How Did the Reign of Terror Come to an End?

The Reign of Terror came to an end when its leader, Maximilien Robespierre, was executed. The aim of the Reign of Terror was to purge France of those who opposed the French Revolution.

The Reign of Terror began on September 5, 1793 and ended on July 28, 1794, lasting around 10 months. Its aim was to purge those who posed a threat to France; especially those who were suspected of being against the French Revolution. During this time, 16,000 people were guillotined, including Marie Antoinette.

Prior to the Reign of Terror’s beginnings, members of the French public were frustrated with the way the revolution was not producing the social equality they expected. The National Convention decided that the committee ruling France at the time needed to take a dictatorial approach to maintain calm and push the revolution’s progress. In addition to protecting France from the inside, the aim was to prevent foreign invaders from encouraging a civil war. Those leading the movement, including Robespierre, cited counter-revolutionary actions in regions like Lyon and Brittany as justification for their movement.

During this period, committees sentenced thousands of people to death by the guillotine, while others were beaten to death by angry mobs. On July 17, one of the last groups to be executed was the Carmelite Nuns of Compiègne. They approached the guillotine freely and their actions turned Parisians against the movement. At the same time, power struggles between committee leaders and Robespierre led to Robespierre’s execution and an end to the Reign of Terror.