Ancient history

Capture of the Bastille

Last updated:2022-07-25
  • On May 5, 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates General at Versailles to try to find a solution to the economic crisis affecting France. They bring together the deputies of the clergy, the nobility and the third estate.
  • On June 17, the deputies of the Third Estate proclaimed themselves the “National Constituent Assembly”. This greatly displeases the king, who finds that the states general escape him. The rumor of an intervention of the royal troops is spreading in Paris.
  • On June 20, the National Constituent Assembly takes an oath not to separate before having established a Constitution:this is the Tennis Court oath.
  • July 12:
  • The Parisians learn of the dismissal of Jacques Necker, Comptroller General of the King's finances. Necker is very popular with the French people, and his dismissal arouses great emotion. The people rumble.
  • At noon, Camille Desmoulins, lawyer and journalist, urges the crowd present to take up arms against the king's government. Many demonstrations take place.
  • At the Tuileries, a cavalry regiment charges the crowd, injuring several people.
  • During the night, forty of the fifty barriers that allow entry into Paris are set on fire.

July 14, 1789


Louis-Auguste of France known as Louis XVI

Maximilian of Robespierre

Camille Desmoulins

Jacques Necker

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais


On Tuesday, July 14, 1789, at 10 a.m., Parisians seized guns from the Invalides. They then head to the Bastille in order to obtain the gunpowder stored there. Bernard-René Jordan De Launay, the governor of the Bastille, repeatedly refuses to hand over the cannons and powder to the rioters.

Hearing an explosion, the Parisians attack. The soldiers retaliate and cause a hundred deaths. The siege continues until 5 p.m., the defenders of the Bastille finally choose to surrender, hoping to be spared.

The rioters rush into the prison and massacre a large part of the soldiers. They take the others to City Hall to be judged. On the way, De Launay is killed, and his head is brandished on the end of a pike.

In 1789, the Bastille prison had almost completely lost its function as a state prison:when the rioters seized it, they found only seven prisoners there. More than prison as such, it is a symbol that Parisians are attacking:that of royal despotism.


  • The storming of the Bastille is one of the most emblematic events of the French Revolution. The political impact is unprecedented, in France and in Europe.
  • July 14 marks a radical turning point in French political life, and foreshadows the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, August 26, 1789.
  • The Federation Day is held on the same date the following year, to coincide with the first anniversary of the event. The date of July 14 was chosen in 1880 to celebrate the French national holiday in memory of this double commemoration.

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