In the late 18th century, France was ruled by two monarchs: King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Louis XVI was a very weak ruler and under his leadership France fell into economic and political turmoil. Marie Antoinette was an Austrian princess who was given to King Louis XVI to strengthen the alliance between France and Austria, but she was greatly disliked by the French people.
The Great Fear
France was divided socially into three classes called the Three Estates. The First Estate was made up of the clergy. The Second Estate was made up of the nobility. The Third Estate was made up of the common folk, including the Bourgeoisie, who made up the middle class.
To the Guillotine
In an act of desperation from the financial crisis in France, King Louis XVI called a meeting called the Estates General intending to raise taxes for all classes. However, on the day of the vote on the increase in taxes, the Third Estate was locked out. Therefore, they met elsewhere and swore that they would continue to meet until a constitution was written.
Rumors begun to fly about the king potentially marching on Paris. An angry mob stormed the Bastille in search for weapons to defend themselves ans ended up killing the guards. Meanwhile, in the countryside, starving, angry peasants resorted to violence, killing nobles for flour.
The king and queen attempted to flee to Austria to seek refuge from Marie Antoinette's family, however they were caught trying to cross the border. The Parisian people felt betrayed by their monarch's wish to abandon them, and convicted King Louis XVI of treason. He was beheaded by the guillotine, which became known as the National Razor.
After the execuation of the king, a new form of government was made under the National Convention. A political group within the assembly rose to power, bringing forth its most influential leader, Maximilien Robespierre. Under him, France fell into a whole new period of darkness in the Reign of Terror, until he, like the king, met his end at the guillotine