French Revolution Timeline

French Revolution Timeline 1788

This French Revolution timeline lists major events and developments that occur in 1788. These include the escalation of the government’s feud with the parlements, the emergence of significant unrest across the country, and the commencement of the debate regarding the Estate-Generals format.

Feud with the Parlements Escalate

  • January 1788 – The Paris Parlement agrees to register new national loans and declares all lettres de cachet to be illegal.
  • 3 May 1788 – The Paris Parlement issues the “Declaration of the Fundamental Laws of France”. According to the proclamation, only the Estates-General had the authority to raise taxes, and that the judges of the Parlements were irremovable. Furthermore, the letters de cachet were deemed illegal as they violated the rights of Frenchman, and the customs and privileges of the provinces were sacrosanct. In a concession to the crown, the document reaffirmed that the monarchy was heredity.
  • 6 May 1788 – In response to the ‘Declaration of the Fundamental Laws of France”, King Louis XVI orders the arrest of two members of the Paris Parlement (d’Eprémesnil and Goislard). The king uses lettres de cachet to conduct the arrests, which the declaration proclaimed to be illegal.
  • 8 May 1788 – Lamoignon, the King’s Keeper of the Seals, introduced a radical new judicial system that neutered the Parlements by rendering them a court for the nobility. The new judicial system introduced a plenary court which was responsible for registering royal edicts.
  • May 1788 – The Parlement of Dauphiné declared Lamoignon’s May Edicts illegal.

Significant Unrest, Natural Disaster

  • May & June 1788 – Significant unrest occurs across the country as the Third Estate rallies to the defense of the parlements. Rennes and Pau both experienced violent demonstrations, while riots were experienced in Brittany, Bearn, Burgundy, Flanders, French-Comte, and Provence.
  • June 1788 – Members of the First Estate (Catholic Church) authorize a don gratuit of only 1.8 million livres. Brienne had requested 8 million. The decision was a deliberate snub to the government and represented a rebuke of its handling of the fiscal crisis.
An painting of The Day of Tiles revolt in Grenoble. The revolt is a major event in the timeline of the French Revolution in 1788 because it represents the first major unrest against the crown.
The Day of the Tiles was a riot that took place in Grenoble on 7 June 1788. It was the first substantial revolt against the French monarchy, making it a major event in the timeline of the French Revolution. Some historians claim that it can be considered the start of the revolution.
  • 7 June 1788 – The Day of Tiles revolt occurs in Grenoble in response to the government’s attempt to forcibly close the Parlement of Dauphiné (based in Grenoble). First major revolt against the government. The revolt secures the establishment of the Estates of Dauphiné, a provincial level Estates-General (also known as the Vizille Assembly).
  • 13 July 1788 – France experienced a hailstorm that ripped through large sways of the countryside. Numerous types of crops were destroyed, including apples, olives, and wheat, wreaking havoc on a nation that was predominantly an agrarian society. With the crops destroyed, unemployment increased at the same time as prices for basic commodities and foodstuffs.
This image depicts the Assembly of Vizille in 1788. The Assembly was a major event in the timeline of the French Revolution in 1788.
The Assembly of Vizille (Estates General of Dauphiné) was held in response to ‘The Day of the Tiles’. The Assembly rebuked the government’s handling of the fiscal crisis and demanded the summoning of the Estates-General.
  • 21 July 1788 – The Vizille Assembly occurs (also known as the Assembly of Vixille and the Estates General of Dauphiné). Led by Jean Joseph Mounier, the Vizille Assembly challenged the very foundations of the Old Regime, the traditions of the French nation, and the justification of the status quo. The Assembly demanded the convocation of the Estates-General, pledged that the province would refuse to pay all taxes not voted by the Estates-General, and called for the abolition of the lettre de cachet.

