Fear > Storming of the Bastille
> A Summary of what happened...
time was half past three, on the famous date of July 14, 1789. A huge,
bloodthirsty mob marched to the Bastille, searching for gun powder and
prisoners that had been taken by the unpopular and detested King, Louis
XVI. Even elements of the newly formed National Guard were present at
the assault. The flying rumors of attacks from the government and the
biting truth of starvation were just too much for the angry crowds.
The Bastille had been prepared for over a week, anticipating about a
hundred angry subjects and along the thick rock walls of the gargantuan
fortress and between the towers were twelve more guns that were capable
of launching 24-ounce case shots at any who dared to attack. However,
the enraged Paris Commune was too defiant and too livid to submit to
the starvation and seeming injustice of their government. But
nothing could have prepared the defenders for what they met that now
The vicious crowds shouted for him to lower the bridges. De Launay sent a note to a mob leader named Hulin, claiming that he had 20,000 pounds of gunpowder and if the besiegers did not accept his offer, he would annihilate the entire fortress, the garrison, and everyone in it! Yet, they still refused. The bridges were finally lowered on de Launay's command, and he and his soldiers were captured by the crowds and dragged through the filthy streets of Paris.
The mob paraded through the streets, showing off their captives, and crudely cutting off many heads. The National Guard tried to stop the crowds from looting, but it was useless. They continued marching on, maKing their way to the Hotel de Ville. Upon learning that the Bastille had been taken, King Louis XVI, who was residing at Versailles, was reported to have asked an informer: "Is this a revolt?" and La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt said, "No, Sire, it is a revolution." Little did Louis know that the mob's next plan was to march to Versailles, and take him away with them as well.
> More information on the Bastille...
Although the name of the Bastille evokes dark images of despotism and unjust imprisonment, in reality it was a great deal pleasanter than most ordinary prisons. A central part of the myth, and an indication of its potency, was the story of a prisoner supposedly forced to wear an iron mask to conceal his identity even from his guards - the sufferings of this Man in the Iron Mask were given wide publicity by Voltaire. Archives of the title reveal that there was indeed a masked prisoner from 1698 until 1703, when he died. The mask was made of velvet, and he was well treated.
It was originally built in the 14th century to guard one of main entrances to Paris, but by the 18th century the Bastille served only as a prison - mainly for political, aristocratic prisoners who could not be thrust into the crowded gaols with common criminals - and occasionally as a store for arms.The fortress also accommodated printers, booksellers and authors who produced works that the authorities considered seditious. Voltaire was imprisoned there twice: first in 1717 when he was suspected of writing verses accusing the Régent of incest, and then again in 1726. Throughout the 18th century there were never more than 40 inmates, most of them serving short sentences. On July 14, 1789, when the Bastille was stormed, there were only half a dozen prisoners, two of whom were insane.
Earlier in the century any person who opposed the government's religious policy was kept in the Bastille.