The central event in European history in the late 18th and
early 19th century was the French Revolution which
triggered sister revolutions across Europe. The revolution
began with the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris,
July 14th, 1789.
After the death of King Louis XIV, known as the Sun King,
the monarchy lost touch with the people, who wanted reform
and better living conditions. Many people were poor and the
national debt was high after France lost the Seven Years War.
The ingredients were rife for a reaction, with intellectuals
joining the call for change.
The King died and was succeeded by his son, who also sought
reforms, but in May 1789 a new radical assembly opened, the
new King sensing he was losing power dissolved the assembly
and sent 20,00 troops into Paris to quash the people's rebellion.
However, the people were armed and thousands stomed the Bastile
Prison killing soldiers, guards and royal officials and freeing
prisoners. This was the first step to revolution, three years
later the King and his family were beheaded and France became
In Marseille the French National Anthem was born. As 5000
volunteers set off for Paris in 1792, a soldier suggested
singing a new battle song recently composed in the city by
Rouget de I'Isle, who apparently fell asleep at his harpsicord
one night and dreamt the song, and remembered it when he awoke.
By the time the men of Marseille had marched, the song of
the Marseilles had become the hit song of the revolution,
and it is now the most rousing and bloodcurdling of national