Estates-General Called, Debate over format, Necker Returns

  • 8 August 1788 – King Louis XVI agreed to call an Estates-General for 1 May 1789
  • 16 August 1788 – August 16: Facing immediate bankruptcy, Brienne suspends payments of government debts.
  • August 25 – Brienne resigns as finance minister and is replaced by Jacques Necker. Wild celebrations occur in Paris, reflecting the unpopularity and popularity of both men respectively. Necker promptly secures fresh loans for the government.
  • 14 September 1788 – Lamoignon resigns as Keeper of the Seals. Celebratory riotings were renewed in Paris.
  • 25 September 1788 – The Paris Parlement decrees that the Estates-General will convene as it did in 1614. The Three Estates would vote ‘by order’, each with an equal number of representatives. Overnight, the parlements lost their popularity with the Third Estate, which was demanding voting by head and an increase in members for the Third Estate. Riots break out in Paris, Dijon, Pau, and Rennes.
  • 5 October 1788 – Assembly of Notables is summoned by Jacques Necker to advise on the formation of the Estates-General. Necker proposes that Third Estate’s representation be doubled.
  • November 1788 – The second Assembly of Notables occurs. The Assembly, much more conservative than the first, refuses to endorse the idea of voting ‘by head’ or the doubling of the Third’s representatives.
  • 5 December 1788 – The Paris Parlement reverses its declaration that the Estates-General must convene as it did in 1614. It instead says that “reason, liberty and the general wish” should guide decisions in its formation.
  • 12 December 1788 – Assembly of Notables is dissolved. The ‘Memoir of the Princes of the Blood’ is given to his majesty. The document heavily criticized the Third Estate and, upon its publication, angered the popular press and the people.
  • 27 December 1788 – Necker announced the Third Estate will be doubled. No declaration was made as to how the Estates-General would vote or how it would be elected, resulting in continued civil unrest throughout the country.

French Revolution Timeline 1789

This French Revolution timeline lists the major events and developments that occur in 1789. These include the creation of the National Assembly, the Storming of the Bastille, the historic decrees of August 1789, and the October Days.

Elections for the Estates-General

A portrait of Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès.
A portrait of Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès.
  • January 1789 – Emmanuel Sieyes (Abbe Sieyès) publishes, “What is the Third Estate?”. The pamphlet calls for greater political representation for the Third Estate. It is one of the most influential publications of the revolution.
  • 24 January 1789 – King Louis XVI convokes elections for the Estates-General. Rules and regulations for the election of deputies are distributed to districts across the country.
  • February 1789 – Elections for the Estates-General commence across France (some districts will not finalize the election of deputies until May).

Timeline of the Estates-General

An illustration of the Réveillon riots. The riots were a major event in the timeline of the French Revolution, and represent one of the first and bloodiest mass demonstrations.
An illustration of the Réveillon riots in April 1789. The riots represent one of the first and bloodiest mass demonstrations of the French Revolution.
  • 27 April 1789 – The Réveillon riots occur. Rumors of a wage freeze trigger one of the bloodiest riots of the French Revolution. At least 12 soldiers and up to 300 rioters were killed.
  • 2 May 1789 – The Estates-General deputies are presented to the King. The deputies of the privileged orders (First and Second Estates) are presented in a formal ceremony. The same treatment is not afforded to the Third, irritating the deputies of the Third Estate who interpret their treatment as a slight against the common people.
Illustration of the Estates General of May 1789, a key event in the timeline of the French Revolution.
An illustration of the Estates General of May 1789.
  • 5 May 1789 – The Estates-General is formally opened. Jacques Necker presents a long speech which, according to some critics, lacked a concrete agenda for the Estates-General. The King makes it clear that the Estates-General should vote ‘by order’ rather than ‘by head’.
  • 6 May 1789 – The deputies of the Third Estate refuse to verify their deputies unless they are joined by the deputies of the First and Second Estates. It is perceived by the Third that to conduct verification would amount to agreeing to vote ‘by order’ rather than ‘by head’. The First Estate eventually votes to conduct verification unilaterally (134 to 114). The Second Estate overwhelmingly rejects joining the Third, voting 188 to 46 to commence the verification of their own deputies.
  • 20 May 1789 – The First Estate renounces its taxation privileges and adopts the principle of fiscal equality.
  • 22 May 1789 – The Second Estate renounces its taxation privileges.
  • 25 May 1789 – The Parisian deputies of the Third Estate arrive at the Estates-General. The delegation includes many prominent Frenchmen, helping to energize the debate over how to break the impasse over verification.
  • 3 June 1789 – Jean Sylvain Bailly is elected the leader of the Third Estate.
  • 4 June 1789 – Louis XVI’s seven-old-son dies of tuberculosis. The death of the Dauphine, Louis Joseph Xavier François, results in his four-year-old brother, Louis-Charles, Duke of Normandy, becoming the new Dauphin and heir. King Louis is pre-occupied grieving while the events of the Estates-General escalate.
  • 10 June 1789 – Abbe Sieyès proposes that the Third Estate conducts unilateral verification for all the deputies of the Estates-General, and invites the other Estates to join them. Sieyes proposes that the Third verifies the deputies of the First and Second Estates even if those Estates refuse to join the Third.
  • 14 June 1789 – Three deputies from the First Estate join the Third. Additional members of the clergy follow in the following days.
  • 17 June 1789 – The Third Estate declares itself the National Assembly in a vote 490 to 90. In order to garner popular support and make it difficult for the government to reverse the action, the Assembly decrees that taxes across the nation should only be paid while the Assembly is in session.

