The Palace of Versailles is the physical representation of the absolute power of the French monarch, Louis XIV (1638-1715). To fully understand the power of Louis XIV, we need to look at the development of the French monarchy. In about two hundred years, France changed from a feudal society dominated by the nobility into a society dominated by the French kings, an absolute monarchy. This required French kings to override many local rights and local power, centralizing control over society and politics in their own hands. This process of centralization has continued in France to this day, even under democratic goverment. Moreover, this trend toward more central control has been the general one in the West from the seventeenth through the twentieth century. Thus, the rise of French absolute monarchy is one of the manifestations of a large development in Western government.
Henry IV (b.1554, d.1610, r.1589-1610), a member of the Bourbon family, became king in 1589, but his succession was challenged by the Catholics because he was a Protestant. After nine years of turmoil and after Henry’s conversion to Catholicism to gain the support of the Catholic French nobility, he successfully united France and achieved peace with her neighbors. In 1598, Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, giving French Protestants, called Huguenots, limited religious freedom. The Edict of Nantes was an attempt to prevent further religious conflict within France.
Henry IV’s pursuit of women caused concern about the royal succession. His numerous affairs and the need for a legitimate heir to the throne led him to marry a princess of Tuscany, Marie de Medici, in 1600. The next year an uncontested royal succession was ensured with the birth of the future Louis XIII.
During his reign, many attempts were made on Henry’s life because many in France felt that Henry was trying to subvert Catholicism. In 1610, while on a military expedition to the Spanish Netherlands, Henry was assassinated in his royal carriage. France now had a child-king, Louis XIII.
Because Louis XIII was a child when he assumed the throne, his mother ruled as regent in his place. In 1624, she named Armand Jean du Plessis—Cardinal Richelieu (b.1585, d.1642)—to the king’s council. In 1628, Richelieu became first minister to the king. Cardinal Richelieu was responsible for the development of the French absolute monarchy. He wanted to make the king supreme in France and France supreme in Europe. Richelieu moved to break the power of the nobles by attacking and tearing down their castles. To further weaken the rule of the nobles, Richelieu divided France into thirty-two districts and placed a person called an "intendant" over each district. The intendants, who could be removed at will by the king, were responsible for enforcing the king’s will throughout France.
Richelieu also wanted to make sure that all military force was under the king’s control. For this reason, Richelieu saw the Protestant Huguenots as a threat to the king’s power. Under the Edict of Nantes the Huguenots had the right to build walled cities to protect themselves. At this time a walled city, protected by Huguenot soldiers, was a sign of power and authority. Richelieu decided that he must remove the Huguenots’ right to walled cities, thus erasing a possible challenge to the power of the king. A Protestant noble, the Duke of Rohan, revolted. Richelieu put down the rebellion and destroyed the walled city. He then revoked the right of Huguenots to build walled cities and the security that walled cities guaranteed them. They were still allowed religious freedom to practice their faith, but the threat to the monarchy was gone.
In order to guarantee the king’s control over the use of force, Richelieu also banned dueling. Traditionally, French nobles felt able to resolve their arguments with each other by deadly force, generally with the sword. Richelieu's attempt to eliminate dueling was later immortalized in fiction by Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Three Musketeers.
These attempts to limit noble and Huguenot power were part of a broader movement to centralize society under royal control. Richelieu’s desire to centralize power in France extended even to the French language. In 1635, Richelieu created the French Academy, which was responsible for standardizing the French language.
If Louis XIII was going to be supreme in France and France supreme in Europe, then the government needed money. In order to raise more revenue, Richelieu changed the system of taxation in France. He began a system called "tax farming." Individuals were sold the right to collect taxes and as payment kept a large portion for themselves. This system of tax farming led to unfair and uneven taxation which overburdened the common people and protected rich noble families. Even though they increased tax revenue, these policies led to trouble for Louis’ successors.
In order to make France supreme in Europe, Richelieu attempted to reduce the power of France’s greatest enemy, Austria. The Austrian royal family, called the Habsburgs, were France’s greatest enemy because their territory surrounded France. The Habsburgs controlled much of the Holy Roman Empire to the west of France (most of what is now Germany). South of France, Spain was ruled by another branch of the Hapsburg family, and so was allied to the Austrian Habsburgs. Moreover, Spain controlled the Spanish Netherlands to the north of France. Richelieu wanted to win defensible boundaries for France. He wanted a northern boundary on the Rhine River and the Pyrenees Mountains as the southern border of France. The opportunity to achieve France’s foreign policy goals came about in the final phase of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).
