French revolution chronology

Bastille Day - July 14th, 1789

The political crisis lead to a revolt

Louis XVI and his entourage, although obliged to admit their defeat , didn't approve the new Assembly.

On July 12th, 1789 the King dismissed his very popular Minister of Finances, Jacques Necker.

On July 13th, 1789 a rumor spread in the streets of Paris of a coming counter attack by the King's army to 'destabilize' the newly proclaimed parliamentarians.

Bastille day facts

Bastille Day, Symbol of the French Revolution

The Storming of the Bastille and the Arrestation of Governor de Launay. Source: Anonymous.

On the morning of July 14th, 1789, a group formed of craftsmen and salesmen decided to fight back and ran to the Invalides to steal some weapons. The mob stole 28,000 riffles there, however no powder was to be found. The crowd knew that a pile of powder was stocked in the Bastille, a prison that was a symbol of the King's absolute and arbitrary power. So they decided to attack it.

At the time of the storming, the Bastille was only guarded by a few soldiers. There were 80 "invalides", veteran soldiers wounded in the field and around 30 grenadiers from the Swiss mercenary regiments. Marquis Bernard-Rene de Launay was at the time governor of the "Invalides".

The crowd was not big enough to impress the guards. The Marquis de Launay, fearing a growing anger among the revolutionaries, accepted nevertheless to meet some of their representatives inside the prison. He hoped to buy time, as he was expecting a rescue team to arrive shortly and to help him secure his castle.

But the negotiations ended when a group of revolutionaries entered the Bastille. The guards were ordered to fire, killing hundreds of people.

The path of the revolt completely changed when the rescue team showed up and decided not to fight against but with the mob. With their canons and their professional soldier skills, they brought victory to the people of France against Louis XVI's guards in a few hours.

At 4pm, the Marquis de Launay surrendered and let the people enter the Bastille. The guards were violently killed and the Marquis de Launay was beheaded, with his head then put on a stake and carried all over the city as a sign of victory.

There weren't many prisoners in the Bastille at the time of the storming; only 7 people were freed.

That very night, 800 men began to destroy the Bastille.

Some historians found the diary of the King. On that day, July 14th, 1789 he only wrote "Nothing". That was the result of his day's hunting. When the Duc de Liancourt informed the King of what happened at the Bastille, the King asked his advisor "is this a revolt?" and he was answered, "No Majesty, this is a revolution".

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