Bastille Day, marking the beginning of one of the most violent and famous revolutions in modern history, is celebrated on July 14.
The day celebrates French revolutionaries’ storming the Bastille fortress-prison in an event that is seen as the uprising of the modern nation.
The revolution began because the lower classes viewed the monarchy as opulent and unsympathetic because it heavily taxed the poor.
Impoverished revolutionaries sought to overthrow the monarchy in exchange for representative government.
The high taxes that spurred the French Revolution came from a government teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
The initial revolutionaries’ goal was to overthrow the monarchy. King Louis XVI and his family were successfully captured as they attempted to flee from a mob prepared to storm the palace of Versailles.
Prior to the French Revolution, King Louis XIV built Versailles on the site of a small hunting lodge his father had built. The French court was previously in Paris, but Louis XIV was frightened as a boy when an uprising stormed the Parisian palace.
Moving the palace to Versailles was the answer to ensuring the royal family’s safety, or so he thought.
The French Revolution — the people’s revolution — came to a definitive, if unexpected, end with a dictatorship in 1804. Napoleon Bonaparte famously took the crown from the hands of the Pope and crowned himself Emperor of France.
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