I have compiled an extensive (and a bit obsessive) timeline of the French Revolution for my upcoming Historical Fiction. It’s my first time writing a novel like this so I have not left out a single detail I’ve come across, not sure what I’m going to use, though I’m sure a ton of it will not make the cut. Enjoy!
Timeline of France from 1780-1800s During the French Revolution
France in the late 1780s
In 1671 King Louis XIV moved his residence from the Tuileries Palace to the Palace of Versailles because he distrusted the French, his subjects. He was forced to flee twice as a youngster and did not forget it. The entire court was moved in 1682.
In the early 1700s, despite the king’s attempts to make the city grand, it was overcrowded, dark, unhealthy, and had little air or drinking water. It was also dangerous, despite the addition of the first metal lanterns on the main streets and enlargement of the police night watch to four hundred men.
November 1716, the pleasure-loving regent to the child king Louis XV brought back from his travels the amusement of masked balls. They were held three times a week at the opera hall of the Palais-Royal. Masks were obligatory. There was a high admission charge of 4 livres to keep out undesirable guests.
The riots of 1750 were against the police and not against the king. He was a father figure to them, Louis XV, even though he governed no real laws that helped them and spent money extravagantly. The riots were a response to the rumors that children were being kidnapped for transportation to America by the police.
In 1775 there was harsh punishments in France such as having hands cut off, tongue ripped out with pincers, and bodies burned alive, all because someone refused to kneel down in the rain to a passing prosession of monks.
20-25 million people in the population, more than three times the population of England, six times the population of United Netherlands, and six times the population of Finns and Swedes.
France shares borders with Spain to the southwest, Italy to the southeast, Austria to the east, and Germany to the northeast. The Italians and Germans were fragmented politically. France benefited from Spain’s decline as a great power.
France had a lot of suitable farmlands, but with the rise in population, farming families started dividing their lands among their sons, leaving farming families struggling on too few acres. The production was only a little higher than that of Greece or of France in the 1200s.
France lacked an abundance of rivers and canals as England had to carry grain shipment. The byzantine maze of feudal privileges made the transportation of goods so difficult that people in one region could almost starve while grain was abundant in another.
Paris is the capital and is located in the center of the north.
Versailles is located southwest of the heart of Paris.
Bitter cold winters.
Two decades of poor harvests, drought, cattle disease and skyrocketing bread prices kindled unrest among peasants and poor urbans.
France was filled with swindlers, thieves, beggars and vagabonds, and the average Frenchman was delighted in witnessing their punishment.
Before the revolution the country still believed in torture to acquire confessions. They would pour water slowly down someone’s throat. Another method was tying the feet together and driving the knees apart with a wedge.
The French monarchy spent so much that it helped to put their country in debt. An example was the Palace of Versailles, which was meant to overwhelm the senses of the visitor and convince one of the greatness of the French state and King Louis XIV. This spending went on for generations until the people were in unrest about it.
Ferme générale: the unjust, inefficient, and deeply hated tax system.
France was severely indebted by the American Revolutionary War.
May 3 1775: Bread riots
1781: Medical care was formally transferred from the church authority to the medical profession. Patients were no longer admitted to Hotel-Dieu except for medical treatment, and doctors insisted that the medical treatment be scientific, not spiritual.
They started to build the first sidewalk in Paris, along the rue du Théâtre Française to protect spectators going along the streets to the new theater.
The minister of Army, Ségur, decided that any candidate to be an army officer had to show four degrees of nobility, blocking the path for advancement of talented but non-noble officers. Noble officers had to be rich enough to pay a large sum for promotions.
November 21 1783: The Montgolfier Brothers launched the first manned flight in a hot-air balloon from the Château de la Muette.
1785: Calonne reissued the “gold coinage”. Calonne also instate free trade on grain, and taxes for all landowner, now only the poor, authorized the sale of church property, equalization of salt and tobacco taxes. All these reforms failed because the crown wouldn’t impose them. He wanted nobles and clergy taxed. Calonne was dismissed in 1787 and exiled to Lorraine.
1786: The king’s controller general, Charles Alexandre de Calonne, proposed a financial reform package that included a universal land tax from which the privileged classes would no longer be exempt. The king denied it.
A trade agreement with England allowed British manufactured goods to enter France with low tariffs, putting many Parisians out of work in the textile industry.
April 1786: riots broke out as workers from the textile factory who lost their jobs attacked the home of Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, the city’s most prominent textile factory owner and attacked police barricades and the factory. 25 rioters and 12 members of the Garde were killed.
February 22, 1787: The Assembly of Notables, high ranking nobles, ecclesiastics, and state functionaries was called on by the king for the first time since 1614.
1787: The rule that Catholicism was the only religion that could be practiced was overturned. The wall around Paris was being built. It was built to prevent food from entering without being taxed to benefit the Farmer’s General. The fashion in Paris was chemises and bonnets and ribbons with no powder. Men still powdered. There was already talk of rebellious “patriots” who didn’t powder their hair.
1788: The burning of noble houses started popping up.
The second sidewalk began along rue Louvois where another new theater was planned. It was four feet wide and 10-12 inches high with a stone border.
Construction of a bridge between the Faubourg de rue Saint-Honoré and the Faubourg Saint-Germain started. Stones from the demolished Bastille were used to help finish the bridge which was dedicated in 1791 as the Pont Louis XVI.
July 13 1788: Devastating hail storms accompanied by strong winds of force rarely seen, following a path from the southwest of France to the north destroyed crops, orchards, killed farm animals, tore roofs and toppled steeples. In Paris, the faubourg Saint-Antoine was hit hardest. It cause a major increase in bread prices, and the migration of thousands of peasants into Paris.
August 16 1788: The government ran out of money, giving soldiers and government workers and contractors notes (paper money) promising to pay rather than cash. Riots broke out. Customs posts all over Paris were attacked and burned. The king appointed Swiss banker Jacques Necker as new finance minister.
