Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Guillotine, a beheaded queen, and the Reign of Terror coming to theaters near you soon. No, no, no! This is all related to The French Revolution.

The Mystery of History Volume 4, lesson 12, takes us to the time of The French Revolution.

A quick overview:  The French Revolution took place between 1789 and 1799 when it became transparent that King Louis XVI would never be able to solve the financial problems that France now faced.  A revolution in this case is a "turn around" in power in a short window of time.

Paris was now populated with diseased and malnourished peasants who began to grow angry at their living conditions while the King and Queen continued to live their lives of luxury and plenty at Versailles.
A side note on Queen of France, Marie-Antoinette, she was actually born in Austria and married King Louis XVI when she was 14.  She was the daughter of The Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, former German King.

King Louis XVI

Then came the Fall of Bastille.  This was a time of great violence and chaos.  Rioting, looting, and violence spread like wildfires throughout all of Paris and the French Countryside.  The King and Queen were left without their kingdom, and they were also both missing their heads!!!  Seriously!

 A little background info:  Prior to this revolution, a person's status was determined by the family they came from, for example, if you were born into a poor family, guess what, you were labeled poor and no matter how hard you worked or how hard you tried, you would never be in any other class.  This type of classification went on for centuries.  Less than 5% of Europeans of that time lived a comfortable life.  This caused the poor to resent the rich.  The rich got richer and the poor got poorer.  (Kind of like today, HA!).

More background info before things got out of hand:  News of the American Revolution spread to all parts of Europe.  This was a sign of hope for the poor. In 1776, a group of poverty-stricken people decided to rebel and take down those at the top.

This was an attempt to create a new society but fear spread throughout France as the Reign of Terror (La Terreur) was in full force.  Everyone had anxiety over being labeled a traitor and with good reason as those accused of being traitors were beheaded by guillotine.  The Reign of Terror lasted roughly from July 1793 until around July 1794.  Over 17,000 people were executed during The Reign of Terror.

The French Revolution secured the guillotine's spot in history forever.  In fact, as crazy as it may sound, the guillotine's last victim was in 1977.  What the what?
Convicted murder, Tunisian-born Hamida Djandoubi, was tried twice and twice sentenced to death.  The first sentence of death was overturned but the second was not.  Djandoubi was guillotined on the morning of September 10, 1977.  The guillotine's use was not abolished until the 1980s.  That is the 20th century people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We can thank Dr. Louis Guillontin for the invention of this contraption.  Dr. Guillontin believed that the use of a guillotine was a humane alternative for official executions.  He said by using his guillotine, death would come instantly and without pain of any kind.  I am not so sure about that but the guillotine was used almost 190 years.  It is reported that after Dr. Guillontin died, his family members begged the French Government to rename the Guillotine something else but they were denied.  You can't really blame them for that.

A few key players to remember in The French Revolution/The Reign of Terror include King Louis XVI, his wife, Marie-Antoinette, Maximilien Robespierre.

On January 21, 1793, King Louis XVI was executed by a new republican government.  On October 16th, his wife, Marie-Antoinette was executed.

To wrap this up, basically The French Revolution was considered a failure until years later (1815) when Feudalism (the ancient structure of government and society) was considered dead in France.

A form of Democracy did finally arrive in France but it was not until after France had endured hardships from every angle.  France was then known as The Republic of France, officially.  And that is when Bonaparte (1799) comes into play but we will get to him later.  He is a little dude with a big history!
A little odd trivia connected with The French Revolution.  The first public zoo was opened in Paris during The French Revolution.  It was called Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes.  The zoo is still open so check out this website if you want to know more.

Another odd fact is in 1730 every cat in Paris was tried in a mock trial and found guilty of witchcraft.  All the cats were hanged by a group of printing apprentices.  This allegedly took place on Rue Saint-Severin street.  Weird!!!

French Revolution
Dr. Louis Guillotin
Khan Academy/Crash Course with John Green
Fact Monster
Interesting facts. com
The History Channel

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