Reading The Red and the Black I'm finding that I've needed to refresh my memory a bit about the historical context Stendhal is assuming, which was a pretty crazy period in French history. So here are just some notes, with special focus on military and ecclesiastical matters.
1713 The Jesuits manage a victory over the Jansenists when the latter are condemned by Pope Clement XI in Unigenitus.
1720 In response to the Marseilles Plague, the last significant outbreak of bubonic plague, citizens begin to devote themselves to the Sacred Heart; people elsewhere follow suit, thus accelerating the spread of the devotion outside of religious communities.
1730 Unigenitus begins to be legally enforced in France.
1756-1763 Seven Years' War.
1765 The Feast of Sacred Heart begins to be allowed as a liturgical celebration throughout France.
1773 Society of Jesus is suppressed by Pope Clement XIV.
May 1774 Louis XVI ascends to the throne of a financially weak (in great part due to the Seven Years' War) and very unpopular government.
1775 Giovanni Angelo Braschi becomes Pope Pius VI; he was a compromise candidate who was chosen because he was likely to continue enforcing the suppression of the Jesuits.
1776 Louis XVI supports the American colonies in the American Revolutionary War; this will turn out to be very expensive for France.
May 1789 To raise money the Louis XVI is forced to call the Estates-General. The Third Estate declares itself the National Assembly. The First Estate, which consists of the Catholic clergy, votes to support them. The French Revolution begins.
The National Assembly still faces the same financial problems that had previously existed. As a solution, it nationalizes all property of the Catholic Church in November, and begins to sell off Church land.
1790 The National Assembly abolishes monastic and religious orders in France. In July the Civil Constitution of the Clergy is passed; all Catholic priests become employees of the state in the eyes of the law. An election system for priests, inconsistent with Church custom and canon, is established. The National Assembly requires an oath of allegiance from clergy. About a quarter of the clergy take it; the rest flee, are exiled, or are imprisoned. (In the novel, the Bishop of Besancon is said to have been a survivor of the Emigration; that is, he either fled or was exiled around this time.)
1791 Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, better known as Mirabeau, dies; a famed politician, he had tried to mediate between the royals and revolutionaries at the outbreak of the Revolution, and spent the end of his life trying to turn the Revolution in the direction of a British-style constitutional monarchy.
France annexes the Papal territory of Comtat Venaissin (which includes Avignon).
1792 The First Coalition against France, led by Austria, is formed, and the War of the First Coalition begins.
21 January 1793 King Louis XVI is executed.
3 March 1793 The French government begins closing Catholic Churches, with additional anti-Catholic measures. This, plus a conscription drive, leads to the War in the Vendée, a counter-revolution of peasants, shopkeepers, and craftsmen banded together as the Catholic and Royal Armies.
5 September 1793 The Terror under Robespierre begins. This will include further attempts to de-Catholicize French society.
10 November 1793 Feast of Reason marks the height of the dominance of the atheistic Cult of Reason. The Catholic Church in France is in shreds by this point.
21 October 1793 Clergy refusal to swear the oath of allegiance is made a capital crime, as is harboring any such clergy.
December 1793 Republican army decisively defeats the Catholic and Royal Armies first at Le Mans and then at Savenay. Scattered attempts to revive the Vendée revolt will continue over the next several years, and the region will continue to be a royalist bastion for the next several decades.
12 March 1794 Struggle between the atheists and deists among the Revolutionary leaders tips sharply in deist favor as the leaders of the Cult of Reason are sent to the guillotine.
5 April 1794 Georges Danton is guillotined.
7 May 1794 Cult of the Supreme Being official announced; the Feast of the Supreme Being is held 8 June 1794.
27 July 1794 Thermidorean Reaction: France begins to shut down the Terror when the Assembly votes to execute Robespierre.
21 February 1795 Limited Catholic worship is made legal again, but some things (ringing church bells, religious processions, public displays of the Cross) are still illegal.
8 June 1795 Louis-Charles, child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, dies at the age of 10. Even though he never ascended the throne in any official way, and had lived the period since his father's death in prison, the Bourbons will later treat him as King Louis XVII.
March 1796 Napoleon takes command of the Army of Italy begins his First Italian Campaign in the struggled with Austria; the Papal States are subdued. Napoleon rejects the views of the Directory that the Pope should be dethroned because he is worried that the Kingdom of Naples would take advantage of the resulting power vacuum. Instead, he marches into Austria to force peace negotiations; the result is the Treaty of Leoben. First Coalition collapses; only Britain continues to fight.
15 February 1798 Berthier, a general under Napoleon, enters Rome unopposed and declares that Rome is now the Roman Republic. When Pope Pius VI refuses to renounce all temporal authority, he is taken prisoner back to France.
1798 Napoleon begins his Egyptian Campaign; it's an indirect way to attack the British, since Napoleon concludes that France is not yet strong enough to invade across the channel.
Austria, Russia, and their allies regroup and the War of the Second Coalition against France begins.
A British fleet under Horatio Nelson defeats a French fleet at the Battle of the Nile.
24 August 1799 Napoleon returns to France, despite having received no orders to do so; as it happens, the Directory had sent such orders but they had not arrived.
29 August 1799 Pope Pius VI dies in prison in Valence, France.
9 November 1799 The era of the Directory ends in coup; Napoleon, Sieyès, and Ducos become provisional Consuls, and the French Consulate begins. Napoleon outmaneuvers Sieyès by drafting the Constitution of the Year VIII and getting himself elected First Consul.
