Rumors were spread that the Bastille housed the needed arms. A large crowd then went to the Bastille for arms to protect their own safety and to defend the Monarchy as well. When they arrived in this “hated emblem of despotism” (according to the revolutionary writers) were not captives in chains but 7 prisoners living in relative comfort as French prisons had already undergone reform under the King. Not quite an “emblem of despotism”.
“And what of the Bastille, that haunt of despotism, whose destruction was to atone for these atrocities ? Alas for the deception of the people, their investigation of the hated fortress revealed nothing remotely resembling the visions presented to their imaginations—no skeletons or corpses were to be found, no captives in chains, no oubliettes, no torture-chambers. True, an “ iron corselet ” was discovered, “ invented to restrict a man in all his joints and to fix him in perpetual immobility,” but this was proved to be an ordinary suit of armour ; a destructive machine, “ of which one could not guess the use,” turned out to be a printing-press confiscated by the police ; whilst a collection of human bones that seemed to offer a sinister significance was traced to the anatomical collection of the surgery.
The prisoners proved equally disappointing. Seven only were found—four forgers, Béchade, Lacaurège, Pujade, and Laroche ; two lunatics, Tavernier and De Whyte, who were mad before they were imprisoned, and the Comte de Solages, incarcerated for “ monstrous crimes ” at the request of his family. The first four disappeared into Paris. The remaining three were paraded through the streets and exhibited daily as a show to an interested populace. Finally, the Comte de Solages was sent back to his inappreciative relations, whilst a kind-hearted wig-maker attempted keeping Tavernier as a pet, but was obliged to return him hastily to the Comité, who dispatched him with De Whyte to the lunatic asylum at Charenton.”
The King had already planned to tear down this ancient prison, but this was something his enemies could not afford him the honor of doing. They, of course, did him the honor shedding unnecessary blood in the process.
Next up was the march on Versailles, on October 5 and 6 of 1789 which we’ll cover in
Le Mis- The Hidden Back Story- Part 6