The Thirty Years War began in 1618 with a dispute about whether the Holy Roman Emperor should remain the ruler of Protestant Bohemia. On one side was the Bohemian nobility supported by the Protestant princes of Germany; on the other side were the Catholic Habsburgs supported by the Catholic German princes. The conflict quickly developed into a broad religious war between Protestant German princes and Catholics led by the Habsburgs. In 1625, Denmark entered the war to help the Protestants. In 1630, Protestant Sweden swung the balance of power towards the Protestants. However, the untimely death of the Swedish King Gustavus Aldofus in 1632 led to the end of the third phase of the Thirty Years War. Little had changed in Europe between 1618-1632 as a result of the war.
In 1635, France entered the war under Richelieu’s leadership. Instead of entering the war on the side of the Catholics, France made an alliance with the Protestant countries of Sweden and Holland. Louis made this move because his loyalty to France was greater than his loyalty to the Catholic Church. A Catholic defeat would mean a Habsburg defeat, which would lead to increased power in Europe for France. Richelieu died in 1642 before the war ended, but his successor, Cardinal Jules Mazarin (b.1602, d.1661), continued the war efforts, and France’s foreign policy goals were met at the Treaty of Westphalia.
The Thirty Years War also gave France the Pyrenees Mountains as a southern boundary and increased the northern boundary of France to provide a more defensible frontier. More importantly, the power of the Habsburgs had been reduced, and France was now the dominant power in Europe. The Peace of the Pyrenees created a dynamic connection between France and Spain which later helped to isolate the Habsburgs’ power in Europe.
When Louis XIII died in 1643, the French monarchy had been firmly established and the roots of absolutism were implanted in Europe. The new king, Louis XIV, was five when he succeeded to the throne, and Mazarin ran the government until Louis reached maturity. Louis XIV’s reign was the fulfillment of all of the work of Henry IV, Richelieu, and Mazarin. As king, Louis was legitimately able to exclaim the words attributed to him, ‘L’etat c’est moi’ (I am the State).
The nobility, which had lost power during the reign of Louis XIII, saw the opportunity to regain that lost power at the expense of the new king. From 1648 to 1653 the nobility of France and the middle class participated in a rebellion, called the "Fronde," against the power of the king. The goal of the Fronde was to regain the feudal and constitutional rights of the nobility. When the Fronde was put down by forces loyal to the king in 1653, that was the last time the French nobility threatened the monarchy by force until the French Revolution of 1789. The Fronde was a significant event in the formation of the young king’s political beliefs. Louis XIV concluded that the only way to avoid anarchy and rebellion was through absolute rule. This belief became apparent when he came to power.
In 1661, after the death of his minister Mazarin, Louis XIV, now an adult, began his independent rule. It is believed that he waited until Mazarin’s death to assume independent rule out of respect for his mother, who had a long romantic relationship with the minster. Louis XIV’s 72-year reign was the longest in European history (1643-1715), and he became the dominant figure of his age. The French writer Voltaire (b.1694, d. 1778) called the time of Louis’ reign the "Age of Louis XIV." Louis epitomized absolute rule. As king, Louis had two goals. First, he wanted to extend the French boundary to the Rhine River in the north, protecting France from invasion. Louis fought four wars to increase French power on the world stage. Second, he further curbed the power of the nobility. Louis XIV became an absolute ruler and ruled by the divine right theory that he had been taught by the clergy of the Catholic church, his mother, and his minister, Mazarin. During his rule, he made France the most powerful nation in Europe. This power is best illustrated by the greatness of the Palace of Versailles.
Louis wanted to control the nobility and did not want to give them an opportunity to revolt or challenge his power in any way. He wanted them to be dependent and totally loyal to him. He established his court at the Palace of Versailles and used royal court life to achieve this goal. In the past, the king and his court had traveled to visit the royal properties throughout the country to help maintain the king’s authority over the whole country. Louis required the nobles to live at Versailles at least part of the year. With the nobles at Versailles, Louis was able to keep an eye on them as well as develop court rituals that required the nobles to submit to the authority of the king.