14 March 1800 Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti becomes Pope Pius VII.
June 1800 The Papal States are restored and Pius VII returns to Rome.
1801-1802 The War of the Second Coalition winds down as first Austria and then Britain sign treaties with France. Britain, however, protests some unilateral moves by Napoleon and refuses to evacuate Malta as the treaty requires.
15 July 1801 Pius VII and Napoleon sign the Concordat of 1801; it restores some privileges of the Catholic Church, but does not recognize it again as the official religion, the clergy must still swear an oath of allegiance, and the Church must give up all claim to any Church property confiscated after 1790.
8 April 1802 Napoleon officially bans the Cult of Reason and the Cult of the Supreme Being.
1803 His government more or less bankrupt and war with Britain on the horizon, Napoleon raises money with the Sale of Louisiana.
May 1803 Britain declares war against France.
1804 Napoleon's police uncover an assassination plot against him, apparently by pro-Bourbon forces.
Napoleon declares himself Emperor of France, beginning the First French Empire.
1805 Austria and Russia join Britain as the War of the Third Coalition against France begins; Napoleon is forced to call off an intended invasion of Britain.
December 1805 Napoleon defeats Austria at Austerlitz, forcing Austria to withdraw from the Third Coalition. The Treaty of Pressburg effectively ends the Holy Roman Empire.
1806 Prussia joins the Coalition against France; thus begins the War of the Fourth Coalition against France, although there had been no cessation in hostilities.
Napoleon defeats Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstadt in a matter of weeks.
Napoleon defeats Russia at the Battle of Friedland.
July 1807 The Treaties of Tilsit end the War of the Fourth Coalition; but Britain and Sweden continue to fight.
1807 Napoleon invades Portugal with the help of Spain to enforce Portuguese compliance with the Continental System boycott against Britain. The Peninsular War begins.
Napoleon invades Spain.
British and Portuguese forces under Wellington begin to cooperate with Spanish guerilla forces; French hold on the region begins to deteriorate.
1808-1809 France invades and annexes the Papal States; Pius VII is taken prisoner and exiled to Savona.
1809 Austria attempts to break treaty, thus beginning the War of the Fifth Coalition against France, on Napoleon's eastern flank. Austria is defeated. Britain continues to fight.
1812 Napoleon invades Russia. The French defeat the Russians outside of Moscow at the Battle of Borodino, but it is a Pyrrhic victory. Napoleon withdraws. Anti-French forces take heart and the War of the Sixth Coalition against France begins.
1813 Napoleon defeats the Coalition at the Battle of Dresden, but the Coalition is able to regroup and defeat the French at the Battle of Leipzig. There is a steady string of British victories in Spain. Napoleon is forced to withdraw to France.
Treaty of Fontainebleu ends the First French Empire and exiles Napoleon to Elba. Pius VII's exile ends.
1814 Sixth Coalition invades France. Massively outnumbered, Napoleon manages to outmaneuver opponents in a string of victories in the Six Days' Campaign, but the Coalition continues to advance. Paris is captured by the Coalition in March.
Napoleon intends to march on Paris, but faces mutiny. Napoleon abdicates; Congress of Vienna opens. Under the influence of Talleyrand, and due to the political state of Europe, the European nations are convinced -- to very different degrees -- that the French monarchy should be restored.
Louis XVIII signs the Charter of 1814 to comply with the preconditions given the Congress of Vienna for his restoration. It gives equality before the law and protects freedom of religion but makes the Catholic Church the state religion. The Bourbon restoration begins in earnest; the Bourbons maintain as a matter of principle that they had always been the rightful government of France, and that Louis-Charles was in fact King Louis XVII, immediately after whose death Louis XVIII became king.
Papal States are restored.
7 August 1814 Suppression of the Jesuits is lifted by Pius VII.
1815 Napoleon escapes from Elba and marches on Paris, but is defeated by forces under Wellington at Waterloo. Napoleon is exiled to Saint Helena.
1818 Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney becomes parish priest of the little parish of Ars (hence the name he is usually known by, the Curé D'Ars); he finds that his parishioners, while firmly Catholics, also know only bits and pieces about the Catholic faith, since they had never been properly catechized. He begins the decades-long work of repair.
1819 Joseph de Maistre publishes On the Pope, which argues that the Pope should be considered the supreme temporal authority in Europe.
5 May 1821 Death of Napoleon.
28 September 1823 Annibale Francesco Clemente Melchiore Girolamo Nicola Sermattei della Genga becomes Pope Leo XII against the active opposition of France.
1824 Marguerite Marie Alacoque, seventeenth century devotee of the Sacred Heart, is declared Venerable by Leo XII.
16 September 1824 Louis XVIII dies; Charles X ascends the throne.
1825 Anti-Sacrilege Act is passed, which makes it a capital crime to steal consecrated Eucharistic hosts.
10 February 1829 Pope Leo XII dies.
13 March 1829 Francesco Saverio Castiglioni becomes Pope Pius VIII
October 1829 Stendhal begins developing the idea for a novel.
May 1830 Stendhal gives his novel the title The Red and the Black. Nobody actually knows why; the usual explanation is that it indicates the two major choices, the army or the Church, but French uniforms were blue. Some have thought that the colors are intended to indicate a roulette wheel; and one can very well see from this timeline that an ecclesiastical career was certainly a gamble throughout this period.
1830 July Revolution (Second French Revolution/Trois Glorieuses): The end of the Bourbon Restoration, the beginning of the July Monarchy.
30 November 1830 Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari becomes Pope Gregory XVI.
November 1831 The Red and the Black is published.