1789s

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July 14th 1789: Storming of the Bastille

On this day in 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fortress in Paris. This event came towards the beginning of the French Revolution which led to the toppling of the monarchy and execution of King Louis XVI. The dramatic events at the Bastille were precipitated by the King’s refusal to approve the reorganisation of the Estates-General, a general assembly designed to represent the clergy, the nobles and the common people. In response to fears of a counter-attack by the King’s forces, revolutionaries planed to seize the weapons in the Bastille. The prison was lightly guarded and the revolutionaries were able to force their way through and the ensuing violence led to the surrender of the defenders. The Bastille was where the French monarchy held their opponents, including figures like the mysterious ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ from 1670 to 1703, and so the mob also released the seven prisoners held there. The Bastille had represented ironclad royal authority and its fall was a major turning point in the revolution. After the Bastille the revolution escalated, with the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and abolition of feudalism in August. A republic was declared in 1792 and the King was beheaded in January of the next year. For its prominent role in the French Revolution, this day is commemorated in France as a public holiday, Bastille Day.

"Is this a revolt?"
"No Majesty, this is a revolution
- supposed conversation between Louis XVI and adviser Duc de Liancourt after the storming of the Bastille

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July 14, 1789: A Paris mob storms the Bastille.

The storming of the Bastille, a fortress-prison in Paris, was one of the key events and iconic moments of the early years of the French Revolution. When King Louis XVI ascended the throne of France in 1774, the government was deeply in debt as a result of colonial wars, and this debt worsened as France threw its support - and money - behind the American rebels in their war against the British crown. Famine was widespread, as was a general malaise, leading to the summoning of the Estates General to discuss the status of the nation. Disgruntled members of the Third Estate formed the National Assembly in June of 1789 and signed the Tennis Court Oath on June 20. When Jacques Necker, the king’s finance minister with some desire to appease the commoners with reform, was dismissed, mobs in Paris began to riot, believing that the king and royal forces meant to shut down the newly-formed National Constituent Assembly. 

They soon directed their anger at the relatively lightly guarded medieval fortress of Bastille, both a symbol of monarchical despotism and power in addition to a storage place for tens of thousands of pounds of gunpowder, which the revolutionaries intended to seize. By the early hours of July 14, a large armed mob had gathered outside the prison and prepared to storm the building. By the early afternoon, the Bastille’s military governor had surrendered the building, arms, and ammunition; he, along with other defenders of the prison, were beaten and killed by the mob, their heads raised above the crowd and paraded through the streets. 

Ninety-nine people died during the attack itself. The King, meanwhile, had been away at hunt; when he exclaimed that there had been a revolt upon learning of the fall of the Bastille, he was met with a reply from one member of the Estates-General and a social reformer: “Non, sire, c’est une révolution”. On August 26, 1789, the National Constituent Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

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Ms-Digne’s Brief History of French Musicals
From Les Misérables to 1789: Les Amants de la Bastille

"Sadly the French don’t want to embrace musicals. … It’s particularly disappointing for Schönberg and Boublil … They wrote a worldwide hit that didn’t make it in their own country." — Cameron Mackintosh

After reading la-princesse-incongrue’s recent post on how French musicals are marketed and seeing this conversation I thought I’d update something I put together for a fair exhibit I did 2 years ago. Keep in mind that I am American and although I worked hard to source my information I may still be missing something.

For example, I know very little about Starmania and considering that show sold more albums than any other French musical ever this is a problem on my part.

Please share any corrections or additional information you have!

This post is by no means complete I know I’ve got nothing about Robin des Bois, Le Petit Prince or Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (which Boublil was involved with) and many, many others. There’s a couple statistics that would be worth adding.

And I think this needs a Who’s Who (Kamel Ouali, Dove Attia and Albert Cohen, Gérard Presgurvic, Luc Plamondon and Riccardo Cocciante …)

Next time …

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October 5, 1789: Parisian women march on Versailles.

The Women’s March on Versailles was one of the early significant events of the French Revolution. It took place three months after the Storming of the Bastille and a little over a month after the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man by the National Constituent Assembly - so the spirit of revolution and ill feelings toward the government were high. The principal and immediate motivator for this episode was the continuing famine and scarcity of bread, which was especially acute in Paris and surrounding areas, but the march itself was not entirely a spontaneous event. An organized march on Versailles had been championed in August by the Marquis of Saint-Huruge to protest the King’s “strangulation” of the Assembly through his oppressive vetoes.

But the Women’s March rallied around a cry for food, precipitated by reports of a lavish welcoming banquet conducted by military officers at Versailles, which itself was a symbol of the monarchy and its excess. Rallied by the beat of a drum, women gathered at the markets and then made their way through the city, armed with pitchforks and knives and accompanied by some men - including Stanislas-Marie Maillard, who later wrote an account of the event. In six hours, the crowd reached Versailles. The next morning, some members of the crowd burst through an unguarded gate, killed and beat several guardsmen, and narrowly missed the queen, who managed to escape. The crowd was pacified temporarily by the appearance of the queen with the Marquis de Lafayette on a balcony, where they met the rioters. Despite this goodwill, the people (now numbering at around 60,000) were imbued with a new sense of power over the royal family, whom they escorted to the Palais des Tuileries in Paris. 

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Danger - 1:30- Official Video