French Revolution Timeline


Meeting of the Estates General

May 5, 1789

The meeting was held because the French people hoped their problems would finally be addressed. The third estate refused to obey Louis XVI’s instructions that the delegated should follow the old custom of meeting separately and voting as one body.

National Assembly

May 5, 1789

The third estate declared itself to be the National Assembly and invited the other two estates to work with it. This act marked the real beginning of the French Revolution.

Tennis Court Oath

June 20, 1789

When the Third Estate was locked out of the Estates General meeting, its representatives gathered nearby in an indoor tennis court. They signed an oath to continue meeting until a constitution was written.

Storming of the Bastille

July 14, 1789

The people of Paris captured the Bastille Prison, a symbol of royal oppression, because they feared that Louis was going to drive out the National Assembly by force. The crowd looted the Bastille for weapons, then destroyed it. This outbreak of violence led to the formation of a new government in Paris and General Lafayette formed a people’s army called the National Guard. A new flag of red, white, and blue stripes replaced the old flag of France.

Great Fear

July 20, 1789 - August 5, 1789

The peasants believed that the nobles were planning to crush them and stop the revolution. They also became angry as food shortages worsened. As rumors and fear spread, the peasants attacked local manor houses and monasteries.

Old Regime Ends

August 4, 1789

Under the Old Regime, society had been divided into three estates, or classes. After it ended, the king lost all his power. This made the french feel that they were living in a whole new society.

Declaration of the Rights of Man

August 26, 1789

The Declaration of the Rights of Man stated that men are born equal and remain equal before the law. It granted freedom of speech, press, and religion. It also allowed the right to take part in government and the right to fair trials.

Women's March on Versailles

October 5, 1789

The Women's March on Varsailles began with women in the marketplaces of Paris who were rioting over the high price and scarcity of bread. The market women and their various allies grew into a mob of thousands and they ransacked the city armory for weapons and marched to the Palace of Versailles. The crowd besieged the palace and successfully pressed their demands upon King Louis XVI.

National Convention's new Constiution


The new constitution for France was written by the National Assembly. It limited the authority of the king and divided the government into three branches--executive, legislative, and judicial.

Legislative Assembly

October 1791

They were divided into three groups: the conservatives, radicals, and the moderates. The conservatives felt the revolution had gone far enough, the radicals wanted more drastic changes; like having no king and forming a republic. The moderates had no extreme views and could side with either conservatives or radicals.

End of the Monarchy

August 10, 1792

Armed Parisians marched on the Tuileries Palace and killed many guards. Louis and his family was imprisoned in Temple.

Execution of Louis XVI

January 21, 1793

Louis XVI was charged for plotting against the security of the nation by the national convention and was sentenced to death.
He was beheaded by the guillotine.

Reign of Terror

September 1793 - July 1794

The reign of terror was a period of violence in which suspected enemies of the revolution were guillotined by the thousands.

Napoleon Takes Power

1795 - 1799

Napoleon's supporters believed he could win victories abroad and restore order at home. His supporters made a plan to overthrow the government and put him in power.

The Directory

November 1795 - 1799

The Directory governed France for four years. The five directors quarreled among themselves and were weak, corrupt rulers.