Timeline of the National Assembly

  • 19 June 1789 – The First Estate narrowly votes to join the National Assembly, 149 against 137.
Sketch of the Tennis Court Oath in 1789, a turning point in the timeline of the French Revolution.
Jacques-Louis David’s sketch of the Tennis Court Oath.
  • 20 June 1789 – The Tennis Court Oath occurs. Upon finding their meeting hall locked, the deputies of the new National Assembly follow Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s suggestion that they gather at a nearby tennis court. Once inside, the deputies pledge never to separate until a constitution has been created.
  • 23 June 1789 – The Séance royale occurs. King Louis XVI personally addresses the Estates-General and nullifies the decrees of the National Assembly. Instead, he instructs the Estates to sit as three separate orders and proposes a new package of taxation reforms. The Third Estate refuses to comply. The Comte de Mirabeau (a noble representing the Third Estate) informs government officials that, “if you have been instructed to expel us from here, you must ask for orders to use force, as only the power of bayonets can drive us from our seats.”
  • 24 June 1789 – Despite the King’s wishes, 151 members of the First Estate join the National Assembly.
  • 25 June 1789 – 48 nobles, led by the King’s cousin Louis Philippe II, the Duc de Orléans, join the National Assembly.
  • 27 June 1789 – Louis XVI backs down from the demands he made at the Senance royale (June 23). Louis instructs the deputies from the First and Second Estates to join the National Assembly. Separately, Louis mobilizes the army and orders reliable military units to converge on Paris and Versailles.

Revolt of Paris, The Storming of the Bastille

  • 30 June 1789 – A mob in Paris breaks into the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and liberates soldiers who had been imprisoned for attending the meetings of political clubs and societies.
  • July 1789 – Food prices continue to soar, especially in urban communities. In Paris, many workers were spending 80 percent of their income on bread.
  • 6 July 1789 – A new committee is formed by the National Assembly to draft a constitution for the kingdom.
  • 8 July 1789 – The Comte de Mirabeau leads a delegation to the king requesting the withdrawal of royal troops from Paris. Concern continues to grow regarding the buildup of military forces around Paris and Versailles.
  • 9 July 1789 – The National Assembly officially changes its name to the National Constituent Assembly.
  • 11 July 1789 – Lafayette proposes that France adopts a ‘Declaration of Rights’. Necker’s dismissal distracts from this proposal. Lafayette’s draft would not be the one adopted in August.
  • 11 July 1789 – Jacques Necker is dismissed by the king. He is replaced by Baron de Breteuil, a conservative royalist in favor of suppressing the National Assembly.
  • 12 July 1789 – News of Necker’s dismissal reaches Paris. The sacking of the popular minister is interpreted by many as the first stage of a royal coup d’etat against the National Assembly. Paris revolts, with riots, demonstrations, and attacks on government officials and property occurring over several days. Monasteries and custom houses are sacked. Troops clash with protestors.
  • 13 July 1789 – Anticipating a coup, the National Assembly declares itself in permanent session. At the Hôtel de Ville, the Electors of Paris begin to form a governing committee and an armed militia. This militia promptly becomes the National Guard. Its initial purpose is to protect Paris and private property (from both the King’s men and rioters).
Depiction of the Storming of the Bastille.
The Storming of the Bastille on the 14th of July 1789.
  • 14 July 1789 – The Storming of the Bastille. An armed crowd besieges the iconic fortress after it fails to surrender to revolutionary authorities. The prison is besieged because of its strategic value as well as the large quantity of gunpowder inside (needed to defend Paris from a military crackdown). The governor of the Bastille, de Launay, is killed by the crowd shortly after his surrender. Mutinous soldiers helped the crowd seize the prison.
  • 15 July 1789 – Jean Sylvain Bailly is named the mayor of Paris, and Lafayette is appointed the new Commander of the National Guard.
  • 16 July 1789 – Realising that his military forces cannot be relied upon, King Louis XVI withdraws the military from Paris.
  • 16 July 1789 – Jacques Necker is reinstated as finance minister.
  • 17 July 1789 – Louis XVI enters Paris, where he is greeted by Bailly and Lafayette at the Hotel de Ville. Bailly presents to Louis the keys of the city.
  • 17 July 1789 – The noble emigration begins. The King’s brother, the Comte de Artois, and other leading nobles depart France.