December 1788: Paris experienced failed crops and harvests and this winter was the coldest in history. Many thousands were expected to die.
Winter of 1788 to 1789: Exceptionally cold with an unprecedented ninety-six days of freezing temps, reaching below thirty degrees Celcius.
1789: A period of press freedom began with the Revolution.
January 1789: Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès wrote “What is the 3rd estate?” (a pamphlet). He says nobility is not part of the nation at all. They are a “nation within a nation”.
February 1789: The price of a four pound loaf of bread was 9 sous a few months ago and was raised to 14 sous 6 deniers.
April 1789: Réveillon riots started from mere rumors of food shortage.
May 4, 1789 (Monday): a procession from Notre Dame to Church of Saint-Louis. Everyone was there. The next day is the official opening of the Estates-General. The next day the king addresses the assembly.
May 5, 1789 (Tuesday): Official opening of the Estates-General. It was a highly public debate over its voting process which erupted into hostility between the three orders, eclipsing the original purpose of the meeting and the authority of the man who convened it.
May 12-19 1789: Paris elected its Third Estate representatives, led by the prominent astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly.
May 6, 1789 (Wednesdays) The king addresses the assembly.
Summer of 1789 no one was wearing powdered wigs anymore. Rumors of a plot to destroy wheat crops in order to starve the population provoked the Great Fear in the Summer of 89.
June 10 1789: Abbé Sieyès moved that the 3rd Estate, now meeting as the Communes (Commons) proceed with verifying its own powers and invite the other two estates to take part, but not to wait for them.
June 12 1789: The third estate proceeded with verifying their own powers and completed on June 17th.
June 17, 1789: Talks over procedure were stalled so the third estate met alone and formally adopted the title of National Assembly, an assembly not of the states but of the people. They invited the other orders to join them, but made it clear they intended to conduct the nation’s affairs with or without them. In an attempt to keep control over the process and prevent the Assembly from convening, Louis XVI ordered the closure of the Salle des États where the Assembly met, making an excuse that the carpenters needed to prepare the hall for the royal speech in two days. Weather did not allow for an outdoor meeting, and fearing an attack ordered by the king, they met in a tennis court in Versailles.
June 20, 1789: the members of the French Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath (French: Serment du Jeu de Paume), vowing “not to separate and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the Constitution of the kingdom is established”. This is when they seized power from the Estates General. Within a week, most of the clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles had joined them.
June 23 1789: The king was displeased with the third estate and their opposition and tried to have them expelled from the meeting. Bailly refused to leave, declaring that “A nation assembled cannot receive orders”. A large part of the clergy and 47 nobles sided with Bailly.
June 24 1789: The king was forced to yield and welcomed the new assembly, but he tried again to regain control an ordered twenty army regiments to march to Paris.
June 27 1789: The king grudgingly absorbed all three orders into the new assembly. During its work on the new constitution it was referred to as the National Constituent Assembly. They met at Versailles.
Summer of 1789: there was a rumor going around that the queen was conspiring with nobility to kill the peasants in a massacre. Because of this, they attacked many chateaux in what would be called La Grande Peur, the great fear.
July 11 1789: the king defied the Estates-General by dismissing his reformist finance minister, Jacques Necker. Many though this was aimed against the Assembly and began open rebellion.
Soldiers of the Royal-Allemand regiment attacked a peaceful demonstration of Parisians protesting Necker’s dismissal, and Sunday strollers in the Tuileries gardens. Mobs storm the city armories and take weapons. In the evening, the new customs barriers around the city are burned. Mobs soon had support from some of the French Guard, who were armed and trained soldiers.
The Assembly started meeting at Versailles nonstop to prevent another eviction from their meeting place.
July 13 1789: A mob of Parisians occupied the Hôtel de Ville and the Marquis de Lafayette organized a Garde nationale to defend the city against the army.
July 14, 1789: A mob seized the arsenal at the Invalides, acquiring thousands of guns and stormed the Bastille. Catastrophic harvest in ’88 provoked food riots in Paris. Troops were called to maintain order, but others worried it was done to suppress the National Assembly. Lafayette was commander of the 48K militia used to protect the National Assembly. This militia was in search of muskets, cannons, and gunpowder which brought them to the Bastille. After several hours of combat, the prison fell that afternoon. They met opposition by governor Marquis Bernard-René de Launay. He and the chief city magistrate were lynched, their heads stuck on pikes and paraded around. Lafayette desired the tri-color cockade and the king had to accept it. The king could veto the National Assembly but not override it. The governor of the Bastille, Marquis de Launay, surrendered and was beaten, stabbed, and decapitated. His head was put on a pike and carried around Paris. The Provost of merchants (prévôt des marchands- roughly mayor), Jacques des Flesselles was also murdered and his head paraded around the city for the accusation of treachery. The entire fortress was demolished by November. The stone were turned into souvenirs.
Following the fall of the Bastille, the wealthiest Parisians began to take their belongings and go abroad for their own safety. This had a disastrous effect on the Paris economy, putting out of work dressmakers, tailors, furniture makers, cooks, maids, servants, shopkeepers and more in the luxury business.
July 15, 1789: Astronomer Bailly was proclaimed the first modern mayor of Paris. The mayor was elected for two years and was supported by sixteen administrators overseeing five departments, including police, finances, public works, public establishments, and food supplies. Takes place at the Hotel de Ville
July 17, 1789: The king came to Paris where he welcomed the new mayor and wore a tricolor on his hat (red, blue, and white).
August 1789: the Marquis of Saint-Huruge, one of the popular orators of the Palais-Royal, called for a march to evict the obstructionist deputies who, he claimed, were protecting the King’s veto power. His efforts were foiled, but revolutionaries continued to hold onto the idea of a march on Versailles to compel the king to accept the Assembly’s laws. Speakers at the Palais-Royal mentioned it regularly throughout the next month, creating enduring suspicions of the proprietor, Louis Philippe II.
