On the 28th March 1871 the Paris Commune was proclaimed and met for the first time. However, the refusal of the Communards to accept the authority of the French government led to the Commune being brutally suppressed by the regular French army in May during “The Bloody Week”. By the 28th May the Commune had been defeated; estimates say that between 10 and 50,000 Communards were killed or executed.
Paris had been besieged by the Prussian army since September 1870, but following the surrender of the moderate republican government the following January many Parisians, of whom thousands had joined the “National Guard” militia to defend the city, revolted. They refused to hand over the 400 cannons positioned in Paris to government forces and, on the 18th March, killed Generals Clément-Thomas and Lecomte of the regular army who had been sent to take the cannons by force.
The government, regular forces and police evacuated the city for Versailles and the vacuum of power was filled by units of the National Guard. By the next evening, the red flag of the Commune was flying over the Hôtel de Ville. Elections were called, and on the 26th March 92 representatives were elected to a Commune council. However, as a result of some nominees securing victories for multiple seats, and refusals by some elected candidates take up their seat, only 60 representatives actually joined the Council.
With the results declared on the 27th March, the Council held its first meeting on the 28th. Within a week, however, the first skirmishes between the Commune’s National Guard and the regular army from Versailles had begun.