The Great Fear, The August Decrees

  • 17 July 1789 – August 1789 – The first signs of the Great Fear begin to erupt across rural France. Riots and peasant revolts in Colmar, Alsace, Hainaut, Strasbourg, and Le Mans. 40 Châteaux were looted in Brittany, nearly 50 châteaux pillaged in the Dauphiné, and more than 70 were burnt in the Maconnais. The municipal revolution accompanies these revolts, with new local committees, governments, and militias forming across the nation.
  • 22 July 1789 – Two prominent government officials are murdered by a Paris mob. Accused of speculating in grain, Foullon, a minister, and his son-in-law de Sauvigny, the Intendant of Paris, were brutally killed.
  • 4 August 1789 – The abolition of privileges occurs. The National Assembly begins to dismantle feudalism, with members from all three Estates voting to surrender their own privileges, rights, and feudal dues. These reforms are codified in the August Decrees. A significant number of privileges are reclassified as property and are maintained, despite the decrees claim that “The National Assembly abolishes the feudal system entirely.”
  • 11 August 1789 – The reforms of the 4th of August are ratified by the Assembly. The final reforms were notably less ambitious than those originally committed to, and debate over remaining privileges continued for several years.
  • 27 August 1789 – The Assembly adopts the groundbreaking Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Although the idea was initially proposed by Lafayette on July the 11th, the majority of the declaration was drafted by Mirabeau and his associates.

Constitutional Debates

  • September 1789 – Debate rages over key aspects of the new constitution.
  • 10 September 1789 – The National Assembly votes 849 to 89 to create a unicameral (single-chamber) legislative assembly. 122 deputies abstain.
  • 11 September 1789 – The National Assembly grants the king a suspensive veto. The veto can suspend laws for two legislative sessions. 673 deputies voted in favour of the suspensive veto, while 325 deputies in favour of an absolute one. Abbe Sieyes led a sizeable minority of 143 deputies voting for no veto at all.

The October Days

  • 1 October 1789 – A banquet is held in Versailles to welcome the arrival of the Flanders Regiment. It is reported that the soldiers wore white cockades (white being the colour of the monarchy). It is rumoured that soldiers trampled on the tricolour cockade and condemned the National Assembly.
  • 4 October 1789 – Rumours reach Paris that royal soldiers trampled on tricolour cockades during a banquet at Versailles. The popular press is outraged.
An illustration of women marching during the October Days of 1789
An illustration of armed women marching during the October Days of 1789.
  • 5 October 1789 – The October Days begin. Thousands of Parisians march on Versailles after a large crowd break into the Hotel de Ville. The National Guard quickly follows.
  • 6 October 1789 – Early in the morning, a group of women invade the Palace and force the queen to run for her life. To calm the crowd, the King agrees to sanction the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Abolition of Privileges. Furthermore, the King agrees to the crowd’s demand that the royal family relocates to Paris. The National Assembly follows shortly thereafter.
  • 22 October 1789 – The National Assembly begins debate on the distinction between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ citizens. Abbe Sieyes champions the distinction and a multi-staged electoral process.

