Following the Siege of Paris and the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War legislative elections in France in February 1871 revealed a majority in favour of a form of republican royalism, the Third Republic. Parisians, fearing the new regime would be republican in name only began to organize their own form of government. Conflict broke out when the regular army attempted to disarm the Parisian National Guard; two French Generals were captured and murdered and the republican government fled to Versailles. On 18 March the Communard government took power in Paris and ruled according to radical principles, instituting reforms that were pro-workers’ rights and pro-feminist. The Communards were united by anti-clericalism, resented by the power of the Catholic Church and banned all religious teaching. On the week beginning 21 May (La semaine sanglante –“bloody week”) the French National Army began to invade Paris and in the course of the chaotic and brutal conflict the Communards erected 900 barricades in the streets of Paris, setting fire to much of the city, including the Tuileries Palace, which was burnt to the ground. The army’s summary executions of Communards brought brutal reprisals, including the execution of the Archbishop of Paris. It is thought that between 6,000–7,000 Communards were killed during the hostilities, with regular Army casualties of about 875. The aftermath of the uprising was a period of government repression, with many Communards being imprisoned or deported.
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