The Bastille Essay

1871 words - 7 pages


Throughout history, symbols have had an overwhelming presence among citizens. The French Revolution had many symbols that represented power. Did the events leading up to the storming of the Bastille persuade the French citizens to believe that it was a symbol of power? There are many reasons why the French citizens would believe the Bastille to be a symbol of power. It was a very overwhelming stone structure, which stood robust, surrounded by small villages along with farmland. The architecture and placement of this fortress gave itself a reputation of strength and impregnation. It stood by itself, being the most intimidating structure of its time.
In the medieval year of 1370 Charles V ordered the building of the Bastille, or bastide, which means fortress, as a castle to defend the eastern side of Paris. It had eight towers and was linked by walls that were over one hundred feet tall. The river Sienne River fed its moat, which was eighty feet wide, but in the year 1789 it was dry. It was never meant to be a prison, but in the first half of the 17th century, Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister of Louis XIII, began to send prisoners to the fortress. This remained the Bastille's chief function until the year 1789.
The Bastille wasn't an ordinary prison though; these prisoners were not given a trial. They were just locked up and kept in the prison until the king wished them out. Prisoners were only released after they sworn an oath never to reveal what was inside the prison. This gave the fortress a mysterious reputation. The liberators of the fortress were disappointed to see that the inside was more comfortable than they had imagined. By the year 1789 life inside the Bastille was no longer as the horrors of legend said they were. During Louis XVI's rule, life inside the fortress was very easy. The prisoners had servants who made them meals, used their own furniture, some were given living allowance, and almost all were allowed to play games or walk freely around the fortress.
During 1789, the Bastille held only seven prisoners. These seven prisoners were Jean de la Correge; Jean Bechade; Bernard Laroche; Jean-Antoine Pujade; De Witt; the Count of Solages; and Tavernier. The first four of them were all properly tried and convicted forgers; the Count of Solages was imprisoned on request of his family who suspected him to be guilty of murder and incest; and De Witt imagined himself to be Julius Ceaser, St. Louis, and sometimes God. The last, Tavernier had been locked up since 1759 for his part in the Damiens conspiracy against Louis XV. He was the only political prisoner that was found when the Bastille was liberated on July 14, 1789. There was a staff of several dozen cooks, doctors, barbers, and workmen as well as eighty to ninety soldiers that guarded and cared for the seven prisoners. The Governor of the Bastille had a very good job, one of the best paid, in the royal service. Louis XVI and his monarchy were in major debt and plans were...

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