Reforms

  • November 1789 – The Society of the Friends of the Constitution (the Jacobin Club) is formed.
  • 2 November 1789 – The National Assembly nationalizes church property and declares that all church land is “at the disposal of the nation.”
  • 9 November 1789 – The National Assembly relocates to the Salle du Manège, the former riding school in the Tuileries Palace.
  • 14 – 16 December 1789 – The National Assembly reforms the administrative system of France. The traditional provinces are replaced with new departments, eventually totaling 83.
  • 19 December 1789 – The National Assembly begins the sale of church lands and introduces the assignats. The assignats were a form of currency (paper money rather than metal coins) backed by nationalized church property.

French Revolution Timeline 1790

This French Revolution timeline lists major events and developments that occur in 1790. These include several controversial religious reforms, the emergence of large federations, and outbreaks of unrest in the kingdom and the colonies.

Unrest Continues

  • 7 January 1789 – A bread riot breaks out in Versailles. Shortages of basic commodities continue to fuel unrest across the country.
  • 18 January 1790 – Marat denounces Necker in a fiery attack against the government.
  • 22 January 1790 – Parisian authorities attempt to arrest Marat as a result of his violent and provocative attacks on the government. Marat escapes to London.

Timeline of the Initial Reforms of 1790

  • 13 February 1790 – The National Assembly abolishes all monastic orders not devoted to charitable work, nursing, or education, effectively suppressing the contemplative religious orders. Furthermore, the Assembly forbids religious oaths and thousands of monks and nuns are absolved of their vows.
  • 19 February 1790 – The Marquis de Favras is found guilty of high treason. de Favras was accused of plotting with the Comte de Provence to aid the King’s escape from Paris and commence a reactionary coup.
  • 23 February 1790 – The National Assembly requires parish priests (curés) to read aloud its decrees in churches across the country.
  • 28 February 1790 – The National Assembly decrees that commoners can become officers in the French Army. Under the Old Regime, only aristocrats could serve as officers unless a rare exemption was granted.
  • 8 March 1790 – The National Assembly endorses greater self-government for French colonies and permits the establishment of colonial assemblies. Slavery remains.
  • 16 March 1790 – The controversial lettres de cachet are formally abolished.
  • 21 March 1790 – The much-hated tax on salt (the gabelle) is suspended by the National Assembly.

Timeline of the Growing Resistance to Religious Reforms

  • 29 March 1790 – Pope Pius VI secretly rejects the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The pope’s opposition remains hidden from the public.
  • April – June 1790 – Protesting the controversial decrees relating to the Church, anti-revolutionary unrest sporadically erupt across several provinces. Up to 300 pro-catholic rioters are killed in Nîmes alone. Vannes, Toulouse, Toulon, and Avignon also experience noteworthy unrest.
  • 12 April 1790Dom Gerle proposes to the National Assembly that the body declares Roman Catholicism the religion of the nation. A bitter and divisive debate ensues, and the motion is rejected the next day. The ‘Dom Gerle Affair’ helps to fuel religious unrest across the nation.
  • 17 April 1790 – The Cordeliers Club is formed.
  • 20 April 1790 – A crowd in Nîmois draws up a petition demanding Catholicism be proclaimed the sole religion of the state.
  • 21 May 1790 – The sixty districts of Paris are reorganized into forty-eight sections. This reorganization was an attempt to reduce the autonomy of the city’s districts.
  • 28 May 1790 – The Colonial Assembly at Saint Marc issues a new decree which asserts its right to veto any National Assembly laws which impact colonial affairs. While not declaring itself independent from France, the Assembly reclassifies itself as a “federative ally” rather than a subject.
  • 22 May 1790 – The National Assembly decrees that the power to declare war and peace rests with the Assembly. However, these decisions must be proposed and sanctioned by the King.

