Happy Le Quatorze Juillet

Storming of the Bastille

Or Bastille Day, as it’s known to us English speakers. Today is a national holiday in France, celebrating the storming of the Bastille Saint-Antoine (number 232, Rue Saint-Antoine), a government prison, in 1789. This is often cited as the start of the French Revolution.

The storming itself was more symbolic than practical, since there were only seven inmates at the time- four forgers, two lunatics, one of whom thought he was Julius Caesar, and one sexual deviant- the comte de Solages. The Marquis de Sade missed it by ten days, having been transferred to the asylum at Charenton. His wife was supposed to collect his manuscripts that were left behind, but was a bit neglectful and didn’t get there in time. Most of what he wrote in the Bastille was destroyed.

By the next morning the Marquis de la Fayette had been placed in charge of the National Guard in Paris, Royal troops had been dispersed, returning to their garrisons, and the Commune de Paris was formed. From there the revolution spread.

The remains of the Bastille

The Bastille itself was demolished that same year, though some remaining stones were moved to a nearby park, the Square Henri-Galli, where they can be seen today.

And who wound up with the prison key? George Washington! It was sent to him by the   Marquis de la Fayette and can still be seen today at Mount Vernon.

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