noun, French History.
the revolution that began in 1789, overthrew the absolute monarchy of the Bourbons and the system of aristocratic privileges, and ended with Napoleon’s overthrow of the Directory and seizure of power in 1799.
the anticlerical and republican revolution in France from 1789 until 1799, when Napoleon seized power

The event at the end of the eighteenth century that ended the thousand-year rule of kings in France and established the nation as a republic. The revolution began in 1789, after King Louis xvi had convened the French parliament to deal with an enormous national debt. The common people’s division of the parliament declared itself the true legislature of France, and when the king seemed to resist the move, a crowd destroyed the royal prison (the Bastille). A constitutional monarchy was set up, but after King Louis and his queen, Marie Antoinette, tried to flee the country, they were arrested, tried for treason, and executed on the guillotine. Control of the government passed to Robespierre and other radicals — the extreme Jacobins — and the Reign of Terror followed (1793–1794), when thousands of French nobles and others considered enemies of the revolution were executed. After the Terror, Robespierre himself was executed, and a new ruling body, the Directory, came into power. Its incompetence and corruption allowed Napoleon Bonaparte to emerge in 1799 as dictator and, eventually, to become emperor. Napoleon’s ascent to power is considered the official end of the revolution. (See Georges Danton and Jean-Paul Marat.)


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