Bernard de Launay


Bernard de Launay (1740-1789) was a royal military officer, the last governor of the Bastille fortress and one of the first notable casualties of the French Revolution. De Launay was actually born within the walls of the Bastille, his father having also served as its governor. When the Bastille was surrounded by Parisians in July 1789, de Launay’s men opened fire on the crowd, killing and wounding numerous people. It is unknown whether de Launay gave the order to fire, however those outside the prison held him directly responsible. Later reports suggested that de Launay was panicked and had acted irrationally and unpredictably. He eventually surrendered the fortress and was seized by the mob, who resolved to carry him to the Hotel de Ville for trial – however an incident on the way led to de Launay being butchered and decapitated. His head was later paraded through the city atop a pike.


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