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On May 5, 1789, Louis XVI convened the General Estates to hear their grievances. The deputies of the Third Estate representing the common people (the two others were clergy and nobility) decided to break away and form a National Constituent Assembly.
On June 20 the deputies of the Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath (named after the place where they had gathered which was a place where an ancestor of tennis, the "jeu de paume" was played), swearing not to separate until a Constitution had been established. To show their support, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille, a prison where people where jailed by decison of the King. Thus the Bastille was a symbol the absolutism of the monarchy.
Some find significance in the fact that there were only 7 inmates housed at the time of the siege. Among those inmates, Marquis de Sade is believed to have triggered the assault by crying that people were being executed inside. Many historians believe that the storming of the Bastille was more important as a rallying point and symbolic act of rebellion than any practical act of defiance. No less important in the history of France, it was not the image typically conjured up of courageous French patriots storming the Bastille and freeing hundreds of oppressed peasants.
Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on August 26, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was proclaimed.
See also: Timeline of the French Revolution
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