French revolution chronology

The Reign of Terror

The rise of the tension between revolutionaires

Henri de la Roche Jacquelein

Henri de la Roche Jacquelein at the battle of Cholet, October 17th 1793. Author: Paul Emile Bouligny

France, at war against Austria, needed to find men to fight the enemy. The Convention, led by Danton, asked 300,000 men to join the French army. The first revolts bloomed in the country, especially in Vendee where the peasants denounced the authority of the Convention and the idea of the Revolution.

They asked for the reestablishment of the Monarchy. A real civil war took place in the French countryside, between the Vendeen and the republican guards. From March to September 1793, more than 100,000 people died from this opposition.

On April 6th, 1793 the Convention created the "Comite de Salut Public". This new government, led by Robespierre, took urgent measures to stop the Vendeen insurrection and the French military defeats in Belgium. A few weeks later, the Girondists, were held responsible for the military crisis. 22 representatives of the Girondins were guillotined. The original revolutionary system was breaking apart.

The Reign of Terror

Marie Antoinette to be executed

Marie Antoinette execution on October 16th 1793.

In September 1793, the "Reign of Terror" spread all over the country. This was a cruel period when France was killing its people by hundreds in a frightening movement of rage and decadence. People were arrested and executed without trial if they were accused of being enemies of the revolution. It is estimated that about 40,000 people died during this 15 month period.

Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI was executed by a Guillotine in October 1793. She died because she represented the King's heritage and was the perfect illustration of the fear that reigned at this time.

The all new constitution was suspended. Some say Robespierre became a despot, who thought anything was justified when it came to the revolution's rights. He changed his views on the death penalty, saying it was justified against enemies of the Republic. He reinstalled censorship, especially in the press and acted for a secular state. To this effect, he changed the calendar and in November 24th, 1793 he set the Revolutionary calendar as the new benchmark.

In February 15th, 1794 the French Flag was created, with 3 colors, the Blue, the White and the Red, disposed vertically. The blue was the color of for the Parisian bourgeoisie, the White was the color of the chiefs of army and the Red was the symbol of the blood poured during the wars.

Quickly, Danton himself became the victim of the Terror. He was considered too moderate and then, arrested and executed on April 5th, 1794.

One of the darkest periods in French history soon ensued. The Great Terror began in June 1794. Robespierre tyrannised the Comity of Public Safety and the Convention. He was strongly supported by the Montagnards and the Sans-Culottes.

Robespierre was in a mission against the counter revolutionaries and against the Church. Thousands of people who were suspected to be anti-revolutionists were executed savagely. A campaign of dechristianization took place all over the country.

On May 8th, 1794 the Assembly introduced the "Culte de l'Être Supreme" (The cult of Supreme Being), as form of deism. On June 8th, 1794 Robespierre, the President of the Convention, participated in the "Fête de l'Etre Supreme" (Supreme Being celebration) in Paris. However, these celebrations were mocked by the Parisians and Robespierre lost his credibility.

Robespierre execution

Robespierre is arrested

The arrest of Robespierre

In July 1794, Robespierre was finally accused of dictatorship and tyranny and evicted from the Convention. The members voted for his simultaneous eviction and execution, without allowing him to defend himself. The following day, Robespierre was beheaded to an ovation by the people of Paris. His death was the symbol of the Reign of Terror's end and the end of the democratic movement at the same time.

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