Tennis Court Oath

pivotal event in the early days of the French Revolution

The oath was a pledge signed by 576 members out of 577 of France's Third Estate and a few members of the First Estate on June 20, 1789 in a tennis court near the Palace of Versailles.

Sketch by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath. David later became a deputy in the National Convention in 1792

The meeting hall of the Estates General had been locked accidentally, but the Third Estate thought that this was an invasion of their rights, and were very angry with the king. They stood in a nearby indoor tennis court. They made a solemn vow that they would not move until "the voice of the country was heard" and their requests were met. They were joined by the nobles and clergy.

The signatures

The vote had always been taken by class, and usually, the clergy and the nobility voted to support whatever the king wanted, so the vote of the middle class did not matter. The middle class argued that voting should be "by poll" not by order, because they had more representatives than the first two estates combined. They also wanted the Estates General to meet as one body, so that voting would be by poll, rather than by class.

A week later, the king agreed and the Estates General met as the "National Assembly".

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