"Give me leave, my dear General to present you with a picture of the Bastille, just as it looked a few days after I had ordered its demolition,- with the main key of the fortress of despotism. It is a tribute, which I owe, as a son to my adoptive father, as an Aide-de-Camp to my General, as a Missionary of liberty to its Patriarch." Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, also known as: Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington, March 17, 1790
The storming of the Bastille by a Parisian mob on July 14, 1789, marked the beginning of the French Revolution. As commander of the Paris National Guard in 1789, the Marquis de Lafayette received the keys to the bastille and symbol of the Ancien Regime. In 1790, he sent this key and a drawing of the prison in ruins to George Washington, his former commander, who was serving his first term as America's first president in New York City. Washington prominently displayed the key as a "token of victory by Liberty over Despotism" in a custom-made, carved and gilded case in his Philadelphia executive residence and then in the Central Passage at Mount Vernon, where both objects remain to this day.
Forgotten was this "Ancien Regime" actions, through loans of money, arms and troops allowed the United States to gain it's independence from Great Britain. Without the help of the French monarchy the American War for Independence would have failed.
In 1789, during the storming of the Bastille, there were a total of 7 prisoners. It was randomly believed that gunpowder was stored in the Bastille and since the mob feared that King Louis XVI was planning a counter revolution, they wanted to arm themselves against the foreign troops that they believed (without foundation) the king had requested from other kingdoms in Europe.
The mob claimed a victory when they freed these 7 prisoners. They conveniently forgot the fact that of the seven 4 were forgers, 2 lunatics and 1 pedophile. (How ironic it is that Roman Polanski a known child rapist is coming to France after escaping extradition from the Swiss.)
Vive Le Roy!