron Philippe Friedrich Dietrich. 

Philippe felt the need for a song of march for the armies after France had declared war on Austria. So, a song composed was for the soldiers to rally everywhere to protect their homeland, which was under threat. 

The song was initially called ‘Chant de Guerre de l’armée du Rhin’ meaning ‘A war song of the Army of the Rhine’. Later it was known as ‘La Marseillaise.’ 

It contained seven verses, out of which Rouget wrote six, and the last one was added later. Only two verses, the first and the sixth, are used in the public occasions.

The marching song gained massive popularity within a short period, and the National Convention of France accepted the song as their National Anthem on July 14, 1795.

3. The Bastille and the Reign of Terror

Marking of French Revolution- Fallen Bastille

Third Estates demanding for more votes on their sides and the gunpowder attacked the ancient fortress, the Bastille on July 14, 1789. They were in a group of more than a thousand men and Governor de Launay as their leader.

By the end of this attack, Governor de Launay was beheaded, and more than 100 revolutionaries were killed.

With the fall of the Bastille, France started facing numerous crises. The foreign nations were attacking it. In order to defend itself from these nations, the Committee of Public Safety was established.

The Reign of Terror lasted for about 10 months, from September 1793 to July 1794. It was a dark and violent period, where more than 17,000 people were executed and about 500,000 arrested.

2. The radicalisation of the French Revolution

The radicalisation of the French Revolution

The newly-elected Legislative Assembly assumed that the French emigres were taking foreign assistance and were conspiring against France, so they declared war on Prussia and Austria in April 1792. 

After the storming of the Bastille, France was under the power of a group called Radicals. It was led by a French lawyer and politician, Maximilien Robespierre.

He started representing the Third Estate, fought against the death penalty and advocated for fundamental human rights for all the citizens. 

The Legislative Assembly was taken over by the National Assembly whose primary motive was the abolishment of the French monarchy and establishment of the French Republic. 

Jacobins were the most radical leader by the year 1793. He started a virtual republic dictatorship. They took full control over the National Convention and started implementing numerous radicals actions.  

King Louis XVI was arrested and executed; there were political controversy and various revolutionary intensity during the radicalisation period. 

With the execution of King Louis and Queen, Marie, thousands of others were killed and arrested. This period of bloodshed was known as the Reign of Terror. 

1. The Coup of 18th Brumaire brings an end to the French Revolution 

The Coup of 18th Brumaire

During the early period of the French Revolution, France faced numerous reverses. Still, with the emergence of Napoleon Bonaparte, it was able to gain victory over a wide range of territories.

The Directory held executive power, which started getting involved in political conflicts, corruption, and created financial problems.

As a result of this, Napoleon Bonaparte, Roger Ducos, and Emmanuel carried out the Coup of 18th Brumaire. The seats of 5 directors of the Directory was taken over by these three consuls.

Napoleon provided aid to Talleyrand and Abbe Sieyes from which they programmed the Coup, during the final days of the Directory. 

The Coup of 18th Brumaire on 9-10 November 1799 is regarded as the end of the French Revolution. 

Conclusion:

With the end of the French Revolution, Maximilien was executed, and Napoleon’s reign in France began. 

14th July is the French National Day, and the French people celebrate this day as their Independence Day. As on this day in 1789, the storming of the Bastille had taken place.

French Revolution, as a whole, can be summarized as an impactful period in history.


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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "10 Facts about the French Revolution," in HistoryTen, December 22, 2019, https://historyten.com/french-revolution/french-revolutions-facts/.
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