Early History of the Town and the Palace
The city of Versailles is located in northern France, approximately 20 miles southwest of Paris. At the time of Louis XIV, it was a tiny village surrounded by marsh and woods. The soil was composed mostly of sand. Louis used the woods for hunting, and as a welcome relief from the noise of Paris. He loved Versailles because of the happy childhood memories of the time spent there.
Versailles was originally a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII as a retreat from his wife. Louis XIV transformed the hunting lodge into a physical embodiment of his absolute rule. Four men are primarily responsible for helping the king build his palace: Colbert, Le Vau, Le Notre, and Le Brun.
Jean-Baptiste Colbert (b.1619, d.1683) was France’s Minister of Finance. Colbert realized that if France were to become a world power, it would need to have economic power and to become an exporting nation. Versailles would have remained a dream if Colbert had not raised the money to build it. To raise the money, Colbert reorganized the tax system and ensured that the nobles complied with tax laws. Colbert also established a tariff to protect French industry. He believed in mercantilism (an economic system in which the government controls all aspects of the economy) and made it illegal to buy anything made outside France that could be made inside France. Colbert also encouraged the development of French industry and French trade abroad.
Colbert increased French expansion overseas. He was interested in making Canada a French colony. In 1608, Quebec had been settled by peasants rounded up by Colbert in western France. The French explorers Marquette and Joliet later sailed down the Mississippi River as far south as Arkansas, claiming the land for France. In 1684, La Salle reached the mouth of the river and claimed all the lands surrounding it for Louis XIV (including Mississippi). Trade in French colonies and Louisiana generated revenue for the king. Colbert’s financial reforms and policies gave the king the resources he needed not only to increase France’s power but also to build his court at Versailles.
Versailles, when complete, symbolized the king’s power in France and was seen as a reflection of French genius. Other European monarchs not only copied the physical plans of Versailles when building their palaces but also imitated Louis XIV’s court life.
Louis surrounded himself with advisors and counselors from the new nobility and the upper middle class. He did this because these classes saw themselves as serving the king, not serving with the king. The landed nobility, on the other hand, saw themselves as sharing the king’s power and authority. Louis would share power with no one.
Though Louis imitated his predecessors by having multiple affairs, he claimed that he did not let his mistresses have as much influence on his policies as had other French kings. It was customary for the French king to marry for political reasons and then to have one or more mistresses. Louis tried to keep his affairs out of his mother’s sight because of his great love and respect for her, as well as the close relationship between his wife, Marie Thérèse (b.1638, d.1683) and his mother, Queen Anne (b.1601, d.1666). After his mother’s death in 1666, he immediately recognized Mme. de La Valliere (b.1644, d.1710) as his mistress and made her a duchess. He also legitimized their baby daughter. When Louis became bored with La Valliere, he moved on to Marquise de Montespan (b. 1635, d.1707), one of La Valliere’s ladies. He later had an affair with Marquise. de Maintenon (b. 1641, d. 1719) (who became his second wife), an affair which was encouraged by Mme. de Montespan.
Louis’ desire for control led him to reverse the policy of tolerance towards the Huguenots (French Protestants) that had been instituted by his grandfather Henry IV in the Edict of Nantes. In 1685, Louis revoked the Edict, ordering the destruction of churches, the closing of schools, the rites of Catholic baptism for Huguenots, and the exile of Huguenot pastors who refused to renounce their faith. Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes more out of political expediency than for religious reasons. He felt that religious unity would help to accomplish his goal of "One king, one law, one faith." His decision was also very popular with the French people who were not tolerant of differing religions at that time. It has been suggested that Mme. de Maintenon may have encouraged Louis to revoke the Edict of Nantes. Much debate persists about the economic impact of the revocation of the Edict. Some historians say it meant the loss of many skilled Protestant workers who fled France. Others insist that it had only a minor effect on French economic development. Regardless of the economic effect, it did have the intended effect of increasing the centralization of power under the king.
