Today marks the 220th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, a vast prison in Paris which was attacked by a revolutionary mob on July 14, 1789. The Bastille had a history of holding -- among others -- anyone perceived to be a suspicious or seditious individual. Cardinal Richelieu was the initial main man behind these arrests, done via a lettres-de-cachet brought to the individual, who was then hauled off to the Bastille without benefit of a trial or appeal.
Once released, there could be no public objection to the arrest nor divulging of what had been experienced within the prison walls. Essentially, the Bastille loomed as a longstanding symbol of intimidation -- and it was also where huge stores of gunpowder were kept -- and eventually the outrage of the people broke through.
While only seven prisoners of dubious honor happened to be in the Bastille at the time of the revolt, the actions of the people quickly led to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and also resulted in a further striking-down of royal power tactics. The pictured Storming of the Bastille painting was done by Jean-Pierre Houel in 1789, and this website offers more information on the incident and various other revolutions as well. Today is a national holiday in France, and the Paris Daily Photo blog's Le 14 juillet 2009 entry details the coinciding 120th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower and how to watch the Bastille Day fireworks on-line.