The Republican Calendar

(Important in The Mistaken Wife)

On 5 October 1793 the French National Convention adopted a new calendar.  It was regarded as having begun on 22 September 1792 – the proclamation of the Republic – and so this became the first day of Year I.  Each year was further divided into 12 months, each comprising three décades of ten days.  Every tenth day, or décadi, was a day of rest.  In addition to being known by their respective numbers, each date was given a name relating to animals, plants, or agricultural tools.  New words were coined to designate the months, which evoked seasonal changes and agricultural practices.  The month of Vendémiaire, for example, was taken from the Latin, vindemia, or ‘grape harvest’; the month of Brumaire came from the French for ‘fog’ - brume.  There were a further five supplementary days at the end of the year, which were proclaimed holidays, and a sixth in leap years.  The new calendar was unpopular, both because it was complicated and unfamiliar, and because it provided for a longer working week.  In 1801 Napoleon Bonaparte negotiated a concordat with Pope Pius VII that included, among other things, a return to the Gregorian calendar.  This was not achieved, however, until 31 December 1805 (10 Nivôse, Year XIV).