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

January 8, 1864 – Birth of Prince Albert Victor of Wales

On 8 January, Alix complained of slight pains, but in the afternoon she insisted on being pushed in a sledge on the ice at Virginia Water to watch Bertie playing a game of ice hockey. The cold was so intense that the photographer summoned from Windsor was forced to abandon his attempt to record the game. Alix left early, and around six p.m. her pains came on more rapidly. Bertie telegrammed Dr Sieveking in London : ’ Please come by earliest train and stay here tonight.’ At 8.50 she gave birth to a son who was probably two months premature, though no one was quite sure of the dates. Bertie was present in the room throughout the labout. Alix and Bertie were both distressed, fearing that the baby would die. Only the local Windsor doctor, Brown, attended the delivery. When Sieveking eventually arrived, he was met on the stairs by Bertie, who declared, ’ I am a father ! ’ The baby was healthy and ruddy, but tiny, weighing only 3 ¾ pounds. 

Nothing was ready. No nurse, no baby clothes, no wet nurse. At least Alix escaped the daunting presence of ministers and grand accoucheurs who might otherwose have been assembled to attend the birth of an heir to the throne. Lord Granville, a Cabinet minister happened to be staying and acted as witness. ’ It was very touching to see the Prince of Wales’s emotion, ’ he wrote. Lady Macclesfield, a ‘precise little stick’ who was herself a mother of thirteen, was in attendance at Frogmore. She made the bed with clean linen, cleared away the bloodied sheets and wrapped the baby in cotton wool. Because the child was premature, Alix was unable to breastfeed even if she had wished to do so, and a wet nurse was hurriedly procured from Windsor. After it was all over, looking into the beddroom, Lady Macclesfieldsaw Alix and Bertie weeping together on the bed. Bertie’s devotion and tenderness towards his wife was touching to behold.   | Bertie A life of Edward VII |