On July 14, 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille prison in Paris. Originally a medieval fortress, by 1789 the Bastille held only seven prisoners. Despite this, the large stone building was a looming symbol of royal authority and abuse of power. Armed Parisians approached the commander (called the governor) of the Bastille to persuade him to release weapons—in particular, gunpowder—stored there. When negotiations broke down, gunfire broke out between the military defenders of the Bastille and the Parisian citizens outside.

Nearly 100 citizens lost their lives before the Bastille fell later that day. The governor of the Bastille was captured and decapitated.

Louis XVI, the king of France, was told about the fall of the Bastille the next day. “Is it a revolt?” he asked his adviser. “No, sire. It is a revolution,” he was told.

adviser
Noun

person who offers informed advice about an issue.

authority
Noun

person or organization responsible for making decisions.

capture
Verb

to take or control.

fortress
Noun

protected place. Also called a fort.

medieval
Adjective

having to do with the Middle Ages (500-1400) in Europe.

military
Noun

armed forces.

negotiation
Noun

discussion or discourse leading to terms of an agreement.

prison
Noun

buildings that house convicted criminals and people accused of a crime and awaiting trial.

revolt
Noun

rebellion or uprising.

revolution
Noun

overthrow or total change of government.

royal
Adjective

having to do with a monarchy.

symbol
Noun

something used to represent something else.

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