First let’s put things in context. In 1789 France had been for decades in the grips of a budget crisis. It was due to the country’s absurd tax structure, and had recently been aggravated by the French support of the American Independence War.
King Louis XVI, in order to implement new taxes, had called a meeting of the Etats-Generaux, the Estates General, on May 5, 1789.
For the King and his entourage in Versailles, the Estates General were simply an ad hoc gathering of elected representatives of the Clergy, Nobility and Third Estate (the commoners) of France, with one specific mission: resolving the budget deficit. It was also an occasion to display the pageantry of the monarchy.
For the rest of the country, it was a call to reform all that was rotten in the kingdom (more…)