Interesting October Facts in French history

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We thought it’d be fun to take a cultural look at the country in which we live, October being especially well stocked in fascinating dates.  After only a quick glance we found it all simply too fascinating not to share and hope you agree…

Did you know the calendar we all use today is called the Gregorian calendar ? It was first adopted in France and other Catholic countries on 4th October 1582. On this date, which happened to be a Thursday, Pope Gregory XIII issued a decree stating the following day would be Friday 15th October 1582, correcting a 10-day error accumulated by the Julian Calendar. Britain and the American colonies didn’t follow suit until much later in 1752.

Friday 13th

According to legend the modern day superstition of unlucky ‘Friday 13th‘ started on 13th October 1307 in France. On this day King Philip IV had the Templar Knights rounded up and arrested. The day before he dispatched secret orders to his governors across the kingdom to arm themselves. Templars within France were arrested at break of day on the 13th, their property seized and they were imprisoned and tortured. Pope Clement V dissolved the order in 1312 and Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master, was publicly burnt at the stake in Paris on 18th March 1314 for heresy.


On the 14th October in 1793 Marie Antoinette appeared before the revolutionary court. Hated by the newly liberated French people she so poorly understood, witnesses said she seemed aged but maintained her dignity when called to defend her life in the face of certain doom. Widowed 9 month earlier, it was probably not a surprise when her fate was announced and she was guillotined on the 16thOctober.

On 15th October in 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte arrived on the Island of St. Helena beginning a British-imposed exile following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. On the same date in 1917 World War I spy Mata Hari was executed by a French firing squad at barracks just outside Paris, while in 1945 Pierre Laval, the former premlier of Vichy France, was executed for collaborating with Nazi Germany during World War II.

The Battle of Trafalgar took place between the British Royal Navy and the combined French and Spanish fleets on 21st October in 1805 in which the victorious British ended the threat of Napoleon’s invasion of England. British naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson was mortally wounded aboard his ship The Victory on this date.

statue of liberty

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France commemorating the French-American alliance during the American Revolutionary War, was dedicated on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbour on28th October 1886.

The pedestal contains the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


NOTE: Nice inaugurated a miniature status of Liberty, facing the sea and situated on the Quai des Etats-Unis.  Many cities around the world, such as Las Vegas, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo, have replicas of the famous statue. The bronze one in Nice is 1.35 meters high and weighs 80 kilos.

2 thoughts on “Interesting October Facts in French history

  1. Alison says:

    Thanks Kim – interesting! There’s a little Statue of Liberty in Poitiers too. They must be dotted everywhere!

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