In the autumn of 1788, Louis XVI called an Estates-General because France was close to bankruptcy. The Estates-General was an archaic form of national parliament which had not met since 1614 because of the growth of centralised royal power under Louis XIV (1643–1715). Yet when it met in May 1789 it carried through a political revolution. The deputies elected to the third estate, representing all French men who were neither nobles nor priests, flatly refused to operate with the old hierarchical voting system in which the first estate (clergy) and second estate (nobility) discussed and voted in separate houses or ‘estates’ . Instead, after spending six weeks trying to persuade the other two orders to meet and vote in common, they declared themselves a ‘National Assembly’ and invited the other two orders to join them on their terms. The king condemned the move but third estate deputies refused to back down. So he called up army regiments to Paris and Versailles, probably intending to dissolve the Assembly by force and impose financial reform by decree. News of the troop movements caused panic in Paris which erupted into violence and an assault on the royal fortress of the Bastille in central Paris on 14 July. The fall of the Bastille forced the king to back down and recognise the National Assembly’s authority [54, 79].
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