7 Key Figures of the French Revolution

The French Revolution changed Europe forever, as centuries of oppression under an absolute monarchy saw France’s “Third Estate” rise up in violent protest in July 1789. On July 14, Parisians stormed the Bastille, the fortress that stood as a symbol of royal oppression, and would eventually execute the king, Louis XVI, and his queen Marie-Antoinette a few years later.

Influenced by Enlightenment thought, the Revolution’s ideals of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” led to the abolition of feudalism, suffrage for men, and state control of the Catholic Church. But revolutionaries were by no means united in their vision of this new republic, and increasingly draconian measures designed to root out “suspects” and “traitors” led to the Reign of Terror, when thousands of people across the country were executed as “counter-revolutionaries.”

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