August 4-11, 1789: The Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of man and of the Citizen, a statement of democratic principles grounded in the philosophical and political ideas of Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The old feudal system was abolished. No more church titles, no rents, taxes, and services due from peasant to noble landowners, no taxation by church or nobility. In its place social equality, equality before law, equality of taxation, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, popular sovereignty, and representative government. They abolished privileges and feudalism in the August Decrees, sweeping away personal serfdom, exclusive hunting rights, and other seigneurial rights of the nobility. Legislation sanctioned the abolition of the Church’s authority to impose the tithe.
August 15 1789: Old city government was abolished and a new municipal assembly was created with three hundred members, five from each of the sixty Paris districts.
August 26, 1789: The Assembly passed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in preamble to the constitution drawn up in 1791. “Men are born and remain free and equal…” One crucial limitation; the rights of men did not apply to women. The declaration was directly influenced by Thomas Jefferson working with General Lafayette, who introduced it.
Autumn 1789: Legislation abolished monastic vows.
September 5 1789: The Mercure de France discusses the idea of a march on the palace of Versailles. This is when many nobles and foreigners started to flee the unrest.
October 1 1789: The officers at Versailles held a welcoming banquet for the officers of the new troops, a customary practice when a unit changed its garrison. The royal family briefly attended the affair, walking amongst the tables set up in the opera house of the palace. Outside in the cour de marbre (central courtyard), the soldiers’ toasts and oaths of fealty to the king grew more demonstrative as the night wore on. The lavish banquet was certain to be an affront to those suffering in a time of severe austerity, but it was reported in the L’ami du Peuple and other firebrand newspapers as nothing short of a gluttonous orgy. Worst of all, the papers all dwelt scornfully on the reputed desecration of the tricolor cockade, drunken officers were said to have stamped on this symbol of the nation and professed their allegiance solely to the white cockade of the house of Bourbon. This embellished tale of the royal banquet became the source of intense public outrage.
October 4, 1789: new newspapers appear that are rebellious in nature. One thing these newspapers talk about is the Pacte de Famine, which is a plan to starve the poor people which was readily believed by the masses.
October 5-6, 1789: Despite the post-revolutionary mythology, the march was not a spontaneous event. Numerous calls for a mass demonstration at Versailles had already been made. The idea for the march was widespread and even discussed in the pages of the Mercure de France on September 5, 1789. It was a rainy day. In the morning, a young woman struck a marching drum at the edge of a group of market women who were infuriated by the chronic shortage and high price of bread. From their starting point in the markets of the eastern section of Paris then known as the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the angry women forced a nearby church to toll its bells. The tocsin in the Church of Saint-Merci rang persistently. 5K strong women came from the Rue Saint-Bernard. They ransacked the city armory and headed for Versailles. The tocsin of Notre-Dame-des-Blancs-Monteaux rang. The women carried pikes and knives and farm equipment. Some had muskets. They shouted “When will there be bread?” Most of the women wore ragged dresses. Their numbers grew as other nearby markets joined in, many bearing kitchen blades and other makeshift weapons.Driven by a variety of agitators, the mob converged on the Hotel de Ville (city hall) where they demanded bread and arms. More men and women arrived till their numbers were 6-7K. One of the men was the audacious Stanislas-Marie Maillard, a prominent vainqueur of the Bastille, who eagerly snatched up his own drum and led the infectious cry of “à Versailles!”. Maillard was a popular figure among the market women, and by unofficial acclamation was given a leadership role. Though he could hardly be considered gentle, he did rescue the Hotel de Ville’s quartermaster, Pierre-Louis Lefebvre-Laroche, a priest commonly knows as Abbé Lefebvre, who had been strung up on a lamppost for trying to safeguard its gunpowder storage. The city hall was ransacked as the crowd surged through, taking its provisions and weapons, but Maillard helped prevent it from being burned down. Eventually, the mob turned back for the streets to go to Versailles. Maillard deputized a number of women as group leaders and gave a loose sense of order to the proceedings as he led the crowd out of the city in the driving rain. There were 25K people total that marched on Versailles. The palace was warned ahead of time by Lafayette and heavily guarded. He was forced to lead 15k guards and 7k civilians to the palace gates himself because of their threat of mutiny and to kill him if he did not lead or get out of their way. It was 4pm when he led them there. One thing that resonated with the National Guardsmen was the call for the king to get rid of his royal bodyguards and replace them with National Guardsmen. The goals of the march were to get the king, his court, and the Assembly moved to Paris to reside among the people because they believed only then would foreign soldiers be expelled, food be reliably available, and France could be served by a leader who was “in communion with his own people”. Many in the crowd were supporters of the king and all they wanted was to bring le bon papa home to his people. The crowd traveled from Paris to Versailles in about six hours. Along with their weapons they dragged only several cannons. Boisterous and energetic, they recruited more followers along the way. They chatted enthusiastically about bringing the king back home. They spoke less affectionately about the queen and many called for her death. When the crowd finally reached Verailles, it was met by another group that had assembled from the surrounding area. Members of the Assembly greeted the marchers and invited Maillard into their hall, where he fulminated about the Flanders Regiment and people’s need for bread. As he spoke, the restless Parisians came pouring into the Assembly and sank exhausted on the deputies’ benches. Hungry, fatigued, and bedraggled from the rain, they seemed to confirm that the siege was a simple demand for food. The unprotected deputies had no choice but to receive the marchers who shouted down most of the speakers and demanded to hear from the popular reformist deputy Mirabeau. He declined but mingled familiarly with the market women, even sitting here and there with one or another on his knee. A few other deputies welcomed the marchers warmly, including Robespierre, who was still a relatively obscure figure. He gave strong words of support to the women and they appreciated it. His solicitations helped to soften the crowd’s hostility toward the Assembly. With no other options, the president of the Assembly, Jean Joseph Mounier, accompanied a group