Tennis Court Oath


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

The Tennis Court Oath (French: serment du jeu de paume) was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate who were locked out of a meeting of the Estates-General on 20 June 1789. They made a makeshift conference room inside a tennis court located in the Saint-Louis district of Versailles (commune), near the Palace of Versailles.

On 17 June 1789 this group, led by Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, began to call themselves the National Assembly.[1] On the morning of 20 June, the deputies were shocked to discover that the chamber door was locked and guarded by soldiers. Immediately fearing the worst, and anxious that a royal attack by King Louis XVI was imminent, the deputies congregated in a nearby indoor real tennis court where they took a solemn collective oath "not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established".[2] It later transpired that the most probable reason why the hall was closed was that the royal household was still in mourning over the death of the Dauphin (the king's oldest son) two weeks earlier; ordinarily, political matters could not be conducted until the King had emerged from mourning. The oath is therefore a contentious point in French political history, since pro-monarchists then and now characterize it as a duplicitous and hysterical over-reaction which deliberately made capital out of a private tragedy in the royal family. Other historians have argued that given political tensions in France at that time, the deputies' fears, even if wrong, were reasonable and that the importance of the oath goes above and beyond its context.[3]

The deputies pledged to continue to meet until a constitution had been written, despite the royal prohibition. The oath was both a revolutionary act, and an assertion that political authority derived from the people and their representatives rather than from the monarch himself. Their solidarity forced Louis XVI to order the clergy and the nobility to join with the Third Estate in the National Assembly.[4]

The only deputy recorded as not taking the oath was Joseph Martin-Dauch from Castelnaudary.[5] He can be seen on the right of David's sketch, seated with his arms crossed and his head bowed.

Significance

The Oath signified the first time that French citizens formally stood in opposition to Louis XVI, and the National Assembly's refusal to back down forced the king to make concessions. The Oath also inspired a wide variety of revolutionary activity in the months afterwards, ranging from rioting across the French countryside to renewed calls for a written French constitution. Likewise, it reinforced the Assembly's strength and forced the King to formally request that voting occur based on head, not order.

Moreover, the Oath communicated in unambiguous fashion the idea that the deputies of the National Assembly were declaring themselves the supreme state power. From this point forward, Louis XVI would find the Crown increasingly unable to rest upon monarchical traditions of divine right. In terms of his political sympathies, Louis XVI was noticeably more liberal than any of his predecessors or immediate family. However, given personal circumstances and the death of his son, he had badly mismanaged the mood of the Assembly.[6]

As well as giving the Left and reformist movement, the Oath also galvanized the French Right. In royalist and conservative circles, the oath was seen as an indicator of the Assembly's commitment to anarchy and it was felt that a more robust form of counter-revolutionary politics were needed to ensure the survival of the monarchy.[7]

References

  1. ^ P105, Doyle, William The Oxford History of the French Revolution (1989)
  2. ^ Marshall Putnam Thompson (1914). "The Fifth Musketeer: The Marquis de la Fayette". Proceedings of the Bunker Hill Monument Association at the annual meeting. p. 50. http://books.google.com/books?id=qbvW7zpvRg8C&pg=PA50#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 10 February 2011 
  3. ^ James Osen, Royalist Political Thought during the French Revolution, 1995
  4. ^ Doyle, William (1989). The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Oxford: Clarendon. p. 107. ISBN 0198227817. 
  5. ^ see Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution by Paul R. Hanson
  6. ^ J. Hardman, Louis XVI: The Silent King, 1999
  7. ^ Osen.

Coordinates: 48°48′3.64″N 02°07′26″E / 48.8010111°N 2.12389°E / 48.8010111; 2.12389


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tennis Court Oath — (June 20, 1789) Oath taken by deputies of the Third Estate in the French Revolution. Believing that their newly formed National Assembly was to be disbanded, the deputies met at a nearby tennis court when they were locked out of their usual… …   Universalium

  • Tennis Court, Oath of the —    The Oath of the Tennis Court (Serment du jeu de paume) marks the beginning of the revolution of 1789. After the threats of King louis XVI (influenced by the court) to stop the deliberations of the Third Estate and to close the hall (Menus… …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

  • Tennis court — This article is about the sports venue. For the Revolutionary impetus, see Tennis Court Oath. Indoor tennis courts at the University of Bath, England …   Wikipedia

  • Oath — This article is about promise or a statement of fact. For the village in Somerset, England, see Oath, Somerset. For acronyms, see OATH. Tennis Court Oath by Jacques Louis David …   Wikipedia

  • tennis — /ten is/, n. a game played on a rectangular court by two players or two pairs of players equipped with rackets, in which a ball is driven back and forth over a low net that divides the court in half. Cf. lawn tennis. See illus. under racket2.… …   Universalium

  • oath — /ohth/, n., pl. oaths /ohdhz, ohths/. 1. a solemn appeal to a deity, or to some revered person or thing, to witness one s determination to speak the truth, to keep a promise, etc.: to testify upon oath. 2. a statement or promise strengthened by… …   Universalium

  • court — /kawrt, kohrt/, n. 1. Law. a. a place where justice is administered. b. a judicial tribunal duly constituted for the hearing and determination of cases. c. a session of a judicial assembly. 2. an area open to the sky and mostly or entirely… …   Universalium

  • Court — /kawrt, kohrt/, n. Margaret Smith, born 1942, Australian tennis player. * * * I In architecture, an outdoor room surrounded by buildings or walls. Courts have existed in all civilizations from the earliest recorded times. The small garden court… …   Universalium

  • Real tennis — – one of several games sometimes called the sport of kings – is the original indoor racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis (usually simply called tennis), is descended. It is also known as court tennis in the United States,[1]… …   Wikipedia

  • History of tennis — Jeu de paume in Paris, France, 1622. Most historians believe that tennis originated in France in the 12th century, but the ball was then struck with the palm of the hand. It was not until the 16th century that rackets came into use, and the game… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.