King Louis XVI's order to raise taxes on the French to pay for agricultural losses and war costs was met with strong resistance from the public. On July 14, 1789, a Paris mob of angry working class protesters staged a revolt at the Bastille, a state prison, to seize guns and ammunition and liberate prisoners. Armed crowds also began looting stores.
After France declared war on Austria and Prussia in 1792, another Paris mob stormed the royal palace, leading to the collapse of the Legislative Assembly. On September 21, 1791, a national convention that was established to rewrite the French constitution overthrew the monarchy and declared France to be a new republic.
The following February, the National Convention declared war on the coalition consisting of Austria, Prussia, Britain, Holland and Spain. The revolutionaries established price controls and other reforms in the fall of 1793. After executions of key French leaders (including King Louis XVI and Marie -Antoinette in 1793), the existing French government was overthrown by the end of July 1794.
By 1795, churches began to reopen and the new government adopted a new constitution, as a governing body known as the Directory took control. The new constitution was designed to prevent too much power held by one man, as a five-member committee took over, with each member having limited authority. The Directory, however, was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte on November 9, 1799.
Napoleon assumed the title of Emperor in 1804. He then began to set up French republics throughout Europe, but his military suffered major casualties at the hands of Russia in 1812. Two years later France was defeated by a coalition consisting of Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia. Louis XVIII returned from exile to become king, as he reinstated the monarchy in 1814. France established another new constitution with the Charter of 1814. Napoleon, however, escaped from prison and briefly regained control of France in 1815.
Britain and Prussia then defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, as Louis XVIII remained in power until his death in 1824. Following the collapse of the Second Republic in 1870, the Third Republic lasted through World War II.