King Louis XVI of France was an who ruled by divine right. The people of France were divided into three estates, or social classes. The First Estate was made up of the who owned 15 percent of the land and paid no regular taxes. The Second Estate included the who owned 25 percent of the land and paid no taxes. The Third Estate was made up of everyone else. They paid taxes and had no voice in government. The unfairness of this system led to a revolution.
The Revolution Turns Violent
The French government was out of money by 1789. This led to the first meeting of the Estates General at Versailles. The Third Estate formed a new congress called the . A rumor of their arrest sent people marching to the on July 14, 1789. Ninety-eight people were killed, but citizens captured the Bastille. Bastille Day is still celebrated in France every July 14. The was adopted by the National Assembly, and the king lost his power. became the leader of the new republic and began a “Reign of Terror” using the to execute thousands of people. France was in chaos, and Robespierre was guillotined in 1794. Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in 1799 and became dictator of France.
France became Napoleon’s empire in 1804. He made many changes in government and is known for his . The code guaranteed and every adult male had the right to vote. Napoleon did not allow women to vote or own property. Napoleon expanded his empire by defeating the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The combined armies of his enemies defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 and his empire came to an end.