Louis sought to increase his power in Europe at the expense of his neighbors. Louis saw himself as a great military leader and hero. Louvois (b.1641, d.1691), his minister of war, created a professional army that was controlled by the king, not by the nobles. In 1665, he invaded the Netherlands, beginning the War of Devolution (1667-1669), which resulted in French territorial gains in Flanders. In 1672, Louis again invaded the Netherlands (Franco-Dutch War, 1672-1678), hoping to disrupt Dutch trade and to gain additional territory for France. In 1674, the war broadened as the Holy Roman Empire and Spain entered the war to assist the Dutch. The war ended in 1678 with further French gains at the expense of both Spain and the Netherlands. In 1688, Louis invaded the German Rhineland in hopes of a quick victory that would disrupt his enemies and gain territory in the East. The invasion led to the War of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697), which lasted nine years. The war resulted in no gains for France and ensured that Louis’ bitter Dutch enemy, William of Orange (b.1650, d.1702, r.1689-1702), would become the King of England.
The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) began because the King of Spain, Charles II (b.1661, d.1700, r.1665-1700), left all his possessions to Louis’ grandson Phillipe, the Duke of Anjou (b.1683, d.1746, r.1700-1746). Charles’ will went against previous treaties that had been signed by the major European powers about how to divide Spanish lands upon the death of Charles II. If Louis declined to accept the will, the Holy Roman Emperor’s son would receive the inheritance, so Louis decided to accept the will on behalf of his grandson. This acceptance alone was not enough to cause war, but Louis also refused to give the British, the Habsburgs, and the Dutch assurances that France and Spain would never be united. This refusal resulted in the Grande Alliance (the Holy Roman Empire, the Netherlands, and Britain) declaring war on France. The war resulted in defeat for France in 1702. In 1709, Louis asked for peace but was told he would have to use French troops to overthrow his own grandson, Phillipe, from the Spanish throne. Louis refused to do this and the war continued for another five years. The end of the war came with the death of the Holy Roman Emperor and the ascension of his son to the throne. The Peace of Utrecht (1713) allowed Phillipe to remain King of Spain, but Louis had to guarantee that the French and Spanish thrones would never be united. The inheritance was also divided equally between Phillipe and Charles (now Holy Roman Emperor). The French lost Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to the English as a result of the war.
The wars that Louis XIV fought resulted in a drain on the French treasury. They did increase and further secure French territory, but they also managed to unite most of Europe against France. The taxes that were raised to finance the wars also managed to fall more heavily on the peasantry and middle class of France, planting seeds of rebellion that would grow into revolution. It is ironic that in his efforts to increase France’s glory and power, Louis was leading France down the path toward revolution, which would end the absolute monarchy he had endeavored to create.
Louis XIV died at Versailles on August 31, 1715. He had outlived his son and grandson. His successor was his five year old great grandson. Louis’ legacy of absolute power could be seen in his four wars and in the building of his palace at Versailles. Both served as means to increase royal power, yet both would later serve as evidence of the excesses of absolute rule.
Decline of the Monarchy
Louis XV (b. 1710, d. 1774, r. 1715-1774) ascended to the throne in 1715. Regents served in his name until he reached maturity in 1723. Louis XV continued to rule through intermediaries during much of his reign. His rule marked the rapid decline of the French monarchy in France and abroad. He lacked the education and character needed to rule France. He saw himself as the center of life in France but was slow to accept the responsibility for the welfare of his country. He lived an isolated life at Versailles and indulged in numerous affairs. The early period of Louis XV’s reign was one of stability primarily due to the influence of Cardinal Fleury, Louis’ tutor and first minister. Upon Fleury’s death in 1743, Louis began to rule, serving as his own first minister.
In 1725, he married Maria Leszcynska (b. 1703, d. 1768), the daughter of the dethroned king of Poland. This relationship drew France into the War of Polish Succession (1733-1735) against Russia and Austria. The war resulted in French defeat and the Russian and Austrian candidate being placed on the throne of Poland.
Louis’ regent, the Duke of Orleans, returned some power to the nobility by giving the Parlement of Paris, the chief court of laws, the right to register (approve) the king’s decrees. This policy proved disastrous later in Louis’ reign when he unsuccessfully tried to increase tax revenues to fight wars against his European enemies.
The War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) began with the death in 1740 of the last male descendant of the Hapsburg family, Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor. He left his lands to his daughter, Marie Thérèsa. This arrangement had been accepted by most European leaders. Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia disregarded this agreement and invaded the Austrian territory of Silesia. France supported Prussia and England supported Austria in this war. France sued for peace after New England colonists seized French territory in Canada. France narrowly avoided losing more territory in the New World. The domestic results of the war were even more disastrous. Because Louis needed money to finance his war, he attempted to raise taxes on everyone regardless of social status. The nobility had been exempt from most taxes and did not want to change the status quo, so the Parlement, which was made up of nobles, refused to register the law. This was a major blow to the power of the monarchy.
