French Revolution Timeline: 1789 - 91

Louis XVI
Louis XVI. Wikimedia Commons

Our narrative history for this period begins here.


• January 24: The Estates General is officially summoned; election details go out. Crucially, no one is really sure how it should be formed, leading to an argument over voting powers.
• January - May: The Third Estate politicises as cahiers are drawn up, political clubs form and discussion takes place both verbally and through pamphleteering.

The middle class believe they have a voice and intend to use it.

• February: Sieyes publishes 'What is the Third Estate?'
• February - June: Elections to the Estates General.

• May 5: The Estates General opens. There is still no decision on voting rights, and the third estate believe they should have more of a say.
• May 6: The Third Estate refuses to meet or verify their election as a separate chamber.

• June 10: The Third Estate, now frequently called the Commons, gives an ultimatum to the other estates: join in a common verification or the Commons would go on alone.
• June 13: A few members of the First Estate (priests and clergy) join the Third.
• June 17: The National Assembly is proclaimed by the former Third Estate.
• June 20: The Tennis Court Oath taken; with the National Assembly's meeting place closed in preparation for a Royal Session, the deputies meet at a tennis court and swear not to disband until a constitution is established.

• June 23: The Royal Session opens; the King initially tells the estates to meet separately and introduces reforms; the deputies of the National Assembly ignore him.
• June 25: Members of the Second Estate begin to join the National Assembly.
• June 27: The king gives in and orders the three estates to unite as one; troops are called to the Paris area.

Suddenly, there has been a constitutional revolution in France. Things would not stop here.

• July 11: Necker is dismissed.
• July 12: Revolt begins in Paris, caused in part by Necker's dismissal and the fear of royal troops.
• July 14: The storming of the Bastille. Now the people of Paris, or the 'mob' if you prefer, will start to direct the revolution and violence will result.
• July 15: Unable to rely on his army, the King gives in and orders troops to leave the Paris area. Louis does not want a civil war, when that might be all that would save his old powers.
• July 16: Necker is recalled.
• July - August: The Great Fear; mass panic across France as people fear a noble led backlash against their anti-feudal demonstrations.

• August 4: Feudalism and privileges are abolished by the National Assembly in perhaps the most remarkable evening in Europe's modern history.
• August 26: Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen published.

• September 11: The King is granted a suspensive veto.

• October 5-6: Journee of 5-6 October: the King and the National Assembly move to Paris at the behest of a Parisian mob.

• November 2: Church property is nationalised.

• December 12: Assignats are created.




• February 13: Monastic vows banned.
• February 26: France divided into 83 departments.

• April 17: Assignats accepted as currency.

• May 21: Paris is divided into sections.

• June 19: Nobility is abolished.

• July 12: The Civil Constitution of the Clergy, a complete restructuring of the church in France.
• July 14: Feast of the Federation, a celebration to mark one year since the fall of the Bastille.

• August 16: Parlements are abolished and the judiciary reorganised.

• September 4: Necker resigns.

• November 27: The Oath of the Clergy passed; all ecclesiastical office holders must swear an oath to the constitution.



• January 4: Last date for clergy to have sworn the oath; over half refuse.

• April 2: Mirabeau dies.
• April 13: The Pope condemns the Civil Constitution.

• April 18: The King is prevented from leaving Paris to spend Easter at Saint-Cloud.

• May: Avignon is occupied by French forces.
• May 16: Self-Denying Decree: National Assembly deputies cannot be elected to the Legislative Assembly.

• June 14: Le Chapelier Law stopping workers associations and strikes.
• June 20: Flight to Varennes; the King and Queen attempt to flee France but only get as far as Varennes.
• June 24: Cordelier organises a petition stating that liberty and royalty cannot co-exist.

• July 16: The Constituent Assembly declares that the king was the victim of an abduction plot.
• July 17: Massacre at the Champs de Mars, when National Guard open fire on republican demonstrators.

• August 14: Slave rebellion begins in Saint-Domingue.
• August 27: Declaration of Pillnitz: Austria and Prussia threaten to take action in support of the French king.

• September 13: The King accepts the new constitution.
• September 14: King swears the oath of allegiance to the new constitution.
• September 30: The National Assembly is dissolved.

• October 1: The Legislative Assembly convenes.
• October 20: Brissot's first calls for war against the émigrés.

• November 9: Decree against the émigrés; if they do not return they will be considered traitors.
• November 12: The King vetoes the émigrés decree.
• November 29: Decree against refractory priests; they will be considered suspects unless they take a civic oath.

• December 14: Louis XVI requests the Elector of Trier disperse émigrés or face military action.

• December 19: The King vetoes the decree against refractory priests.

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