of six women nominated by the crow to be escorted into the palace to see the king. The king received them in his apartments and responded sympathetically, using all his charm to impress the women to the point that one of them fainted at his feet. After this brief but pleasant meeting, arrangements were made to disburse some food from the royal stores, with more promised, and some in the crowd felt their goal had been met. Maillard and a few of his followers of market women trooped back home to Paris as the rain started again. By night it was cold and they were now 40K strong. They were sure the queen would talk the king out of the promises for food he’d just made so they stuck around. Well aware of the danger surrounding him, the king discussed the situation with his advisors. At about 6pm, the king made a belated effort to quell the rising tide of insurrection. He announced that he would accept the August decrees and the Declaration of the Rights of Man without qualification. In the words of one soldiers “Everyone was overwhelmed with sleep and lethargy, we thought it was all over”, which is why only the usual night guards of 61 Gardes du Corps were posted throughout the palace at the time. Late in the evening, Lafayette approached up the Avenue de paris and he left his troops immediately to see the king. He grandly announced himself with declaration, “I have come to die at the feet of your majesty!” Outside guardsmen mingled with the marchers. Many in the crowd denounced Lafayette as a traitor, complaining of his resistance to leaving Paris and the slowness of his march. By the first light of morning, an alliance of the national guards and the women was evident. The crowd’s vigor was restored and their roughneck chatter resumed. They stood outside the queen’s balcony and summoned her. When she came out they shouted to kill her. When she curtsied they shouted “long live the queen”. Lafayette appeared on the balcony to kiss the queen’s hand, which calmed them, but when she went back inside they got angry again. They demanded the king replace his guards with men from the National Guard. After several hours with Lafayette, the king agreed. He sent the royal Flanders Regiment home, but kept the Swiss Guard. At dawn the mob broke into the palace. A fight happened and two of the king’s bodyguards were killed- Durepaire and Miomandre de Saint-marie. They were shouting for the queen to escape when they were killed because they were heading for her chamber. She escaped but they looted her gowns and destroyed her paintings. When Lafayette came to the king’s aid the National Guard threatened to kill him too, his own men. They demanded the king and family leave Versailles and come to Paris. When the king announces their immediate departure the crowd sings long live the queen again. The royal family was taken to the Tuileries palace where they were held captive. At about 6am, some of the protesters discovered a small gate to the palace was unguarded. Making their way inside, they searched for the Queen’s bedchamber. The royal guards raced throughout the palace, bolting doors and barricading hallways and those I the compromised sector, the cour de marbre, fired their guns at the intruders, killing a young member of the crowd. Infuriated, the rest surged towards the breach and streamed inside. Two guardsmen, Miomandre and Tardivet, each separately attempted to face down the crowd and were overpowered. The violence boiled over into savagery as Tardivet’s head was shorn off and raised aloft on a pike. As battering and screaming filled the halls around her, the queen ran barefoot with her ladies to the king’s bedchamber and spent several agonizing minutes banging on its locked door, unheard above the din. In a close brush with death, they barely escaped through the doorway in time. The chaos continued as other royal guards were found and beaten; at least one more was killed and his head too appeared atop a pike. Finally, the fury of the attack subsided enough to permit some communication between the former French Guards, who formed the professional core of Lafayette’s National Guard militia, and the royal gardes du corps. Lafayette took quick cat naps in his exhaustion to then wake up and reconcile things with his charismatic mediation and a tenuous peace was established within the palace. Although the fighting ceased and the two commands of troops had cleared the interior of the palace, the mob were still present outside. Most were unwilling to act against the people by that point. Lafayette, who had earned the court’s indebtedness, convinced the king to address the crowd. When the two men stepped out on the balcony an unexpected cry went up; “Vive le Roi!” The relieved king briefly conveyed his willingness to return to Paris, acceding “to the love of my good and faithful subjects”. As the crowd cheered, Lafayette stoked their joy by dramatically pinning a tricolor cockade to the hat of the king’s nearest body guard. After the king withdrew, the crowd would not be denied the same accord from the queen and her presence was demanded loudly. Lafayette brought her to the same balcony, accompanied by her young son and daughter. The crowd ominously shouted for the children to be taken away, and it seemed the stage might be set for a regicide. Yet, as the queen stood with her hands crossed over her chest, the crowd-warmed to her courage. Amid this unlikely development, Lafayette cannily let the mob’d fury drain away until, with dramatic timing and flair, he knelt reverently and kissed her hand. The demonstrators responded with muted respect, and may even raised a cheer with the queen had not heard for quite a long time; “Vive la Reine!” This diffused the situation, but many saw it as theatrics rather than long-term resonance. They still insisted the king come back with them/ At about 1pm of October 6, the vast throng escorted the royal family and a complement of 100 deputies back to the capital, this time with the armed National Guard leading the way. By now, the mass of people had grown to over 60k and the return trip took about 9 hours. The procession could seem merry at times, as guardsmen hoisted up loaves of bread stuck on the tips of their bayonets, and some of the market women rode gleefully astride the captured cannon. Yet, even as the crowd sang pleasantries about their “good papa”, their violent mentality could not be misread; celebratory gunshots flew over the royal carriage and some marchers even carried pikes bearing the heads of the slaughtered Versailles guards. A sense of victory over the ancient regime was imbued in the parade, and it was understood by all that the king was now fully at the service of the people. The rest of the National Constituent Assembly followed within two weeks to new quarters in Paris. They settled at a former riding school outside the Tuileries Palace called Salle du Manège.
Robespierre’s passionate defense of the women’s march raised his public profile considerably.
Maillard returned to Paris with his status as a local hero made permanent after the women’s march. He participated in several journées, but got sick in 94 and died at 31.
The women were highly celebrated upon their return and they were praised and solicited by successive Parisian governments for years to come.
The National Assembly began to meet in the Salle du Manège of the Tuileries Palace.
