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Describe the stages by which Absolute Monarchy in France collapsed during 1789 On the 14th July, 1789 the

King lost the absolutism upon which France had been ruled for so long with the storming of the Bastille. The abandonment of the army as well as the emigration of many nobles meant that the National Constituent Assembly now shared real power with the King, thus drawing up a new constitution upon which to base French society. However, the speed with which absolute monarchy dissolved was as a result of a multitude of different factors such as the economic conditions, social unrest and the poor leadership of Louis. Although Louis appeared to be an absolute monarch, he was hemmed in many ways. For example, important changes to the law had to be approved by the Parlement and by 1789 it was apparent that they were increasingly opposed to any royal suggestions. Moreover, the Estates created problems because they imposed artificial barriers on French society. The meeting of the EstatesGeneral portrayed the resentment of the Third towards the privileges of the First and Second, as well as their exemption from taxation. Thus, the suspicion of the Third Estate produced disputes as to voting either by order (each Estate had one vote as was currently conducted) or by head (each deputy had a vote which favoured the Third Estate). These cracks in the viability of the ancien regime, resulted in the formation of the National Assembly which as a result demolished absolutism. For example, on 4th August feudal dues and rights were abolished and it was announced all Frenchmen had the same legal rights. The notions of freedom of speech, religion and fair trials introduced by the National Assembly in 1789 resulted in undermining of the monarch thereby signalling the beginning of the collapse of absolutism. In the spring and summer of 1789 the population of Paris was facing difficult times. The economic crisis was causing hardship, which led to anti-government feelings and fuelled the rise of the popular movement. France was underdeveloped economically. There was little industry and economic life was often controlled by the guilds, in addition, internal tariffs and inflation forced prices to staggering rates. This was a major cause for concern for the working class in towns and for peasants, as by 1789 more than 75% of a workers income went on bread, thereby transforming the political debate into a knife and fork question. Between July and August a period of Great Fear swept France, with peasant uprisings against the nobility, for example- the ransacking of the property of nobles and the destruction of tithe barns. This rural revolt throughout the spring of 1789 illustrated that revolution had now overtook France. The King was indecisive and failed to adopt a consistent policy, instead of following Neckers advice he listened to that of his wife and other advisors. Furthermore, the bankruptcy of the monarchy was a crucial factor in dismantling trust within the King and thus hastening the fall of absolute monarchy. The Compte Rendu had made it appear that the situation was under control, however, by 1789 the Parlements realised they had been deceived therefore increasing tensions around the strength of leadership. The movement of troops to Paris suggested that he was going to use force, this coupled with his failure to embrace reform and constant changes of mind made it appear that he could not be trusted. Between 5th-11th August, progressive reformers, mainly nobles and bourgeoisie who wanted changes to the political structure, drew up a plan to dismantle the feudal system. The August Decrees, as they were known, marked the end of noble power and the privilege of birth by establishing a society based on civil equality. The Decrees had swept away institutions like the provincial estates and

cleared the way for national, uniform system of administration. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen outlined the principles of the forthcoming constitution, therefore according to George Rude, sounded the death knell of the ancien regime, while preparing the public for the constructive legislation that was to follow. The Declaration coupled with the Kings forced acceptance of the August changes symbolised a collapse in the extensive power of the monarch.