The Fall of the Bastille
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The Fall of the Bastille

This story took place in 1789, when France was still ruled by a king who had a lot of power. We call this system of government absolute monarchy. At that time, the king and his noblemen tried to get extra money by making the working people pay more and more taxes. Most of the working people were poor peasants who got their living from the land. As a matter of fact, they did not own the land, because it was all owned by rich noblemen. The houses in which the working people lived were often dirty, broken-down huts. After they paid extra taxes, they had very little money left. They were half-starved and badly clothed and there were no proper schools for their children.

This story took place in 1789, when France was still ruled by a king who had a lot of power. We call this system of  government absolute monarchy. At that time, the king and his noblemen tried to get extra money by making the working people pay more and more taxes. Most of the working people were poor peasants who got their living from the land. As a matter of fact, they did not own the land, because it was all owned by rich noblemen. The houses in which the working people lived were often dirty, broken-down huts. After they paid extra taxes, they had very little money left. They were half-starved and badly clothed and there were no proper schools for their children.

The poor people saw the noblemen who owned the land go by in their splendid coaches. The noblemen always had plenty of money to spend. They wore beautiful clothes, lived in richly decorated houses and had many servants.

Of course the poor people were jealous and began to grow very angry. They felt that the land, on which they worked hard all day long, should belong to them, not to a small number of very rich noblemen. They felt that the taxes should be reduced so that they would have enough money to live properly. A clever man called Rousseau wrote a book in which he said that men were born free, but many of them were forced to live as slaves. This book influenced a lot of people.

The people became more and more disappointed because the noblemen took very little notice of the troubles of the poor. As a result, the poor wanted to destroy the king and the noblemen. They wanted a republic such as there was in America, where there were no kings and no noblemen and all men were equal.

Things got worse and worse. At last the people of France acted. There was a fortress in Paris called the Bastille, where men who had opposed the king and his noblemen were imprisoned. In July, 1789, the people of Paris attacked the Bastille and set the prisoners free. The French Revolution had begun.

KING LOUIS XVI

The fall of the Bastille was the sign of a new era for the French people. While the angry revolutionaries attacked the fortress, they shouted “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity!” They burned richly decorated houses and killed those noblemen and their wives who didn’t manage to escape. King Louis XVI and his beautiful wife, Marie Antoinette was imprisoned in their own palace. The people declared France a Republic and said they would kill all the enemies of the Republic.

This was indeed a time of terror in Paris and the rest of France. The guillotine, a huge knife in a wooden frame, was set up in Paris. Hundreds of noblemen had their heads cut off by this machine. People lived in fear of the guillotine. King Louis and Marie Antoinette tried to escape from the palace, but they were captured and brought back, tried and executed. They were killed by the deadly machine. Many noblemen escaped. They fled to nearby countries such as England, Holland, Austria and Spain. These countries went to war against the French Republic and were not defeated until a young soldier named Napoleon Bonaparte led France to a great victory.

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