French Revolutionary Wars

1792–1802 series of conflicts between the French Republic and several European monarchies

The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts fought between the French Republic government and several European monarchies from 1792 to 1802. Marked by French revolutionary fervour and military innovations, the campaigns saw the French Revolutionary Armies defeat a number of opposing coalitions. They resulted in expanded French control to the Low Countries, Italy, and the Rhineland.


  • Today of course we have religious wars again and the targets are again without limit until the final goal is achieved. Sadly even wars which are meant to be about ending war itself take on that limitless character. If the purpose is to remove for ever the scourge of war, then whatever atrocities and cruelties are committed in its name will be justified because the sacrifice is surely worth it. In the lead-up to the Thirty Years War radical Calvinists, espousing an extreme form of Protestantism, came to believe that the Habsburg monarchy was the force of darkness which must be eradicated before the righteous could be saved. When the radicals in the French Revolution prepared to wage war on Europe it was for earthly salvation. As one revolutionary said in 1791, ‘It is because I want peace that I am asking for war.’ The enemy, as in religious wars, becomes the enemy of humanity itself and must be utterly destroyed not merely defeated.
  • The French revolution was to change the political state of Europe, to terminate the strife of kings among themselves, and to commence that between kings and people. This would have taken place much later had not the kings themselves provoked it. They sought to suppress the revolution, and they extended it; for by attacking it they were to render it victorious..
  • It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in, — glittering like the morning star full of life and splendour and joy... Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, — in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded.
    • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Volume iii, page 331.
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