Q:

What was the coup d'etat that occurred during the French Revolution?

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Quick Answer

General Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup d’état in 1799, claiming power from the governing Directory of France and making himself First Consul, which gave him the power to choose his own advisers. This coup signaled the end of the French Revolution and the beginning of Napoleon's reign.

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Full Answer

Bonaparte had used his military prowess to squash revolts against the Constitution of 1795. Due to these maneuvers, he became extremely popular and used that popularity to claim power and give stability to France's turbulent government. Bonaparte's coup came at the end of an 11-year period of terror and bloodshed in France.

In 1785, under the pressure of the French people, France's National Assembly voted to end the feudal system in France. In 1791, the assembly then voted to establish a constitutional monarchy form of government in an attempt to appease both the king and the people. This vote led to revolution within the government and the end of the assembly and a new governing body called the National Convention. This group abolished the French monarchy in 1792 and then sentenced King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette to death in 1793. The French Republic had been born, but the bloodshed continued during a 10-month period called the Reign of Terror in which any suspected enemy of the revolution was sent to the guillotine.

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