France and the Old Regime
Before the revolution France operated on a
system known as the Old Regime.
In this system there is an absolute monarch
and three social class: clergy (first estate),
nobility (second estate), and everyone else
(third estate). How you are treated depends
on what estate you are in.
People have no say in the government
unless the king asks for it (which is rare).
Tax Break Down
Where the government's money comes
were spreading and
people began to question
some of the long
standing ideas they had
People heard words
equality, liberty, and
democracy. They began
discuss these ideas.
People saw the success of
the American revolution.
Many of the ideas put forth
in the American
It was very inspiring to
people to see these ideas
put into action.
The French had supported
the Revolutionaries in
France used to be very wealthy, but lately there were a
lot of problems with their economy.
There were several causes for this struggle:
1. Heavy taxes to countries who tried to do
business with France.
2. The cost of living rose for everyone.
3. Bad weather in the 1780’s resulted in food
4. The price for bread doubled in 1789 and many
people faced starvation.
France’s King, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette
were very extravagant and spent lots of money.
Bankers refused to lend him anymore money and he
was in deep trouble.
Louis XVI Louis was not a particularly
strong leader and was
He wasn’t very interested
in leading the country.
He let his advisers decide
most things while he spent
time hunting, playing with
locks and spending more
money that France didn’t
Marie Antoinette was an
Austria princess who was
married to Louis at the age
of 14 (Louis was 15).
France and Austria were
long time enemies.
Many people disliked her
because of her Austrian
She was also disliked by
the general population of
France for her spending.
She got the nickname
Louis put off dealing with the money issue until
France was facing bankruptcy.
Louis knew he needed to raise money so he
tried to tax the Second Estate.
The Second Estate protested wildly and
insisted the Louis call together a meeting of the
Estates – General an assembly of
representatives from all three of the estates
to decide what to do on the issue.
The Estates – General had not met in 175
In the past the clergy (First Estate)
and nobility (Second Estate) always
voted together and won because of
the way the voting system worked –
one representative for each estate.
The representatives from the Third
Estate were bourgeoisie or educated
members of the middle class. They
knew about Enlightenment ideas and
said this way of voting was unfair.
The Third Estate decided they would form there
own group and called themselves the National
Assembly. The goal of the National Assembly
was to pass laws and reforms in the name of
the French people.
Three days later when the National Assembly
found themselves locked out of a meeting hall they
broke into a local tennis court and took a pledge to
keep meeting until they had created a new
constitution for France. This became known as the
Tennis Court Oath.
Storming the Bastille
Louis was scared so he hired
Swiss Guards to protect him
(he didn’t trust his soldiers).
People saw the Swiss
Guards and thought Louis
was going to attack them.
On July 14, 1789 angry
citizens stormed the
Bastille, a prison in Paris, to
get gunpowder and supplies
to fight back.
Great Fear After the invasion of the
Bastille a wave of
senseless panic known
as the Great Fear spread
through out France.
In October, 1789,
Parisian women rioted over
the rising price of bread.
The women marched to
Versailles and broke into
They took the king and
queen as prisoners.