Pen and brown ink, brown wash with white highlights. 66 x 101 cm
The Tennis Court Oath (French: serment du jeu de paume) was a pledge signed by 576 members out of 577 of France's Third Estate and a few members of the Second Estate (who as of 17 June 1789 called themselves the National Assembly) during the Estates-General of 20 June 1789 in a tennis court near the Palace of Versailles.
Jacques Necker, finance minister to King Louis XVI, had proposed that the King hold a Séance Royale (Royal Session) in an attempt to conciliate the divided Estates. Though the plan was agreed upon, none of the three orders (see Estates of the Realm) was formally notified of the decision to hold a Royal Session. All debates were to be put on hold until the séance royal took place.
On the morning of 20 June the deputies were shocked to discover the doors to their chamber locked and guarded by soldiers. Immediately fearing the worst and anxious that a royal coup was imminent, the deputies congregated in a nearby indoor tennis court where they took a solemn collective oath "never to separate, and to meet wherever circumstances demand, until the constitution of the kingdom is established and affirmed on solid foundations". The deputies pledged to continue to meet until a constitution had been written, despite the royal prohibition. The oath was both a revolutionary act, and an assertion that political authority derived from the people and their representatives rather than from the monarch himself. Their solidarity forced Louis XVI to order the clergy and the nobility to join with the Third Estate in the National Assembly.