Reign of Terror

May 13, 2015 · Posted in French History · Comments Off on Reign of Terror 

What is the history behind the Reign of Terror or simply the Terror?

The time period was from Sept. 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794. The Terror took place in France during the revolution, when democratic reform turned into executions by guillotine.

The former ruling royals King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette met their death via Madame Guillotine in 1793.

“Let them eat cake!” words alleged to have left the lips of Marie Antoinette upon being told that starving French peasants lacked bread to eat has never been proven. Maxime de la Rocheterie wrote of her:

‘She was not a guilty woman, neither was she a saint; she was an upright, charming woman, a little frivolous, somewhat impulsive, but always pure; she was a queen, at times ardent in her fancies for her favourites and thoughtless in her policy, but proud and full of energy; a thorough woman in her winsome ways and tenderness of heart…’

Her famous last words before the quick, clean cut of a guillotine blade ( her death was viewed with great joy by the crowd cheering “Vive la nation!”), Marie Antoinette’s last words were,”Pardon me sir. I did not mean to do it,”to a man whose foot she stepped on before she was executed by the guillotine” source:

The powerful Maximilien Robespierre became the person most associated with the Terror. Just the suspicion of “crimes against liberty” was enough to get one executed during the Reign. Ironically Maximilien Robespierre himself was guillotined by “The National Razor” in July 1794.


Public guillotining in Lons-le-Saunier, 1897. Picture taken on 20 April 1897, in front of the jailhouse of Lons-le-Saunier, Jura. The man who was going to be beheaded was Pierre Vaillat, who killed two elder siblings on Christmas day, 1896, in order to rob them and was condemned for his crimes on 9 March 1897.

Public executions became so popular for a time that vendors sold programs and regulars would attend. parents even brought their children to watch the horror as a morbidly sick form of entertainment.