On July 14, 1789, the event of the storming of the Bastille symbolized the end of the Old Regime and marked the beginning of the Revolution in France.
The taking of the Bastille was so important because it represented the end of the French monarchy’s power. Still, it was not such a vital act in itself. The revolutionaries and people hated the Bastille fort for several reasons: it was a prison for the victims of the king’s unfairness and those who were sent there without a trial.
It was a medieval fortress in the center of Paris city; it was no longer useful for the military and was very expensive to maintain. The people were starving, so the finance minister, Necker, thought about demolishing it in 1784.
In fact, it had been decided to close the fort in 1788, and this is why the symbolic value of its assault was far greater than the political or strategic importance. The Bastille only held seven prisoners when it was stormed on July 14, 1789. These prisoners were four forgers, one mentally ill person, a nobleman convicted of incest, and an accomplice of Damiens (the man who attempted to assassinate Louis XV).
The battle between the few soldiers who defended it and the Parisian revolutionary militias resulted in very few losses on the monarchist side. However, after the capitulation, there were between 600 and 1,000 deaths – including the prison warden, Bernard-René de Launay, whose head was sawed off and paraded through the streets on a pike.
The consequence of the insurrection became stronger and spread. The next day: on July 15, the Duke of Rochefoucauld-Liancourt informed a Louis XVI of the news of the storming of the Bastille, and king asked: “But is it a rebellion?” to which the duke replied: “No, it is not a rebellion; it is a revolution.”
Since 1880, July 14 has been France’s National Day, though not in celebration of this historical happening: the Feast of the Federation of 1790 is recalled because it coincided with the taking of the Bastille and celebrated French national reconciliation and unity.
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