The Storming of the Bastille, a momentous event in French and world history, marked the start of the French Revolution. In the last post in the series, Bastille Part 1, we’d already talked about the actual event and the cause of it. But what were the actual effects? Mind you, it wasn’t just a few weapons stolen from the prison. It was much more than just that.
The immediate effects of the Bastille was simple. Obviously enough, there was a load of gunpowder inside the prison; gone was the fear of a defenseless Paris. As we talked about last time, the head guard, Marquis de Launay, was seized and flogged until he cried, “Enough! Let me die!” and proceeded to kick a cook in the groin. Kicking anyone’s groin is not exactly a good idea to make them feel any more pity for you and kicking an angry French cook’s groin is not any better of an idea. The crowd proceeded to stab him repeatedly, severe his head and place it on the pike. Typical Parisian entertainment? Probably not. But it was certainly the sort of thing that the French would soon grow to become used to in the coming years.
It was a starting of a revolution, everyone knew. By the dawn of the morning after the storming of the Bastille, Francois
Alexandre Frederick, the Duke of La Rochefoucauld, went to King Louis XVI to inform him about the situation in Paris. “Is it a revolt?”, questioned the King. “Non, sire, c’est une révolution“, was the Duke’s answer. “No, majesty- it is a revolution.”
Nice critical thinking by the Duke, indeed, and the French king was forced to back down. To appease the Parisians, he gave an order to the Royal troops to disperse from Paris and instead go to the borders. He allowed Lafayette, a popular general who had fought in the American Revolution and sided with the French revolutionaries, to take up the command of the National Guard in Paris, and appointed the very instigator of the Tennis Court Oath to become the mayor of Paris. He even agreed to recall Jacques Necker, his Financial minister. (Hey, we’ve talked about this guy before). To add insult to injury, though, he also had to agree to return to Paris from Versailles, but instead of being greeted by cries of ‘Long Live the King!’, he was instead presented with ‘Long Live the Nation!’
These are only the immediate effects, however. The implications of the whole thing go even farther than that. After the fall of the Bastille, people were immediately given the task of demolishing it. If the Bastille represented the ancien regime, and the power of it, though, what does breaking it down represent? First off, let’s understand why the Bastille represented the power of the old system. It was a place where political prisoners could be detained without any trial by the king; the Sun King, Louis XIV, could had issued orders for any man to be imprisoned, and he would be tapped on the shoulder and arrested in the name of the king himself.
If the Bastille was a symbol of the power of the monarchy, then, demolishing it was very symbolic indeed. Yes- by storming the Bastille, the people had basically just shown themselves to be capable of taking over the ancient power of the monarchy. Immediately, the bringing down of the Bastille spread a message throughout France: one of revolution. It began the Great Fear in the countryside, when mobs began to go wild and attack wealthy landlords.
France was about to go crazy. The revolution had begun. Vive la France!