A watershed event in modern European history, the French Revolution began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens razed and redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Like the American Revolution before it, the French Revolution was influenced by Enlightenment ideals, particularly the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals and at times degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people.
Louis XVI was the last king of France (1774–92) in the line of Bourbon monarchs preceding the French Revolution of 1789. He was executed for treason by guillotine in 1793.
Image: Antoine-François Callet - Louis XVI, roi de France et de Navarre (1754-1793), revêtu du grand costume royal en 1779.
Military general and first emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica, France. One of the most celebrated leaders in the history of the West, he revolutionized military organization and training, sponsored Napoleonic Code, reorganized education and established the long-lived Concordat with the papacy. He died on May 5, 1821, on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Image: Jacques-Louis David - The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries