French Revolution


Execution of King Louis XVI

The French Revolutionaries promised to topple traditional European social hierarchy and replace it with social equality. Religion and property rights came under attack, too. The French Revolutionaries beheaded King Louis XVI on January 21, 1793, as part of the “Reign of Terror.”

Mort de Louis Capet 16.e du nom, le 21 janvier 1793
Created by an unidentified artist
Bibliothèque nationale de France

British Criticism of the French Revolution

British artist Thomas Rowlandson’s cartoon “The Contrast” celebrated the British government in opposition to the emerging French Republic. British critics of the French Revolution dismissed it as bloody anarchy. The French Revolutionaries saw themselves as principled people seeking to improve society based on the teachings of the Enlightenment. The leaders of the United Irishmen believed they could follow the example of France and improve Ireland.

The Contrast
Printed by Thomas Rowlandson
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University