The Storming of the Bastille took place in Paris, France on July 14, 1789. This violent attack on the government by the people of France signaled the start of the French Revolution.
What was the Bastille?
The Bastille was a fortress built in the late 1300s to protect Paris during the Hundred Years' War. By the late 1700s, the Bastille was mostly used as a state prison by King Louis XVI.
Storming of the Bastille by Unknown
Who stormed the Bastille?
The revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille were mostly craftsmen and store owners who lived in Paris. They were members of a French social class called the Third Estate. There were around 1000 men who participated in the attack.
Why did they storm the Bastille?
The Third Estate had recently made demands of the king and had demanded that the commoners have more of a say in government. They were worried that he was preparing the French army for an attack. In order to arm themselves, they first took over the Hotel des Invalides in Paris where they were able to get muskets. However, they didn't have gun powder.
The Bastille was rumored to be full of political prisoners and was a symbol to many of the oppression of the king. It also had stores of gunpowder that the revolutionaries needed for their weapons.
Storming the Bastille
On the morning of July 14, the revolutionaries approached the Bastille. They demanded that the military leader of the Bastille, Governor de Launay, surrender the prison and hand over the gunpowder. He refused.
As negotiations dragged on, the crowd became agitated. In the early afternoon, they managed to get into the courtyard. Once inside the courtyard, they began to try and break into the main fortress. The soldiers in the Bastille became scared and fired into the crowd. The fighting had begun. The turning point in the fight came when some of the soldiers joined the side of the crowd.
De Launay soon realized that the situation was hopeless. He surrendered the fort and the revolutionaries took control.
Were people killed in the battle?
Around 100 of the revolutionaries were killed during the fighting. After surrendering, Governor de Launay and three of his officers were killed by the crowd.
The Storming of the Bastille set off a series of events that led to the overthrow of King Louis XVI and the French Revolution. The success of the revolutionaries gave commoners throughout France the courage to rise up and fight against the nobles who had ruled them for so long.
What does it represent today?
The date of the Storming of the Bastille, July 14, is celebrated today as the French National Day. Similar to the Fourth of July in the United States. In France it is called the "The National Celebration" or "The Fourteenth of July."
Interesting Facts about the Storming of the Bastille
The people beheaded Governor de Launay, put his head on a spike, and paraded it around the city of Paris.
There were only seven prisoners in the Bastille at the time. They were set free after the attack. Four of them were convicted forgers.
Over the next five months, the Bastille was destroyed and turned into a pile of ruins.
Today, the site of the Bastille is a square in Paris called the Place de la Bastille. There is a monumental tower in the center of the square commemorating the event.
The men who took part in the storming were considered heroes during the revolution and took the title "Vainqueurs de la Bastille", meaning "Winners of the Bastille."