The French Revolution

The Monarchy
Revolutionary Tradition and Les Mis
Revolution 1789
--The Monarchy
--Tennis Court Oath
--Fall of the Bastille
--October Days
--Declaration of War
--Palace Invaded
--Louis XVI
--Reign of Terror
-- Fall of Robespierre
--At war
1789 in Les Miserables
--The Terror
--The People
--The Students
--The Monarchy
--Place de Concord
--Notre Dame
Daily Sites
--Street Names
--Children's Names and Games
Works Consulted



 The July Revolution of 1830, from Spielvogel.

This image captures the overthrow of Charles X by idealistoc French students. Charles was ousted when he attempted to reinstate some of the laws and practices of the regime before the Revolution of 1789.

They believed they were rooted because they were the past. They were mistaken; they were a portion of the past, but the whole past was France.

Les Miserables, Saint Denis, Book First, Chapter I

In this passage Hugo refers to the mindset of the French monarchy when they were restored to power after Napoleon Bonaparte was ousted from power in 1815. Before the Revolution in 1789, the monarchy had believed that they were most powerful and important people in France. This was especially true of Louis XVI, who beheaded by the revolutionary government in 1793. During his early reign he famously said "l'état, c'est moi" which means "I am the State." He could be held completely accountable for the state of all affairs concerning France (Speilvogel, 528-29).

The aristocracy, and the monarchy in particular, were the ultimate trendsetters in French society. This was the intention of Louis the XIV when he expanded and revamped Versailles during his reign. He made the palace the center of court life, and lured French nobles obsessed with the mystique of princely power to the palace for extended stays. The nobles became so distracted by the frivolities of court that they ignored their estates, and Louis XIV's power was consolidated. Louis became known as "the sun king" and left a legacy of absolutism for his descendants (Spielvogel, 530).

When Louis XVIII, Louis XVI's brother, assumed the throne in 1814 he expected to be treated with the respect that his predecessors had received. Louis XVIII was moderate and retained many of the Napoleon's policies. He was unable to please royalists, who hoped that his return would be the return to the strict monarchical system or pre-Revolutionary times. Louis XVIII died in 1824 and was replaced by his cousin, Charles X. Charles gave the royalists what they wanted: he tried to re-establish the old regime. This outraged the people of France, and in 1830 there was another revolution in France, and Charles X was removed from power (Speilvogel , 744).
The monarchy, particularly Charles X, overestimated their influence in France.
The Revolution of 1789 gave the French people a taste of freedom, and began a new chapter in French history. This chapter became as important in French history as the hundreds of years of absolute monarchy that preceded it, and cemented the fact that any sort of monarchy was no longer "rooted" in France.

For a list of all the kings of France click here.