Even while the women were marching, suspicious eyes looked to Louis Philippe II, duc d’Orleans, already behind the July uprisings, as being somehow responsible for the event. The Duc was an energetic proponent of constitutional monarchy, and it was an open secret that he felt himself to be uniquely qualified to be king under such a system. He has long been thought of to be an instigator in the march. The Duc was present as a deputy to the Assembly, and he was described by contemporaries as smiling warmly as he walked among the protestors at the height of the siege, many of them are said to have hailed him with greetings like “Here is our king! Long live king Orleans!” Many scholars believe the duc paid agents provocateurs to fan the discontent in the marketplaces and to conflate the women’s march for bread with the drive to bring back the king. Others suggest he coordinated in some way with mairabeau, the Assembly’s most powerful statesman at the time, to use the marchers to advance the constitutional agenda. Others suggest the crowd was guided by important Orleanistallies who were dressed in women’s clothing.
The attack removed forever the aura of invincibility that once cloaked the monarchy.
October 13, 1789: The Garde was formally attached to the Garde nationale.
October 19, 1789: The deputies of the National Assembly move from Versailles to Paris, first to the residence of the archbishop.
November 2, 1789: The property of the church was “at the disposal of the nation” according to the Assembly. They used this property to back the new currency, the Assignats. The nation took on the responsibility of the church which meant they also had to pay the clergy and care for the poor and sick and orphaned.
November 9, 1789: The deputies of the National Assembly move from the archbishop’s residency to the Manege of the Tuileries Palace.
November 1789: The old judicial system, based on the 13 regional parlements, was suspended.
December 1789: The Assembly began to sell the lands to the highest bidder to raise revenue, effectively decreasing the value of the assignats by 25% in two years.
February 13 1790: all religious orders were dissolved. Monks and nuns were encouraged to return to private life and a small percentage did eventually marry.
May 21, 1790: The National Assembly reorganized the city government, replacing the sixty districts with forty-eight sections, each governed by sixteen Commissaires and a commissiaire of police. Each section had its own committees responsible for charity, armament, and surveillance of citizens. Governed by a mayor, sixteen administrators and thirty two council members.
July 9, 1790: There was an attack on the Champs de Mars. Soldiers came in and slaughtered people, throwing them in the Siene. They said they did it to make an example to not question the monarchy. It’s said Lafayette planned it. The National Guard fired upon a gathering of sans-culottes on the Champs de mars, killing dozens. A red flag, the symbol of martial law, was hoisted over the Hôtel de Ville, some radical leaders were arrested, the club of the Cordeliers was closed, but the most radical leaders; Marat, Danton, and Desmoulins and Santerre escaped. Bailly and Lafayette lost what remained of their popularity and open war broke out between the more moderate and more radical revolutionaries. The National Assembly orders Mayor Bailly to disperse the crowd. Soldiers fire on the crowd killing many.
Jacques Pierre Brissot drafted a petition, insisting that in the eyes of the nation Louis XVI was deposed since his flight (against a constitutional monarchy because of it) leaving Louis as no more than a figurehead. An immense crowd gathered in the Champ de Mars to sign the petition. Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins gave fiery speeches. The Assembly called for the municipal authorities to “preserve public order”. The National Guard under Lafayette’s command confronted the crowd. The soldiers responded to a barrage of stones by firing into the crowd, killing between 13 and 50 people. The incident cost Lafayette and his National Guard much public support.
July 12 1790: The Civil Constitution of the Clergy turned the remaining clergy into employees of the state. This established and election system for parish priests and bishops and set a pay rate for the clergy. Many Catholics objected to the election system because it effectively denied the authority of the Pope in Rome over the French Church.
July 14 1790: For several days, crowds in the Champ de Mars celebrated the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille with the Fête de la Fédération. Talleyrand performed a mass. Participants swore an oath of “fidelity to the nation, the law, and the king”. The king and royal family actively participated. 400K spectators waited in the grandstands in the rain for the arrivals of the Federates. The king was there as a constitutional monarch. He swore allegiance to the new constitution. The evening ended in a ball on the ruins of the Bastille. Hundreds of trees with candles had been planted for the occasion.
August 2, 1790: Bailly was officially elected mayor of Paris.
152 members were affiliated with the Jacobin club by this time.
Summer of 1790 servant’s liveries were banned. Coat of arms had to be erased from carriages, buildings, and clothes.
The Legislators abolished hereditary offices, except for the monarchy itself.
Jury trials started for criminal cases.
The king had the unique power to propose war and the legislature would then decide whether to declare war.
The Assembly abolished all internal trade barriers and suppressed guilds, masterships, and workers’ organizations. Any individual could gain the right to practice a trade through the purchase of a license. Strikes became illegal.
October 1790: A group of 30 bishops wrote a declaration saying they could not accept that law, and this protest fueled also civilian opposition against the law
November 1790: The National Assumbly began to require an oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution from all the members of the clergy. This led to a schism between those clergy who swore the required oath and accepted the new arrangement and those who remained loyal to the Pope. Priests swearing the oath were indicated as constitutional and those not taking the oath were non-juring or refractory clergy. Overall, 24% nationwide took the oath.
1791: the queen was still giving parties at the Tuileries hosted by the Princess de Lamballe. gaudy celebrations were banned as indecent.
April 3, 1791: The church of Sainte-Geneviève is transformed into the Panthéon. Mirabeau is the first famous Frenchman to have his tomb placed there on April 4th, followed by Voltaire on July 11.
April 18, 1791: The king was prevented by angry crowds from taking his family from the Tuileries Palace to the château of Saint-Cloud, despite the intervention of Mayor Bailly and Lafayette.
June 21 1791: The king and his family tried to escape, fleeing Paris but were captured in Varennes and brought back to Paris on June 25th.
Jul 11 1791: Votaire’s remains are placed in the Pantheon.
