The French Revolution (audio)
In 1789, poor people in the capital of France, Paris, were tired of their unhappy lives. Many did not have enough food to give to their children. Everything was expensive but there was no work for them to earn the money they needed for a home. There were no schools for their children because the government did not think they needed to learn to read or write. But, at the same time, the aristocrats had millions. They lived in luxurious houses in Paris and had others in the countryside. They wore coats that cost more than poor families earned in a year and ate dinners in one evening that could pay for families to eat for months.
King Louis the Sixteenth (XVI) lived with his Austrian queen, Marie Antoinette, in a wonderful palace built by his grandfather in Versailles. You can still visit it today. It has beautiful gardens and the walls of the palace are covered with gold, mirrors and pictures. The King and Queen spent their evenings dancing and planning new gardens. They did not seem to know or, maybe, to care about the poor.
In France, however, things were changing. The middle class were getting more control of the business world. They were also reading new ideas about government. The poor were hungry and France had no money. King Louis XVI spent a lot of money on wars and there was nothing left.
In July, the people of Paris attacked the Bastille. This was a huge castle. The King used it as a prison. The soldiers did not fight the people. Actually, some joined them. The people entered the Bastille and set free all the prisoners. They then burnt it. A group of leaders also wrote an important document. It explained about every French person’s rights. Then, in October, they walked to the King’s palace in Versailles and took him and his queen to Paris.
In 1792, the people made France a republic and, the next year, they cut off Louis’ head. They stopped slavery in their empire and attacked Germany, Holland, Belgium and Italy. The French Army won all the wars and their ideas about the rights of the people travelled all over Europe with them.
Today, the French Revolution is still important. It sent a message to kings and governments all over the world that they needed to work for the people.