A somewhat “gory” look at the Storming of the Bastille.

What really happened on that day back in 1789 ?

For those of you who are not too squeamish, and yet still curious about the events surrounding the storming of the Bastille, prepare yourself for a few choice details…  History can be so much fun!  Way better than anything I could ever imagine on my own !!!

Bastille Day - The Storming of the BastilleThe Events Preceding the Battle

At the time, France was actually in dire straits economically due to the cost of intervening in the American Revolution and because of the Kings deteriorating tax system. The notorious Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were the reigning King and Queen of France since 1774, and the political and financial reform that was urgently needed was too slow in coming.

The Storming of the Bastille

On the 14th day of July in 1789, the people hungry from food shortages and tired of the King’s politics, assembled to collect the thousands of muskets stockpiled at Les Invalides (now a military museum and home to Napoleon’s tomb).  Much to their dismay, there was none of the ammunition that would be needed for combat stored there alongside the weapons.

Spurred on by the popular journalist Camille Desmoulins (who later lost his life during the Reign of Terror), they then continued on to the Bastille fortress prison to demand the black powder they knew was there, and that they needed for their weapons. Not too surprisingly, their request was denied…

This and what followed soon thereafter was the turning point, and the beginning of the end of the French Monarchy.

Bastille Day - The Storming of the Bastille

The Battle

The battle itself was never about releasing any prisoners. Had that been the case, it would have been somewhat anti-climactic… Only seven prisoners were actually being held at the Bastille, and they were more annoyed by the commotion then relieved to be liberated. The fortress, a symbol of oppression and royal authority, was ransacked by the attackers and destroyed stone by stone leaving nothing but a few remains of its stone foundation.

The Violence

The extreme violence started only after several failed attempts at negotiations. The crowd, feeling trapped and restless, soon ignored the cease-fire attempts ordered by Governor de Launay. Realizing he could not hold out much longer, and in a last-ditch effort to stem the violence, the governor opened the gates to the inner courtyards of the Bastille. All hell quickly ensued after that…

Of the 1000 or so that stormed the Bastille less than 100 were killed, but that was by no way the end of the violence. The Governor de Launay was captured and dragged towards the Hôtel de Ville, his head soon chopped off and fixed onto a spike for display and paraded around the streets. Other unfortunates soon followed after that, until a full grim sordid macabre procession could be seen dancing through the streets of Paris on their way to the Palais Royale…

As if that wasn’t enough, once the decapitated heads had rotted too much to be useable anymore, wax moldings were made so the merrymakers could continue in the revelries.  At the time, wax representations of the famous and rich were all the rage since photography had not yet been invented. Wax modeling artist Marie Tussaud was forced to make a molding of the decapitated Governor de Launay, and was kept very busy after that with various other similar projects…

The Begining of the End of the Monarchy

place de la concordeIt still took a little time before the king himself was offed. The King, alarmed by the violence, played along best he could. Understanding that his life was at stake, on the night of 20 June 1791 he and his family dressed as servants fled Paris, only to be found again the very next morning and returned under guard. The King was condemned to death for treason on January 17, 1793 by a close majority and executed on the guillotine at the Place de la Révolution (renamed in 1795 “Place de la Concorde”). Queen Marie-Antoinette followed suit nine months later.

The Aftermath

Things didn’t get any prettier after that… The news of the successful rebellion in Paris spread throughout France, and with it civil authority deteriorated. Random acts of violence broke out across the country against members of nobility who fled to neighboring countries. The “Reign of Terror” that followed the chaos murdered about 40,000 people on the guillotine. Commoners began to form militias and arm themselves.  France was in a complete state of turmoil and confusion, and things didn’t settle down again until…

Bastille Day - The Storming of the Bastille - Napoleon Bonaparte

…Napoleon. And of course, that was only until his great hunger for power and prestige caused everyone problems.

Happy Travels,
-Girl Gone Gallic


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  9 comments for “A somewhat “gory” look at the Storming of the Bastille.

  1. August 25, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I don’t think I really knew any details about the storming of the Bastille, certainly not the heads on stakes, Mme Tussaud’s gory involvement and then 40,000 guillotine beheadings in the years that followed. Like Rosie said, if history was taught with these details kids might pay more attention (hence the success of the series Horrible Histories, do you know it? Kids books turned into BBC TV series. Focuses on the gory and unusual stuff!) Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

  2. August 16, 2015 at 11:18 am

    There’s so much that we assume about history, but when you look into the details it is very different. Thanks for your interest!

  3. August 13, 2015 at 4:51 am

    Thanks for that wonderfully graphic description – really brings the topic alive (well, in a manner of speaking…)
    I had no idea there were only seven prisoners inside, I always imagined a horde roaming the streets.

  4. August 11, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    We talk a lot about the violence these days, but it wasn’t so pretty back then either !

  5. August 11, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    I totally agree ! Had that Mme. Tussaud’s story been discussed I know I would have listened much more closely 🙂

  6. August 11, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    An interesting line of work for Mme. Tussaud for sure… I wonder what she replied when people asked what kind of work she did ???

  7. August 11, 2015 at 10:15 am

    French history is so intense! I didn’t know about the heads on stakes, and Madame Tussaud having to do the wax imitations – horrible, but interesting. Thanks for sharing an insider perspective on an often misunderstood event!

  8. August 11, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Would that we were taught this type of history at school – I would have listened so much more! #AllAboutFrance

  9. August 11, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Luv history and there have been few dull moments in the one belonging to France. Appreciate learning new details about the la Revolution, such as Madame Tussaud’s involvement ~ la pauvre! ~ thanks for that.

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