The French Revolution
Before the French Revolution, France was ruled and governed by the king and parliament. King Louis XVI ruled by “divine right,” believing that he had been put on the throne by the grace of God. France then was one of the most powerful and wealthiest countries, and had a strong army, and even stronger cultural influence. Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette were shielded from the daily lives of the ordinary people in France. When Louis XVI inherited the throne in 1774, he also inherited many problems left behind by the previous king, King Louis XV.
France was divided into three estates with their own status and role to play in the country. The First Estate involved religious people in the country. The Second Estate involved all the nobles. These two estates had many privileges, and were the wealthiest group, but were only a small piece of the entire population. The Third Estate was everyone else in the country: the peasants, poor city dwellers, and the “middle class”. The Third Estate was the largest group, and had little to no power, even though it was the largest group. In order to pay off national debts, Louis XVI increased taxes in the Third Estate, which impacted many of their lives. Because of the taxes, industry started to lag, and there were bread shortages in many places. They barely had any food and had to live of bread.
King Louis XVI was a bad king and the people had every right to hate him and his wife. The people didn’t have any freedom. They had to live in poverty and they wanted to do something about it so someone did. That someone is called Maximilien Robespierre. Robespierre was the leader of the Committee of Public Safety, the executive committee of the National Convention, and the most powerful man in France. He explained how terror would lead to the Republic of Virtue in a speech to the National Convention:
“If the spring of popular government in time of peace...