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FRACTS or FACTs about the French Revolution


1. In the French Revolution, they created a new calendar and a new way of telling time. They changed the days of the week from seven to ten. Each day was divided into ten hours. Each hour had 100 minutes and each minute had 100 seconds.

2. The winter of 1789 was so cold that the Marquise de Rambouillet had her servants sew her into a bearskin to keep her warm.

3. King Louis XVI’s pre-hunt breakfast comprised 4 chops, a chicken, 6 eggs poached in gravy, some ham,and bottle and a half of champagne.

4. Marie Antoinette commonly bathed and dressed in front of forty people.

5. In 1789, a loaf of bread cost more than a peasant’s weekly wage.

6. Marie Antoinette was considered so fashionable that, once at the opera, eight women were injured pushing others out of the way to see what she was wearing. Three of the women had their feet crushed, two had ribs broken and three had their arms dislocated.

7. Pre 1789 only two documents could be printed without first being reviewed by the police : a wedding invitation and a funeral card.

8. Wealthy Parisians visited their hairdressers daily but put on clean clothes only once a month.

9. Louis XVI assisted in perfecting the guillotine (as a painless and more dignified method of execution). An amateur locksmith, his idea was to have sharp triangular blade that would finish the job quickly. As he soon discovered.

10. “Let them eat cake!” (“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”) was quoted ten years before Marie Antoinette supposedly said it.

11. The political terms “left wing” and “right wing” originated in 1789 from the seating arrangement in the Estates General (the French National Assembly). Representatives of the second estate, that is the nobility (naturally more conservative, in favor of preserving the status quo), sat to the right of the President’s chair; the deputies of the third estate sat on his left.

12. The author of the French national anthem, Rouget-de-l’Isle,narrowly escaped the guillotine. His song, written in 1792 in Strasbourg, was called “the Song of the Army of the Rhine”. It became known as the “Marseillaise” because soldiers from Marseilles were heard singing it during the insurrection in the Tuileries.

13. The 2 royal children weren’t executed and lived for years after the revolution. Both were imprisoned, were never told of the fate of their family. The son died in his pre-teens, while the princess lived to an old age in exile.

14. There is the apocryphal story of the French chemist Lavoisier, who upon being beheaded,was still able to blink his eyes for about 30 seconds afterwards.

15. It is estimated that between 15,000 and 40,000 people were executed during the French Revolution (1789-99).

16. Dr Joseph Guillotin (1738-1821), founder of the French Academy of Medicine, urged that capital punishment should be carried out as speedily and painlessly as possible and argued for a machine to achieve this. But the guillotine was actually invented by Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgeons, together with a mechanic called Schmidt. Similar machines were already in use in England ( the Halifax Gibbet) and Scotland (the Scottish Maiden).

17. Marie Antoinette paid her executioner to ensure a sharp blade and a quick death.

18. Peasants had to pay taxes to their local nobility, to the King and to the Church but the nobility were exempt from paying most taxes.

19. King Louis XVI was executed on 21st January 1793 under the name of Citoyen Louis Capet. 361 Representatives voted for his execution and 288 voted against.

20. The radical militants of the peasant classes were called “Les Sans Culottes”.


‘Culottes’ are generally meant to mean ‘knickers’ or underwear, but at the time, it was a way of distinguishing the peasants who wore long trousers (‘Pantallons”) and the nobility, who wore silk knee breeches.

21. Bastille is an alternative spelling of the Provençal word, ‘Bastida’ (built) or the French, ‘Bastide’, meaning fortification. A verb, ‘Embastiller’ means to garrison troops in a prison.

22. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens of 1789, which proclaimed “natural and inalienable” rights, served as the model for the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

23. 10,000 African slaves were freed after the Revolution.

24. When the Royal Family attempted to escape France, they were (supposedly) recognized because the king’s face was on all of the coins. He was disguised as the butler to the Dauphin’s governess, the Marquise de Tourzel, who in turn was disguised as a Russian baroness. Marie Antoinette and the King’s sister, Elisabeth, acted as her maids. One story is that the Queen was recognized because she was heard giving orders to the baroness!

25. Nicolas de Condorcet, who had written one of the revolutionary constitutions, went into hiding during the “Reign of Terror”. When those who sheltered “counter-revolutionaries” started going to the guillotine, he left his hiding place and walked into the countryside. Although he was by this time an ordinary “citizen,” he gave away his aristocratic roots when he ordered an omelette made of 12 eggs. He was arrested and probably committed suicide in prison so he wouldn’t be guillotined.

26. The Governor of the Bastille, Bernard-Rene de Launay, was born in the Bastille. He was badly beaten when the prison was stormed and eventually cried: “Enough! Let me die!” He kicked a pastry cook ( M. Desnot) in the groin and was then stabbed to death, beheaded and his head was paraded on a pike.

27. The word “sabotage” originated in the Industrial revolution when workers, who lost their jobs, threw their clogs (sabots) into the machines replacing the workers.

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