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July Revolution History, Causes & Facts | French Revolution of 1830

Instructor: Joseph Cataliotti

Joe Cataliotti holds a Master of Arts degree in World History from Northeastern University. He earned a B.A. in History and Political Science from the same university and wrote his senior thesis on the history of radical right-wing movements in the United States.

Examine the French Revolution of 1830, known as the July Revolution. Explore its causes, the overthrow of King Charles X, and the outcome of the revolution in 1830. Updated: 04/14/2023

What was the French Revolution of 1830?

The July Revolution was a major revolution in France in July 1830. It toppled the ascendant King Charles X, a conservative monarchist, and established a new constitutional monarchy under the more moderate nobleman, Louis Philippe. This revolution is sometimes called the Second French Revolution; the French Revolution of 1830, like its predecessor in the late 1700s, toppled a monarchy. However, the First French Revolution not only toppled French King Louis XVI but put him to death and launched the Reign of Terror, in which thousands of people were killed. Eventually, a charismatic general named Napoleon Bonaparte seized power.

Background of the Second French Revolution

During his reign, first as consul and later as emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte waged many wars against the conservative monarchies which neighbored France. Though Napoleon won most of them, he lost the final ones and was forced from power first in 1814, then again in 1815.

Held by the victors of the war, the Congress of Vienna reinstated the monarchy of France, putting back in power the old House of Bourbon, now led by King Louis XVIII. However, the French Revolution opened a pandora's box, which could not easily be closed; the people of France expected moderate governments which respected their rights. In response to those demands, King Louis XVIII issued the Charter of 1814, which proclaimed the continuation of many of the rights won by the French Revolution, including equality before the law and due process. Furthermore, the charter established that Louis's reign would be limited and that power would be shared slightly with institutions that were partially democratic in nature. However, the king still held the most power in the country.

Despite King Louis's efforts, France was still a deeply divided country. Many wished for a more limited monarchy or even an outright republic, particularly Paris's influential workers, students, and philosophers. Meanwhile, many noblemen sought to do away with the constitution and return to the absolutism of the monarchy before the French Revolution. Ultimately, King Louis XVIII died in 1824 from various ailments. The throne passed to Louis's brother, also of the House of Bourbon, who became King Charles X.

The Rule of King Charles X

Unlike his brother, King Charles did not believe in a constitutional monarchy; he believed that kingship was granted to him by God himself. Once in power, King Charles began implementing policies to strengthen the monarchy and the nobility. These included paying the noblemen whose land was taken from them in the revolution, dismissing prime ministers he did not approve of, and establishing strict penalties for disrespecting Catholic sacred vessels, including forced labor, mutilation, and execution. These decisions plummeted King Charles's popularity.

Tensions between the king and his more moderate populace spiked in 1830. In March, King Charles gave a speech at the opening ceremony of the legislature but was not answered with the expected support. When the legislature rejected an effort to censor the press and attempted to limit his power, King Charles dismissed it and delayed elections. In April, he dissolved the National Guard, which he saw as a threat to his power.

The king and his prime minister, Polignac, issued the July Ordinances on July 25 in response to growing backlash to those actions. These laws, published on July 26, suspended newspaper publications that served as a source for dissenting voices that opposed the reign of King Charles X, again dissolved the Chamber of Deputies, and limited other rights.

Beginning of the July Revolution

The July Ordinances' actions triggered the July Revolution of 1830. The next day, radical newspapers called for the overthrow of King Charles, people marched in the streets of Paris, and the king mobilized armed forces to crack down on those who resisted him. Fighting erupted in the evening.

Historians also argue that political disputes were not the only motivator for the July Revolution but economic factors as well; high unemployment fueled dissatisfaction, adding kindling to the fires of revolt.

Day Two of the July Revolution

Violence continued through July 28. The monarchical response was led by Maréchal Auguste Marmont, the Duke of Ragusa, who sent the Royal Guard to Paris to secure key sectors of the city.

Meanwhile, moderate bankers, politicians, and military officers organized a committee that issued a call for the July Ordinances to be reversed. Although King Charles took this as a sign that the committee was against him and the whole House of Bourbon, the committee did not actually call for the king to step down. King Charles did not undo the July Ordinances.

The committee then reached out to Marmont himself and asked him to see reason, but Marmont insisted the revolutionaries first needed to lay down their arms for the monarchy to change any policies. At the end of the second day, the revolutionaries were gaining strength, but the monarchy planned for a counterassault.

This painting depicts the personification of Liberty leading revolutionaries in 1830.

Painting depicting a bare-breasted woman with a French flag leading revolutionaries

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Frequently Asked Questions

What was the Second French Revolution in 1830?

The Second French Revolution, also known as the July Revolution, toppled the reign of the conservative King Charles X. It put in his place the more liberal Louis Philippe, who reigned for several years before being toppled himself.

How did the French Revolution of 1830 impact European history?

Besides toppling the government of France, the July Revolution also encouraged like-minded revolts throughout Europe. However, the French version was the most successful, as the other revolts failed to make lasting changes to their countries.

What caused the Second French Revolution?

The Second French Revolution was caused by the policies of King Charles X, who whittled away at the constitution of France. High unemployment also contributed to the revolution, though the July Ordinances of the king were the most proximate factor.

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