The Seven Years War (1756-1763) resulted in the loss of most of France’s colonial possessions to the British, as well as the creation of another major threat to royal power. The war began when Austria tried to regain Silesia from Prussia. Russia, Sweden, and France supported Austria; Britain and Hanover supported Prussia. The war spread to North America where the British won control of Canada at the Battle of Quebec. This loss was devastating to the French. In India the British also took territory from the French. The Peace of Paris (1763) gave Britain Canadian territory and French territory east of the Mississippi River. Spain received Louisiana from France, and France gave up most of its claims in India.
During the Seven Years War, once again the Parlement refused to register a tax law. Louis responded by appointing a new chancellor, Rene de Maupeou, and telling him to crush the opposition. Maupeou abolished the Parlement of Paris and exiled its members. He created a new Parlement of royal officials. His policies might have been successful in usurping the power of the nobility had it not been for Louis XV’s death from smallpox on May 10, 1774. His successor, Louis XVI, eager to please, fired Maupeou and reinstated the old Parlement.
The reign of Louis XV, characterized by his many affairs and his lack of ability to rule, led to loss of power for the monarch in France as well as loss of prestige and power abroad. The one reform that would have restored the monarch’s authority over the nobility died with him. His legacy was a nobility that served as opposition to his successor, an opposition which ultimately led to the downfall of the monarchy.
Louis XVI (b.1754, d.1793, r.1774-1793), the last of the absolute monarchs in France, ruled France from 1774 until the monarchy was abolished in September of 1792. Though well intentioned, Louis lacked the skills to rule a country in the midst of great upheaval. He proved unable to make necessary reforms or to meet the challenges of the revolution. When Louis XVI attempted to make financial and tax reforms, he was met with opposition and all attempts at reform failed. Louis also helped finance the American Revolution, which contributed to the financial crisis in France. His attempts to secure revenue and increase taxes led to conflict with the Parlement of Paris. In an attempt to avoid bankruptcy and bypass the power of the Parlement, Louis called the Estates General, which had not met since 1614, to meet in in 1789. In doing so, he acknowledged that he would share his power with the nobility.
French society was still divided along medieval lines. The members of the Estates General were elected from each social class or estate. The First Estate was made up of the Roman Catholic clergy; the Second Estate consisted of the nobility; the Third Estate consisted of everyone else, including the emerging middle class. The first and second estates controlled most of the land and were lightly taxed. The Third Estate was heavily taxed. Three votes were cast in the Estates General, one per estate. This system gave the First and Second Estates an advantage over the Third Estate. The Third Estate saw this policy as an attempt to maintain the old order of aristocratic rule. There was some agreement between the three Estates about what reforms were needed in France: the end of absolute rule and the emergence of a constitutional monarchy, protection of individual liberties, and economic and tax reforms. This agreement was undermined by the nobility’s insistence, with the monarch’s support, that the estates vote by separate order. By the 1780's many in France were influenced by a movement called the "Enlightenment," which held that all persons should be equal before the law and that goverment is based on a contract between the government and the governed. The Enlightenment had already influenced the American Declaration of Independence.
These Enlightenment ideas also led to the first conflict that incited the Third Estate to revolt. Because the First and Second Estates were unwilling to sit with the Third Estate, the members of the Third Estate refused to conduct any business. On June 17, 1789, the Third Estate declared itself the National Assembly. It was then barred from its meeting place on June 20. The National Assembly moved to an indoor tennis court where its members swore the Oath of the Tennis Court, which said that they would not disband until they had written a new constitution.
On July 11, 1789, Louis XVI ordered his army to disband the National Assembly by force. On July 14, 1789, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille looking for arms and gun powder to protect themselves against the army and to protect the National Assembly. The governor of the prison refused to give the people weapons and ordered his men to fire on them. This decision resulted in the death of over ninety people. In spite of this, the people captured the Bastille and took the arms they needed to defend the National Assembly. The next day the Marquis de Lafayette (b.1757, d.1834) was appointed commander of the city’s armed forces by a committee of citizens. The king had lost control of Paris.
