Today’s story takes place in France at the end of the 18th century. France had been a monarchy for long enough of a time to go through 16 kings named Louis. But the times, they were a changin’ and the monarchy which had governed France for many centuries became isolated from and out of touch with the populace. And their decisions were now really at odds in regards to the needs of pretty much everyone living in France who wasn’t rich.
The government of France was quietly going broke due to ineffective tax systems and their complete willingness to spend all of their money on any war they could get involved in. Seriously, the French spent a fortune fighting on the side of the American colonists in the Revolutionary War pretty much as a “fuck you” to England. Historically speaking, that really was the only tangible benefit France got out of participating in that war.
So, there’s no money and everybody is pissed and hungry. The government convened an Estates General, a legislative assembly representing the three major classes in France, for the first time in nearly 200 years to listened to grievances from the people while trying to figure out how to solve some of the country’s major problems. This morphed into a National Assembly whose aim was to give France a constitution, much to the chagrin of Louis XVI.
The king pulled a few dick moves against the new National Assembly and most of France was like, “Nah, brah, not havin’ it,” and started to riot. Chaos engulfed the nation. On July 14th of 1797, the insurgent population stormed the prison known as the Bastille, because France really needed a holiday.
The National Assembly responded by issuing an edict that was pretty much, “Yo, guys, chill. Tell ya what, feudalism is over.” They stripped the clergy of some of their power and followed up on abolishing feudalism with a Declaration of the Rights of Man, with a little help from Thomas Jefferson. Two years later, France had a constitution.
But all of this wasn’t enough to quell the unrest. A general election was held for a new National Convention whose members quickly decided to execute Louis XVI for crimes against man. He was guillotined in public, making use of a great new eponymously-named invention. This began a period known as the Reign of Terror during which tons of people were publicly beheaded to large crowds because soccer hadn’t really caught on yet.
After a few more years of mass executions and political infighting, things started to cool down in France. The revolution made a huge impact across the world. It brought an end to feudalism and forever changed the course of human history.
We hope these tattoos have made you really think about the French Revolution. If you want to learn more, the entire story is only slightly more nuanced than the version we’ve given you.