August 27 1791: Leopold II of Austria (the queen’s brother) and Frederick William II of Prussia made the Pilnitz Declaration saying they would restore the French monarch if other European rulers joined.
September 3, 1791: The first French Constitution is signed.
September 19, 1791: Mayor Bailly resigns.
September 30 1791: Constitution completed. No member of the National Assembly would serve another term in the Legislative Assembly. It called for a constitutional monarchy in which the king enjoyed royal veto power and the ability to appoint ministers. This compromise did not sit well with Robespierre, Desmoulins, and Danton, who began drumming up popular support for a more republican form of government and for the trial of the king.
October 1791: The Legislative Assembly first met on October 1, elected by those 4 million men, out of a population of 25 million, who paid a certain minimum amount of taxes. Under the new constitution France would operate as a constitutional monarchy. The king had to share power with the Legislative Assembly, but he retained his royal veto and his ability to select ministers.
1792: Robespierre and the Jacobins end the press freedom with censorship and they closed opposition newspapers and printing houses.
The Pont Louis SCI was rename the Pont de la Revolution.
January 21 1792: The sans-culottes and their leaders from the radical clubs took over the major food depots of the Faubourgs Saint-Antoine, Saint-Denis, and Saint-Martin, seizing grain and food and selling them at prices that were thought to be fair. The police and national guard did not interfere, but simply maintained order at the markets.
April 1792: Fashion adopted the red Phrygian cap (beanie) in Roman style. The newly elected Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria and Prussia, where it believed that French Emigres were building counterrevolutionary alliances. They also hoped to spread their revolutionary ideas across Europe through warfare.
April 20 1792: The assembly voted for war against the Habsburg Empire/ Austria. The French army, without officers and with its men in rebellion lost discipline. The French declared war.
April 25, 1792: First person to die by guillotine, Nicholas Jacques Pelletier on the Place de Grève.
Late April 1792: France invaded and conquered the Austrian Netherlands.
May 7 1792: the assembly authorized the deportation of any priest who refused to take an oath to the government or was denounced by a citizen.
May 29 1792: They dissolved the regiment that guarded the King.
June 20 1792: Sans-culottes invaded the Tuileries Palace, where they forced the king to put on a red liberty cap and to drink a toast to the nation. General Lafayette was disgusted by the actions of the sans-culottes and quit the National Guard and offered to organize a military coup to save the King, but Marie Antoinette refused to allow it saying, “Better to perish than be saved by Lafayette.”
July 20 1792: Government calls for the volunteers for the army
June 21 1792: Proclaims that the country is in danger of foreign attack.
July 29 1792: At the Jacobin club, Robespierre demanded suspension of the monarchy and the election of a national convention to write a new constitution.
August 1 1792: new reached Paris that the Duke of Brunswick, commander of the army of the King of Prussia, threatened to destroy Pairs unless the Parisians accepted the authority of their king.
August 9-10 1792: Danton rang the church bell just before midnight at the Cordelier Club, signaling an insurrection. The sans-culottes took over the Hôtel-de-Ville, deposed the Paris City government, put the second mayor of Paris, Jérome Pétion de Villeneuve under house arrest and established their own government, the insurrectional Commune. At 6am on the morning of the 10th, armed sans-culottes from the more radical sections of the city, joined by volunteers for the new revolutionary army who had just arrived from Brest and Marseille, attacked the Tuileries Palace. The Palace was defended by 2k national guardsmen, whose loyalty to the king was uncertain, a company of 200 volunteer nobles, and 900 Swiss guards. Early in the morning the commander of the national guard at the palace was invited to an urgent meeting, where he was surprised and murdered. The king and his family were persuaded to leave the palace to take refuge with the national assembly in the riding academy a short distance away. He had just left the palace when volunteers from Brest and Marsille forced the gates and the Swiss Guards fired. A bloody battle followed, even after the king sent a message to the Swiss Guard ordering them to cease fire. Most of the noble volunteers and remaining national guardsmen escaped, but two-thirds of the Swiss Guards, recognizable in their red uniforms, were massacred.
August 11, 1792: The insurrectional Commune declared that France would be governed by a National Conventions, which would write a new constitution.
August 13, 1792: the king and his family were imprisoned in the Temple fortress.
August 17, 1792: Tribunal that was a never ending string of trials on aristocracy, who were kept in La Force prison. The women sewed shirts for the Patriots. They drank dirt water from the Siene. Most waited months for their trials because there were so many. The bodies were stripped and piled in the streets once they were executed. Their possessions were piled in another pile. Freed aristocrats were forced to climb the pile and shout “Long live the Nation”. Parisian insurrectionists massacred hundreds of accused counterrevolutionaries.
August 21, 1792: The first counterrevolutionary to die by the guillotine was Collenot d’Angremont who was accused of defending the Tuileries Palace against the attack of the sans-culottes. He was executed at the place du Carousel, next to the Tuileries Palace.
Aug-Nov 1792: The legislative Assembly was replaced by the National Convention, which proclaimed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the French republic.
September 2-6 1792: The Abbey prison was the scene of a terrible massacre of prisoners, all religious figures. Bands of sans-culottes murdered a third to one half of the prisoners they found including the priests who refused to take the oath supporting the government, the surviving Swiss Guards, and a large number of common criminals. The Princesse de Lamballe was massacred here.
The Commune imposed harsher measures including the arrest of wives and children of those who emigrated.
Early September 1792: Voting for the members of the Convention took place under the intimidating eye of the sans-culottes who filled the Paris voting places. 24 members of Paris were elected including Robespierre, Danton, Marat, Desmoulins, and the painter David.
September 20 1792: The hastily assembled revolutionary army won an indecisive vitory at Valmy, causing the Prussians to withdraw, and saving Paris from attacks by the royalists.
September 21 1792: The Convention’s first meeting where they abolished the monarchy.