Federations, Reforms, and Mutinies

  • 30 May 1790 – Lyon celebrates the Revolution with a large Fête de la Fédération. Similar federations occur across the Kingdom in the weeks that follow (Lille on June 6, Strasbourg on June 13, and Rouen on June 19).
  • 19 June 1790 – The National Assembly controversially abolishes noble ranks and titles. Orders and other privileges of the hereditary nobility are also extinguished.
  • 26 June 1790 – Avignon asks to be annexed by France. Wishing to avoid a direct confrontation with the Pope, the National Assembly delays its decision regarding the papal enclave in southeastern France.
  • 12 July 1790 – The National Assembly passes the incredibly controversial Civil Constitution of the Clergy.
An illustration of the Fête de la Fédération. The Festival of the Federation is a major event in the French Revolution timeline of 1790
An illustration of the Fête de la Fédération (Festival of the Federation) on the 14th of July 1790. Lafayette stands on the staircase as he is addressed by King Louis XVI.
  • 14 July 1790 – The Fête de la Fédération is held in Paris on the Champ de Mars, celebrating the first anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. The Marquis de Lafayette and Talleyrand feature prominently. The Fête de la Fédération is the last major event that seeks to publicly unite the kingdom’s traditional estates.
  • 23 July 1790 – In a secret letter to Louis XVI, Pope Pius VI condemns the religious reforms of the National Assembly.
  • 26 July 1790 – Marat demands the execution of several hundred nobles in order to save the Revolution from counter-revolutionary schemes.
  • 28 July 1790 – Despite their military alliance, the National Assembly refuses to allow Austrian soldiers to cross French territory. Austria would crush the revolution in Belgium (then the Austrian Netherlands) by the end of the year.
  • 9 August 1790 – The first of three regiments rebels in the town of Nancy, triggering ‘The Nancy Mutiny‘ or ‘The Nancy Affair’.
  • 18 August 1790 – A major anti-revolutionary, pro-church encampment is established at Jales in southern France.
The Nancy Mutiny of 1790 occurring
The often-overlooked Nancy Mutiny was a bloody and important insurrection that occurred during the summer of 1790. Already facing several challenges prior to the fall of the Old Regime, the French army began to deteriorate further in the initial months of the revolution.
  • 31 August 1790 – The Nancy Mutiny is bloody suppressed. While the Assembly thanks the troops responsible for the uprising’s suppression, radicals in Paris decry the harsh punishments dealt to the mutineers.
  • 3 September – Necker is dismissed as Finance Minister.
  • 6 September 1790 – The Assembly formally abolishes the Parlements.
  • 16 September 1790 – Another mutiny breaks out, this time amongst sailors at Brest.

Conflicting Loyalties

  • 12 October 1790 – The National Assembly dissolves the Colonial Assembly at Saint-Marc. The governor of Saint-Domingue prepares to close the Colonial Assembly by force. The colony is now divided between royalists and patriots.
  • 21 October 1790 – The National Assembly officially adopts the tricolor as the emblem of France.
  • November 1790 – Uprisings break out in multiple French colonies, including Isle de France on the 4th and Saint-Domingue on the 25th.
  • 27 November 1790 – The National Assembly decrees that all members of the clergy must swear an oath to the Nation, the Law (including the Civil Constitution of the Clergy), and the King. Just less than half of the nation’s priests refuse.

French Revolution Timeline of 1791

This French Revolution timeline lists major events and developments that occur in 1791. These include the Flight to Varennes, the escalation of tensions between France and other European states, and the controversial decrees of November 1791.

Tensions Continue to Grow

  • February 1791 – Bishops are elected in the new ‘Constitutional Church’ . The old hierarchy of the Church is replaced.
  • 19 February 1791 – Louis XVI’s aunts emigrate from France, causing outrage in the popular press.
A sketch of the Day of Daggers in 1791 (Journée des Poignards)
A sketch of the Day of Daggers in 1791
  • 28 February 1791 – The Day of Daggers (also known as the Journée des Poignards). A group of approximately 400 armed aristocrats gathers at the Tuileries Palace to protect the King from a suspected plot to harm the royal family. They are promptly disarmed by Lafayette, but some revolutionaries believed the event to be a cover for the King’s planned escape.
  • 2 March 1791 – The National Assembly suppresses all guilds and trade monopolies.
  • 10 March 1791 – Pope Pius VI publicly condemn both the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The Church and the Revolution are increasingly irreconcilable.
  • 2 April 1791 – Mirabeau, one of the revolution’s leading men, dies. According to legend, he told his friend, Talleyrand, “I carry away with me the last shreds of the monarchy”.
  • 4 April 1791 – The remains of Mirabeau are the first to be placed in the new Panthéon, a mausoleum for national heroes. His ashes would be removed once his secretive dealings with the court became public.
  • 18 April 1791 – King Louis XVI and the royal family attempt to leave the Tuileries Palace for a summer residence at Saint-Cloud. A Parisian mob prevents their departure, despite the efforts of Lafayette to clear a path. Some National Guardsmen hamper Lafayette’s attempts to let the royal family pass.
  • 7 May 1791 – The National Assembly passes a ‘tolerance decree’, permitting non-juring priests to conduct religious services.
  • 15 May 1791 – In an effort to contain the increasing unrest in the colonies, the National Assembly grants political rights to free blacks and mulattos who were born of free mothers and fathers. Many white settlers were deeply angered.
  • 16 May 1791 – The National Assembly passes a self-denying ordinance. Current deputies became forbidden from being candidates for the next legislature (the Legislative Assembly). This ordinance was proposed by Robespierre.
  • 14 June 1791 – The National Assembly passes the Le Chapelier Law. Labor unions, associations, and strikes are forbidden.

