The Bastille, in Paris, was a stone fortress built in the Fourteenth Century to defend the east gate of the city against invaders—which, initially, were the English. In time, it was used as a prison, especially for political prisoners as determined by the king. And prisoners held directly by the king could not avail themselves of the French legal system. By the late Eighteenth Century, under the reign of Louis XVI, the Bastille had become a powerful symbol of the monarchy’s absolute power.
So it makes perfect sense that, on this day in 1789, the populace stormed the Bastille—thus beginning the French Revolution. Greatly out-manned, the guardians of the Bastille opened the gates to the fortress, allowing the crowds in, hoping to prevent a massacre. Unfortunately, the situation was not calmed; 98 revolutionaries and one of the King’s men were killed in the ensuing fight. Ironically, only seven low-level prisoners were being held in the Bastille anyway.
Today, all that’s left of the Bastille are a few fragments of the original walls. But the memory of this day in 1789 still stirs the nation’s soul. A grand military parade is held down the Champs-Élysées, complete with horses, musicians, and overhead aerobatic displays.
The rocks glasses, pictured above, would be equally at-home in America, England, Russia or France. Since it’s Bastille Day, let’s raise a glass to Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.