September 22 1792: The Convention declares France to be a republic. They moved their meeting place to a large hall within the Tuileries Palace. The Committee of Public safety, charged with hunting down the enemies of the Revolution, established its headquarters close by the Pavillon de Flore of the Louvre. The Tribunal, the revolutionary court, set up its courtroom within the old Royal Palace on the île-de-la-Cité, inside what is now Palais de Justice.
By October 1792: before Oct, the Legislative Assembly degenerated into chaos. It left behind an empty treasury, an undisciplined army and navy, and a people debauched by safe and successful riot.
November 20 1792: Discovery of the Armoire de fer, an iron box containing documents incrimination the king in his apartments at the Tuileries.
December 10-26 1792: King Louis SVI’s trial.
1793: The royal convent of Val-de-Grâce was closed and turned into a military hospital.
January 21, 1793 became a national holiday because of the death of the king. The convention put the king on trial and after two months, voted by a majority of a single vote for his execution. After the king’s death, there was civil war that centered around Nantes. Emergries in English ships were prepared to attack the city by the sea. The king was executed by guillotine on the Place de la Concorde, named the Place de la Révolution today. Following the king’s execution rebellions against the government broke out in many regions of the country, particularly Brittany and Angevin.
January 21 1793-June 7, 1793: 1221 persons, or about three a day, were guillotined on the Place de la Revolution, including Marie-Antoinette.
February 1793: The minority of the Commune, the Montagnards (radicals), retaliated their loss in votes by calling a meeting without notifying the Girondins, redrafted the election rules in their favor and eliminated the Girondins. They elected city government dominated by the Montagnards and the sans-culottes.
March 10 1793: The convention created a revolutionary Tribunal, located in the palace de justice. Verdicts of the Tribunal could not be appealed and sentences were to be carried out immediately. Among those charged by the tribunal, about half were acquitted.
April 6 1793: The convention established the Committee of Public Safety to hunt for enemies and watch over the actions of the government. New decrees were issued for the arrests of families of emigrants, aristocrats, and refectory priests, and the immunity from arrest of members of the Convention was taken away. Between now and June 10, 1793 the Revolutionary Tribunal will pronounce 1250 death sentences in 90 days. It became the defacto war-time government. It oversaw the Reign of Terror. At least 300k suspects were arrested and 17k were officially executed and perhaps 10k died in prison or without trial.
June 1793 and July 1794: 16,594 official death sentences in France, of which 2,639 were in Paris.
June 1793: Guillotine was moved to the place du Tron-Renversé. 1376 persons were beheaded here during the height of the reign of terror, or about 30 a day.
June 2 1793: The Parisians sans-culottes surrounded the National Convention, calling for administrative and political surges, a low fixed price for bread, and a limitation of the electoral franchise to sans-culottes alone. With the backing of the National Guard, they persuaded the convention to arrest 29 Girondist leaders. In reaction to the imprisonment of the Girondin deputies, some 13 departments started the Federalist Revolts against the National Convention in Paris, which were ultimately crushed.
June 24 1793: The Convention adopted the first republican constitution in France, the French Constitution of 1793. It was ratified by public referendum but never put into force.
July 13 1793: Jean-PaulMarat is assassinated. He was a Jacobin leader and journalist. This resulted in further increase in Jacobin political influence.
July 27 1793: Robespierre became part of the Committee of Public Safety.
August 23 1793: The National Convention decreed the levee en masse, “the young men shall fight, the married men shall forge arms and transport provisions, the women shall make tents and clothes and shall serve in the hospitals, the children shal turn all lint into linen, the old men shall betake themselves to the public square in order to arouse the courage of the warriors and preach hatred of kings and the unity of the Republic”.
Sept 5, 1793-July 28, 1794: The bloody reign of terror (la Terreur), a 10 month period in which suspected enemies of the revolution were guillotined by the thousands. Many of the killings were carried out under orders from Robespierre, who dominated the draconian Committee of Public Safety until his own execution on July 28th, 1794. Over 17,000 people were tried and executed during the reign of terror. The guillotine was moved to the Place de Grève and was only used for the execution of common criminals. During this time priests were ordered to sign a declaration giving up the priesthood. 1/3 of the 400 remaining priests did so.
September 9, 1793: The Convention established paramilitary forces, the “revolutionary armies”, to force farmers to surrender grain demanded by the government.
September 17 1793: Robespierre put the city government under the authority of the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety. The Law of Suspects was passed, which authorized the imprisonment of vaguely defined “suspects”. This created a mass overflow in the prison system
September 29 1793: The Convention extended price fixing from grain and bread to other essential goods and also fixed wages.
October 10 1793: The Convention decreed that “the provisional government shall be revolutionary until peace.
October 14-16 1793: queen’s trial. She was guillotined at noon on the 16th.
October 24 1793: The French Republican Calendar was enacted. The trial of the GIrodins started and they were executed on Halloween.
November 6 1793: Execution of Louis Philippe II, Duc d’Orleans, Philippe Egalite, on the place de la Revolution.
November 8, 1793: Opening of the museum central des arts, later named the Louvre museum.
November 10 1793: Brumaire Year II of the French Republic Calendar, the Hébertists organized a Festival of Reason.
November 12 1793: Jean Sylvain Bailly, the first elected mayor of Paris, is executed. French citizens are required by law to use the familiar tu over the formal vous.
November 23 1793: All churches in Paris are closed or transformed into “temples of reason”. Civil divorce was made simple and 1663 divorces were granted in the first nine months of 1793, along with 5004 civil marriages. All property of the aristocrats is confiscated.
December 4 1793: The relative independence of the city government of Paris that it had enjoyed since 1789 was ended. The districts of the city were placed under the control of the Committee of Public Safety and the Committee, with “National Agents” placed in each district to assure they observed the decrees of the national government.
December 5 1793 (14 Frimaire): The Law of Frimaire was passed, which gave the central government more control over the actions of the representatives on mission.
