The Reign of Terror

By | June 14, 2019

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The trial and execution of Louis XVI. Source: (

The Reign of Terror, which lasted from September 1793 to July 1794, was a bloody time in France’s history. Characterized by violence and paranoia, it led to the deaths of thousands of alleged enemies of the French Revolution, many of whom met their end via guillotine.

After the execution of Louis XVI in January 1793, radical revolutionaries known as the Jacobins made it their business to remove the moderate Girondins from power. Eventually, their crosshairs broadened to include anyone they perceived as a threat. One of the first to lose their head was the queen, Marie Antoinette. Having been imprisoned after her husband’s execution, she was tried with treason on October 12, 1793, and executed on October 16. After her death, the Reign of Terror grew even more violent.

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Marie Antionnette. Source: (

The increase in violence was largely due to the rise of Maximilien Robespierre. He became head of the Committee of Public Safety, which was originally created to preserve the reforms of the revolution. In addition to eliminating threats, they were responsible for supplying food to the armies and cities. Under Robespierre’s leadership, they had absolute power to enforce the Law of Suspects, established in September 1793, and could establish special courts to determine guilt. They went up against prominent revolutionaries in the National Convention, examining their loyalties and finding many to be guilty of betraying the revolution. Those who were found guilty faced the guillotine.