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French Revolution

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French Revolution Posters

By Richard Moore

After years of increasing dissatisfaction with the way they were treated by the royal family and aristocratic class, the people of France moved towards improving their lot in life by the formation of a National Assembly on 17 June 1789.

The people wanted an end to tax exemptions and special privileges given to the nobility.

The civil unrest grew stronger and, less than a month later, a crowd stormed Paris' Bastille prison and released a handful of prisoners languishing there.

After two years of detention King Louis XVI attempted to flee France, but was captured by revolutionaries at Varennes.

Trapped, the King agreed to a constitution, but as the revolutionary armies were hit by defeat after defeat the extremists pushed to rid themselves of opponents and the monarchy.

The Terror was unleashed and on 21 September the Republic of France was announced.

The hardliners still wanted the King out of the way and put him on trial. He was condemned to death and guillotined on 21 January 1793. His wife, Marie-Antoinette, suffered the same fate on 16 October that year. Their son, the Dauphin, died terribly in prison.

From the chaos emerged a hard man in the form of Maximilien Robespierre who, with his Jacobin allies and the Committee of Public Safety, plunged France into even more bloodshed than before.

The guillotine was kept busier than ever as thousands of people were denounced as anti-revolutionary traitors.

It is believed more than 40,000 people died during the Terror.

Fortunately for France, Robespierre and his cronies were overthrown in the Coup de Thermidor on 27 July 1794 and he was executed, facing upwards, on the guillotine.

 
 
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