The French Republican Calendar: How Time was Different

French Republican Calendar for the month Vendemiaire. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The French Republican Calendar, also sometimes called the French Revolutionary Calendar, was a calendar created and implemented by the French Republic during the French Revolution from late 1793 to 1805 (and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871). The French Republican calendar came about because the government wanted to distance itself from anything associated with the Ancien régime and religion. Thus, the government decreed on 24 November 1793 that the common era would be abolished.

The new Republic also instituted changes resulting in a new social and legal system, a new system for weights and measures, and a new calendar. The new calendar was influenced by Enlightenment ideas and created using the fundamental blocks of natural constants, multiples of ten, and Latin and ancient Greek derivations. They also decided that new French era would commence on 22 September 1792 (one day after the Convention abolished the monarchy) and they used the Roman Numeral I to indicate the first year of the republic. Continue reading

The Legendary French Drummer Boy Joseph Bara

Jean-Joseph Weerts “Portrait de Joseph Bara.” Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The legendary French drummer boy Joseph Bara was raised to the status of hero in the 1790s. His story begins with his birth on 30 July 1779 to a woodranger and a domestic servant, both of whom worked at the Palaiseau estate of the Condés. Unfortunately, while Bara was still a youth, his father died, and, so, when the French politician Lazare Carnot appealed for men and created the conscription called levée en masse to raise any army, Bara’s mother enrolled him as a volunteer in the army at the tender age of twelve. He was then attached to a unit that fought counter revolutionaries in Vendée, and, it was during this time that he was killed. A General J.B. Desmarres gave a written account of his death to the Convention that stated:

“Yesterday this courageous youth, surrounded by brigands, chose to perish rather than give them the two horses he was leading.”[1] Continue reading

Tales of Charlotte Corday’s Head

Charlotte Corday. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After Charlotte Corday’s execution for assassinating Jacques-Jean Marat, her body and guillotined head were said to have been buried in Ditch No. 5 of the cemetery of the Madeleine on rue Anjou Saint-Honore in Paris. Ditch No. 4 held the body of Louis XVI, and Ditch No. 6 would be readied shortly for Marie Antoinette and Philippe Egalite. However, that was not the end of the story, as years later Corday’s skull allegedly appeared in the possession of Prince Roland Bonaparte, grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Lucien.

The neighborhood where Corday was buried was supposedly “infected by the putrefaction of the bodies buried there,”[1] and because of that the cemetery was closed sometime after 1794. Around that same time a Monsieur Descloseaux bought the cemetery. Most of the bodies were moved, and the cemetery transformed into a pleasure garden. However, Corday’s body supposedly remained there, and, in 1804, Descloseaux claims he added a cross to mark the spot of her grave. Continue reading

Bastille Day or Fête de la Fédération in 1792

Storming of the Bastille. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Bastille Day or Fête de la Fédération was first celebrated in 1790. It was a day set aside to commemorate the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille that occurred on 14 July 1789. That event ushered in the French Revolution and each year thereafter people celebrated their patriotism for their new republic with a fete.

The second Fête de la Fédération happened in 1791 and was nothing like the first as it was said to have passed without hardly a notice. That was because that year, a few weeks prior to the celebration, the King and the royal family made their ill-fated escape attempt. Unfortunately for them, they were captured at Varennes and brought back to Paris. Continue reading

Jean-Lambert Tallien

Jean-Lambert Tallien. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Jean-Lambert Tallien was born in Paris on 23 January 1767 to an Italian maître d’hôtel working for the Marquis de Bercy. The Marquis noticed Tallien’s abilities, educated him, and placed him as a law clerk. Tallien soon left the position, began working at a printer’s office, and by 1791 was overseeing the Count of Provence’s printing department.

Tallien became more well-known to revolutionaries after the King was arrested. It was then that Tallien placarded large poster on Paris walls twice a week under the title of Ami des Citoyens, journal fraternal. He also organized the Fête de la Liberté on 15 April 1792 to celebrate the release of soldiers of Chateau-Vieux.

