The French Revolution began on July 14th, 1789 when the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, the most hated and feared prison in Europe. The citizen’s attack was successful. They captured the prison and released all the prisoners, many of whom had been detained without trial for several years.
Shortly afterwards, France became a republic. The deposed king Louis XVI asked Austria and Prussia to help him regain his throne. He was arrested, tried for treason and executed.
His execution shocked Europe, and the leading continental powers made plans to invade France and restore the monarchy. The French army attacked and occupied Belgium. When the British government protested about this violation of Belgian neutrality, France declared war on England. By the end of 1793, England, Spain, Holland, Prussia, Austria and Sardinia were at war with France.
At first, things went badly for the allies.
In 1794, Holland surrendered, and the House of Orange was forced to abdicate. The French made Holland a republic, and the new Dutch government declared war on England.
French forces defeated the armies of Prussia and Spain who made peace. The French imposed a puppet government on Spain which went to war with England in 1796.
The combined French, Dutch and Spanish fleets prepared to spearhead an invasion of England. A large French army assembled in Northern France where barges were being built to carry it across the Channel.
Abandoned by its allies, England stood alone. Forges and factories worked day and night to make the weapons needed to defend our island.
In towns and cities throughout Britain, men joined local volunteer corps to fight alongside the regular army and the militia. A troop of Volunteer Cavalry was raised in The Potteries by Sir John Edensor Heathcote. About 70 men joined the force. Each man had to provide his own horse and buy his own uniform and equipment. One of them had the following inscription engraved on his sword:“Leagu’d with my friends the glitt’ring sword I bear To guard from hostile arm my country dear; Not to oppress, devastate or enslave, But England’s soil from Gallie rage to save; Not to maintain those “Rights of Man” unjust, Which tend to treason, plunder, blood, and lust; But to preserve our altars, hearths and laws, And bleed or conquer in this holy cause.”
Copyright – The Phoenix Trust 2013