On This Day

Tennis Court Oath

Painting by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath
Painting by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath

Historical Context

By June 1789 the French Revolution was heating up, the King Louis XVI had convened the Estates-General as a result of widespread unrest and an acute financial crisis. The Bastille had not yet been stormed, but the political maneuvering was underway. The Third Estate (the First being the clergy, the Second the nobility and the Third the commoners) began to debate issues of representation, since it had far more members and represented a far greater share of the population but had substantially less power.

Three days before their gathering on the Tennis Court in the Palace of Versailles, the Third Estate started referring to itself as a National Assembly. On 20 June the members feared an attack by the royal government was imminent as their chamber doors had been locked and they were guarded by royal soldiers. In defiance they met at a nearby tennis court and swore an oath that they would not disband until a new constitution of France was settled.

The oath was a pivotal moment in the revolution, inspiring numerous acts in the chaotic months that followed.

Painting Info

Artist: Jacques-Louis David
Location painted: Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1789-06-20 French Revolution: The Third Estate of the French Estates-General swears the Tennis Court Oath at the Palace of Versailles, swearing not to disband until a new constitution is formed

Historical Paintings