Tall and imposing in appearance, Tallien was only 24 years old when he was elected to the National Convention in 1792. He soon took a seat on the high benches with the radical members of the Montagnards and was in the thick of everything. He promoted the insurrection on 10 August, supported the September Massacres of 1792, spearhead opposition to the King, voted for the King’s death, and helped to overthrow the Girondins. Continue reading

The Deaths of Jean-Marie Roland and Madame Roland

Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière and his wife, Madame Roland, were supporters of the French Revolution. In addition, Jean-Marie was also an influential member of a loose political faction called the Girondins. When the Girondins fell in 1793 during the Reign of Terror, Jean-Marie went into hiding in Rouen with two spinster sisters, the mademoiselles Malortie. The spinsters were sisters to his previous fiancée, who died unexpectedly.

While Jean-Marie was in hiding, Madame Roland was arrested, as were other Girondins and Girondin supporters. She was imprisoned at the Abbey of Saint Germain des Près that had inscribed over its door, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here!”[1] This was also the spot where a wave of killings, called the September Massacres, had taken place between the 2nd and 7th of September in 1792. Continue reading

The Indictment Against Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette au Tribunal révolutionnaire. By Alphonse François From Painting by Paul Delaroche (1857). Courtesy of Library of Congress
Marie Antoinette au Tribunal révolutionnaire. By Alphonse François From Painting by Paul Delaroche (1857). Courtesy of Library of Congress.

An indictment against Marie Antoinette was drawn up by the Public Accuser of the Revolutionary Tribunal, Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville, on 13 October 1793. The indictment considered the Queen’s life, “from the epoch of her marriage in 1770, to the memorable era of the 10th of August, 1792.”[1]

Once the indictment was prepared, it was given to the Queen. At the time, she was imprisoned at the Conciergerie as Prisoner no. 280. She requested defenders, which was granted. She then selected lawyer Guillaume Alexandre Tronson du Coudray and the well-known and respected lawyer Claude François Chauveau-Lagarde. Because her trial was scheduled to begin the next morning on 14 October, her defense team had less than a day to prepare. 

The Norfolk Chronicle published the indictment, and it is provided below verbatim: Continue reading

An Escape From the Guillotine During the French Revolution

escape from the guillotine
Guillotining of Nine Emigrants in 1793. Public Domain.

During the French Revolution, between 5 September 1793 and 28 July 1794, a period known as The Terror, it has been estimated that at least 40,000 people were executed, although official records cite 16,594 deaths. Those sentenced to be executed were usually guillotined the following morning after their trial. As was customary, the condemned were tied together, in sets of two, by the hands with a cord, and accompanied by a guard to the site where they were guillotined. Continue reading

Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the French Revolution”

Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution"
Edmund Burke. Courtesy of Wikipedia. on the French Revolution.

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman born in Dublin. He is remembered for his support of American revolutionaries and his objections to the French Revolution. In 1790, he wrote the pamphlet, Reflections on the Revolution in France, And on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to that Event. In a Letter Intended to Have Been Sent to a Gentleman in Paris. Some of his quotes from that pamphlet follow:

ABILITY: “Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular way, ought to give us ground to presume ability.”

ANTAGONISM: “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” Continue reading

Removing the Dauphin From His Mother (Marie Antoinette)

Louis-Charles by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 1789
Louis-Charles at Age 4 Painted by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 1789. Public Domain.

After the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette worried about their fate and worried that the Dauphin (Louis-Charles) might be taken from them. Louis-Charles was born 27 March 1785 at Versailles and was the second son of the King and Queen, but he became the Dauphin after his older brother died of tuberculosis. Louis-Charles was described by one historian as having large blue eyes, a mouth “like his mother’s, and … her bright colour of hair and skin.” He was said to be delicate in frame and excitable in temperament. He was also described in the following way

“[Louis-Charles was] courteous and affectionate, but impatient of control. His mother’s intelligent devotion earned from him, baby as he was, a love and respect which never failed to influence him.”

To ensure that Louis-Charles would not be taken, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette refused to let him be separated from them or go outdoors, even for a walk. Thus, his days at the Temple became routine and involved his father teaching him writing, history, mathematics, geography, and spelling until the Commune one day declared that the Dauphin could no longer study mathematics. It seems they thought that “this was a hieroglyphic language which might be used for correspondence in cipher.” Continue reading