Explain to children that they are going to learn about a significant part of French history,which happened on 14thJuly 1789, during the period of colonisation. At this time, thedecisions by the French monarchy – the King and Queen – were causing the poor to gohungry. The wealthier middle-class merchants and businessmen were worried about thesituation, but were not having their concerns heard. By the late 1780s, many peoplein France had created groups to be able to speak out and talk about how fed up they werewith the situation. They demanded that new laws were made – ones that did not favour therich.
King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette tried to calm the situation down, but thecitizens rebelled. As a response to the lack of understanding and decision making comingfrom the monarchy, a group stormed the Bastille prison, where the king and queen usuallylocked up people who disagreed with their decisions. The Bastille was considered by manyFrench people to be a symbol of the corrupt monarchy, and the seizure of it was the start ofa 10-year revolution, which brought great changes as well as many deaths along the way.Even though democracy wasn’t established for several decades following this, the revolutioncompletely changed the way France was governed.Today, over 200 years after the storming of the prison, Bastille Day has become a nationalholiday. It is a day which symbolises the end of the French monarchy and the beginning ofthe French Revolution.
On Bastille Day, most French people in France watch big fireworkdisplays and take part in parades which happen on both Bastille Eve and Day.Either as a class or in groups, have children role play the seizure of Bastille, with two peopleplaying the King and Queen and a number of children playing the group who stormed theprison. Do you think the King and Queen would have had any allies? Perhaps one personcould play an employee of the King and Queen. How would they have felt when the groupstormed the Bastille? Would they have joined them or defended their King and Queen?