Liberty Leading the People. A short recollection of historical events in Revolutionary France

While visiting Louvre, as usually, I do in museums, I photographed several paintings just to remember the visit. One of them was the famous ‘Liberty Leading the People’ by Eugène Delacroix depicting events that took place in Paris in 1830. I remembered having seen the painting many times during history lessons. As it is symbolic of the French Revolution, it is usually reprinted in school books.

A topless woman, the French symbol of Liberty, is leading Parisians under the tricolor banner during the July revolution of 1830.

Tricolor stands for liberty (blue), equality (white), and fraternity (red) or alternatively –  bourgeoisie (blue), clergy (white) and nobility (red). The latter division corresponds to the three estate classification that preserved for centuries in historical Europe. The clergy was the First Estate, nobles were the Second Estate and peasants and bourgeoisie were the Third Estate.

The painting is well-known that it is easy to forget that it depicts the second wave of the French revolution (of 1830) and not the events that took place forty years earlier.

Today, on the eve of 14 July, the day as the Bastille was fallen, it is a good day to recall some historical events that for good changed France and entire Europe:

  • The French Revolution (known as the First French Revolution) commonly associated with storming and demolition of the Bastille took place in 1789. The Bastille Day, which is the 14th of July, is celebrated today as the French National Day. The Revolution began as during a political impasse the Third Estate (bourgeoisie) formed into the National Assembly on 13 June 1789.
  • It took more than three years of political turmoil however till the French proclaimed the First Republic on 21 September 1792 abolishing the monarchy. The act was undertaken by a National Convention elected under the first male universal suffrage in France. This did not, however, end the political struggle.
  • In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte took power in the Republic and finally turned France into the French Empire. With his defeat and the Congress of Vienna (1815) >>>, the monarchy was re-established in France with yet another Bourbon king on the French throne.
  • Bourbons were overthrown by the July revolution of 1830, the one that was depicted by Delacroix. Still, the only change was that one king was replaced by another. By the way, the events of the July revolution inspired Belgians who after years of struggle finally got their independence in 1830 >>>.
  • The monarchy under the new dynasty called the House of Orleans lasted till 1848 when after the removal of an unpopular king, the Second Republic was proclaimed.
  • The Second Republic was yet again seized by yet another Bonaparte. It was Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew. Once again, France turned into an Empire (1852).
  • Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was removed in 1870 in times of Franco-Prussian war as unable to reign the French state. The war was fought further by the Government of National Defence under the auspices of the Third Republic. With the Third Republic, the times of monarchies in France were finally over.

Liberty Leading the People. A short recollection of historical events in Revolutionary France