The violence was not confined to Paris. Throughout the country peasants revolted and called for reforms and an end to the old feudal relationships. Frightened nobility gave in to the demands and urged the National Assembly to end feudal rights. The National Assembly continued to make reforms, issuing the Declaration of Rights of Man on August 27, 1789, which guaranteed equality before the law and a representative government for the people of France. The National Assembly next began to work on a constitution. The major point of disagreement was over the extent of the king’s power.
The Revolution led to high unemployment and increased hunger in the city. On October 5, 1789, five to six thousand people (mostly women) made the twenty miles march to Versailles from Paris to demand that the king take some action to relieve their plight. The mob invaded the Palace of Versailles looking for the royal family, and killing some of the royal bodyguards. Only the intervention of Lafayette saved the royal family. The crowd demanded that the king and his family be moved back to Paris. The power of the monarchy was broken. As Versailles had symbolized the power of the monarchy under Louis XIV, it now symbolized the loss of power as the king was moved from Versailles to Paris.
The National Assembly abolished the French nobility as a group with legal rights and created a constitutional monarchy in July 1790. The king remained the head of state, but the true power rested with the National Assembly. The National Assembly continued to make further reforms: dividing the country into 83 administrative districts, adopting the metric system, promoting economic reforms and freedom, and generally applying the ideas of the Enlightenment to all of France’s institutions. The Assembly also confiscated the lands of the nobility who had emigrated from France and nationalized Church lands. They forced the clergy to take oaths of allegiance to the new government and sought to subjugate the power of the Church because it was regarded a remnant of the Old Regime that had abused the rights of all Frenchmen.
A virtual prisoner in Paris, Louis XVI was unwilling to let the National Assembly take all his power. He paid lip service to the Revolution but hoped that émigré (nobles who had fled France during the Revolution) living abroad would invade France and restore the monarchy to full power. At this time he still had the support of many of the moderates in the government. On June 20, 1791, the royal family was caught at Varennes attempting to escape from France and join royalists gathering on the Eastern Border. Louis and his family were returned to Paris and his lack of commitment to the Revolution and reform was made clear.
After the capture of the royal family, the Austrian and Prussian monarchs issued the Declaration of Pillnitz, which declared their willingness to intervene and reinstate the monarchy in France. In September 1791, Louis promised to uphold the new Constitution of 1791, but he continued to work to overthrow the revolutionary government, corresponding secretly with counterrevolutionary aristocrats who had left France.
After creating a new constitution, the National Assembly called for the election of a new Legislative Assembly. The members of the National Assembly prohibited themselves from becoming members of the new Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly, which was dominated by political liberals known as Jacobins, who were outraged at the Declaration of Pillnitz, was elected and convened in October 1791. In April 1792, France declared war on Austria with the intention of spreading revolution outside the borders of France.
The war against Austria went badly, with the Prussians supporting the Austrians. Rumors about betrayal by Louis XVI spread in Paris. On August 10, 1792, a revolutionary mob attacked the Royal Palace at Tuileries, and the royal family fled to the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly suspended the powers of the king, imprisoned him, and called for a new National Convention elected by universal manhood suffrage.
In September 1792, the new National Convention declared France a republic. On September 21, the monarchy was abolished. In December 1792, Louis XVI was tried and convicted of treason by the National Convention. He was beheaded by guillotine on January 21, 1793, at the Place de la Revolution in Paris. The monarchy in France was ended.
The Revolution continued. The National Convention gave all power to the Committee of Public Safety, which carried out the war on the battlefields and on the home front. From 1793 to 1794, the Committee of Public Safety conducted a reign of Terror upon the French people. Maximilian Robespierre was the head of the Committee of Public Safety. The Terror was directed at anyone who was perceived as being an enemy of the revolution. Over 40,000 people were executed or died in prison. After the French were victorious against the First Coalition, Robespierre expanded the Terror against anyone who might question the new government. Because many revolutionaries met their death at the guillotine, a group of radicals and moderates plotted to end Robespierre’s reign of Terror. On July 27, 1794, the plotters shouted Robespierre down as he tried to address the National Assembly. The next day Robespierre and his followers were executed, and the Terror was over.
In 1795, a new government, a Directory consisting of a five-man executive branch, was created. In 1799, after several years of unrest, the Directory was overthrown by a popular army officer, Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte eventually declared himself the "Emperor of the French." Thus, the Revolution that had ended monarchy resulted in the establishment of an Emperor.© Copyright 1998, Mississippi State University (website)
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