Author Archives: Nathan Behr

The Noble Revolt

Two years before the Prise de la Bastille (July 14, 1789), the Noble Revolt took place. This social event was characterized by the nobility’s revolted against the King’s order and its refusal to accept economic reform that would have halted noble tax exemption. More importantly, this revolt led Louis XVI to call for the Estates-General the following year (Merriman, 441), a crucial event in for the future of the French Revolution. The cause of this revolt can be traced to February 1787 when finance minister, Alexandre Calonne, presented his reform plan to 144 handpicked nobles present at the Assembly of Notables who all opposed it (Doyle, 35). As the king and Calonne unsuccessfully tried to convince the Nobles to accept reform, in August 1787 Louis XVI met this opposition by exiling the Parlement of Paris to the city of Troyes (Merriman, 441). The revolt that the Parlement of Paris had sparked, was quickly backed by provincial parliaments all around the kingdom. In an attempt to calm the tense situation and reinstate his authority, Louis XVI requested the return of the Parlement of Paris from exile in November 1787 (Merriman, 441). This short revolt took an end then, but the topics that had once sparked it remained and helped lead to further change. Furthermore, the Noble Revolt, for the first time, publicly symbolized the nobility’s long lasting resistance to royal despotism. In other words, the fact that this revolt took place at a moment where economic reform was necessary, proved that the crown was in a weak position.  

Doyle, William. The French Revolution. Oxford University Press, 2016.

Merriman, John M. A History of Modern Europe: from the French Revolution to the Present.  Vol. 2, W.W. Norton, 2010.

 

The King’s Trial and Execution

The King’s Trial, which was marked by his indictment for multiple charges of crimes against the Nation, was a turning point for the Revolution. In fact, it was the first time that the King of France, a title that had embodied justice, law, and religion for centuries before that, was brought to court and tried as a commoner; thus, making the French Crown’s reign a bygone age. The cold treatment he received from the court, captured in the transcripts of the trial (Dwyer and McPhee, 71), illustrated the shift in the way people perceived and treated the king. In fact, the king, now called “Louis Capet” as he was stripped from his title, was accused of major crimes against the French people’s freedom and rights established at the onset of the revolution. The accusations included, the orchestration of the Champ de Mars Massacre in 1790, the forced suspension of the National Assembly in 1789, and the collaboration with foreign royal families. The revolutionary court’s decision to execute Louis XVI, however, further emphasized the ever-growing ideological division of the once united National Assembly and population of Paris. This division was clearly represented in the results of the vote of the National Assembly, which was won with a slight majority of 380 votes for the Jacobins to 310 votes for the Girondins (Dwyer and McPhee, 71). In truth, the execution of King Louis directly confronted the Girondins, right-wing sympathizers of the crown (still very present in Paris and in the National Assembly) to the reality that their hopes for a constitutional monarchy were losing to Jacobins, radical left-wing ideology.  As a matter of fact, like the article from Le Moniteur National indicated, the time of a nation of kings and queens belonged to history (Dwyer and McPhee, 77)

Dwyer, Philip G., and Peter McPhee. The French Revolution and Napoleon: a Sourcebook. Routledge, 2006.