December 6, 1793: Permitted religious services in private, but in practice the local revolutionary government arrested or dispersed anyone who tried to celebrate mass in a home.
End of 1793: A new calendar is established and Christianity is eradicated. 1793 became year one. This was the French Republican Calendar. Many street names were changed and the revolutionary slogan “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” was engraved on the façades of government buildings.
No longer was Monsiuer and Madame used. It was replaced with Citoyen and Citoyenne (Citizen and Citizeness). Also, the formal vous was replaced by the more proletarian tu. Stores were forbidden to close on Sundays. The heads of the statues of Saints on the façade of Notre-Dame cathedral were decapitated. Streets named after saints had the word saint effaced with a hammer.
Two factions had emerged by now, both threatening the Revolutionary Government: the Hébertists, who called for an intensification of the Terror and threatened insurrection, and the Dantonists, led by George Danton, who demanded moderation and clemency. The committee of public safety took actions against both.
1794: The guillotine was moved from the place de la Revolution to the place Saint-Antoine near the site of the old Bastille for hygiene purposes. 73 heads were cut off in just 3 days after the move.
Only clergy, nobility, or counter revolutionaries were living in fear of the Revolutionary Tribunal who would punish them. The guillotine stood at the Place de la Revolution, formerly known as the Place Louis XV.
A new royalist social movement called the Muscadins appeared. These were largely upper middle class young men, numbering 2-3K, who dressed in an extravagant fashion, spoke with an exaggerated accent, carried canes as weapons, and in 1794-95 they patrolled the streets in groups and attacked sans-culottes and symbols of the revolution. They tried to be and act like nobility of the ancient regime and mostly tried to live in the abandoned Marais area. They went into the Pantheon and destroyed Marat’s monument and removed his ashes.
February 4 1794 (16 Pluviôse): The National Convention decreed that slavery be abolished in all of France and French colonies.
February 26 and March 3 (8 and 13 Ventôse): Saint-Just proposed decrees to confiscate the property of exiles and opponents of the revolution, known as the Ventôse Decrees. The major Hébertists were tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal and executed on March 24th. The Dantonists were arrested on March 30, tried on 3-5 of April and executed April 5th.
March 30 1794: A struggle for power broke out within the Convention between supporters of Robespierre and Danton. Robespierre had his opponents, those following Danton, in the city government arrested along with Danton and sent to the guillotine and replaced by his own supporters. He went to trial in front of the Revolutionary Tribunal.
April 5 1794: Danton was executed.
June 8 1794 (20 Prairial): at the debut of the new wave of terror, Robespierre presided over the Festival (Cult) of the Supreme Being in the huge amphitheater on the Champs de Mars which had been constructed in 1790 for the 1st anniversary of the Revolution. The ceremony was designed by the painter David and featured a 10 hour parade, bonfires, a statue of wisdom, and a gigantic mountain with a tree of liberty at the peak. The pretensions of Robespierre annoyed many of those present, and there were cries of “dictator!” and “tyrant!” from some in the crowd. The growing number of enemies of Robespierre within the Convention began to quietly plot against him.
June 10 1794: A new decree deprived those brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal of any legal rights. It was known as the Lase of 22 Prairial, which simplified the judicial process and greatly accelerated the work of the Revolutionary Tribunal. With the enactment of the law, the number of executions greatly increased, and the period from this time to the Thermidorian Reaction became known as “the Grand Terror”.
June 11 1794 – July 27 1794: The Revolutionary Tribunal issues 1366 death sentences in just 47 days. It was a period known as the Grande Terreur.
July 26, 1794 (8 Messidor): Robespierre, sensing what was happening, gave a long speech at the Commune, denouncing “a conspiracy against the public liberties”, calling for a purge of the Convention and the arrest of his enemies. Instead of supporting him, the more moderate members of the Commune rose and spoke against him. The following day, he was prevented from speaking at the Commune. The next day bells were rung calling the sans-culottes to arms to defend Robespierre, but few responded. The French army won the battle of Fleurus, which marked a turning point in France’s military campaign.
July 27, 1794: (9th Thermidor): The Convention accuses Robespierre of crimes. He is arrested together with several of his acolytes, among which Saint-Just.
July 28 1794: Policemen and members of the National Guard summoned by the Convention invaded the Hôtel de Ville and arrested Robespierre and 21 of his remaining supporters. The convention finally turned on Robespierre and he took sanctuary with his supporters in the City Hall, but was arrested and guillotined the same day at 7pm before a large and approving crowd.
Aug 1794: The start of the Thermidorian Reaction, a moderate phase in which the French people revolted against the Reign of Terror’s excesses.
August 24 1794: The revolutionary committees of the twelve Paris sections are abolished, and replaced by new arrondissement committees.
August 31 1794: The municipal government of Paris is abolished and the city is put directly under the national government.
September 18, 1794: They declared that the state recognized no religion and therefore cancelled salaries they had been paying to the priests who had taken an oath of loyalty to the government. They outlawed the practice of allowing government-owned buildings for worship.
September 22, 1794: Marat’s ashes are placed with great ceremony in the Pantheon alongside those of Voltaire and Rousseau.
November 10 1794: The first festival of Reason and Liberty was celebrated at the Cathedral.
February 21, 1795: Religious symbols were outlawed on the exterior of buildings, prohibited to wear on garb in public.
May 30,1795: The rules were softened slightly and the church was allowed to use twelve churches for worship. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Saint-Roche, Saint-Sulpice, and Saint-Eustache were along them, but they had to share it with two new secular religions based on reason.
1795: The abbey of Saint-Antoine in that quarter was converted into a hospital. The first maternity hospital was opened at Port-Royal.
August 1795: The National Convention, composed of Girondins who survived the reign of terror, approved the new constitution that created France’s first bicameral legislature.
1802: Napoleon revoked the abolition of slavery
1848: slavery was officially abolished again.