King Flees, The Revolution is Upended

A sketch of the Flight to Varennes, a key event in the timeline of the French Revolution in 1791.
A sketch of the Flight to Varennes in June 1791. The illustration depicts the interception of the royal family.
  • 20 June 1791 – 21 June 1791The Flight to Varennes. The royal family flees Paris in an effort to reach Montmedy. The King and Queen are recognized en route and are intercepted, identified, and arrested at Varennes. The soldiers sent to chaperone the King fail to successfully rendezvous with the royal family.
  • 25 June 1791 – The royal family is forcibly returned to Paris.
  • July 1791 – The Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold II, issues the Padua Circular. The document calls on European monarchs to come to the aid of Louis XVI.
  • 15 July 1791 – The National Assembly declares that the King had been abducted and was blameless in regards to the Flight to Varennes. The Assembly rejects calls for his dethronement
  • 16 July 1791 – The Feuillant Club is formed by many leading moderates, including Barnave, Lameth, and Duport. Protesting the Jacobin Club’s decision to support demands for the King’s removal, more than 200 deputies depart the club.
A sketch of the champ de mars massacre of July 1791, another major event in the timeline of the French Revolution.
A sketch showing Lafayette leading the Champ de Mars Massacre of July 1791.
  • 17 July 1791 – The Champ de Mars massacre. A large demonstration gathers on the Champ de Mars to support a petition calling for the dethronement of King Louis XVI. The crowd is supported by leading members of the Jacobins and the Cordeliers. After martial law was declared, the National Guard disperses the crowd by force, killing between 20-50 people. The reputations of Bailly and Lafayette were significantly damaged by the affair.
  • 18 July 1791 – The Tricolour Terror begins. Over the following weeks, radical newspapers are suppressed, political clubs and meetings are disrupted, and leading revolutionaries are hunted by the authorities. Marat goes into hiding while Danton flees France to England.
  • 27 August 1791 – Declaration of Pillnitz. The rulers of Austria and Prussia affirm their support for Louis XVI. The declaration is interpreted as a threat by many revolutionaries.
  • 14 September 1791 – Louis XVI formally accepts the Constitution of 1791.
  • 30 September 1791 – The National Assembly grants a general amnesty to all those punished for illegal political activities since 1788.

Legislative Assembly of 1791

  • 1 October 1791 – The first session of the new Legislative Assembly.
  • 16 October 1791 – Deadly riots break out in Avignon between the revolution’s supporters and papal loyalists.
  • 9 November 1791 – The Legislative Assembly orders all emigres to return to France before 1 January 1792. Those who do not return were to be sentenced to death and have their property confiscated. The King promptly vetoes the decree on the 11th of November.
  • 16 November 1791 – Jérôme Pétion is elected mayor of Paris.
  • 29 November 1791 – The Legislative Assembly decrees that every non-juring priest will be given one week to swear loyalty to the constitution. Those who failed to do so would be branded as suspected rebels against the state. Their pensions would be cut, and imprisonment loomed for any priest who either refused to leave their post or who instigated disorder within their community. Local governments could also remove priests from their homes and forcibly relocate them if they felt that this would protect the public peace. The King vetoed the legislation.

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