French Revolution: Tennis Court Oath

20 June 1789

French Revolution: Tennis Court Oath


  • Intro

    This illustration depicts the Tennis Court Oath (Le Serment du Jeu de Paume) of Versailles, 20 June 1789. The National Assembly, also known as the Third Estate, was an ancient but little used gathering of nobles, clergy and common people. They were excluded from their regular meeting place by King Louis XVI and met instead at a nearby indoor tennis court. Here they pledged themselves to create a written constitution for France; by 1791 they would have one.


    The French Revolution in 1789 overthrew the monarchy and established in its place a republic based on the ideals of 'liberty, equality and fraternity'. This was a monumental event that not only demolished the ancien régime (the former system of monarchical government) in France but shocked the establishments in nations across the world. A new constitution was completed in 1791, with the monarchy still in place, but with the majority of the power resting with an elected assembly. However, this constitution was to last less than a year. Although King Louis XVI outwardly appeared to support the new constitutional order, inwardly he hoped the revolution would fail, and this was soon clear to the public as well. He was brought to trail for treason and executed by guillotine on 21 January 1793. 


    Shelfmark: 1850.c.28

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