Antoine, it had when completed eight huge round towers, connected by curtains of massive masonry, and was encircled by a wide ditch 25 ft. deep, which was usually dry. This ditch was surrounded by a high wall, to which was attached a wooden gallery called " the rounds," accessible by two staircases, and guarded by sentinels. The administration of the Bastile in the 18th century was vested in a governor, a royal intendant, a major, a major's aid, a surgeon, and a matron. The garrison was composed of 100 men, commanded by two captains, a lieutenant, and sergeants. The cells were situated in all the towers, the walls of which were at least 12 ft. thick, and at the base 30 or 40. Each cell had an aperture in the wall, defended by three iron gratings, the bars of which were an inch thick and so arranged that although the openings in each grating were really of 4 inches, only 2 inches were left unobstructed. The dungeons were 19 ft. below the level of the courtyard, and 5 below that of the ditch, with no opening but a narrow loophole communicating with the ditch. The Bastile could contain 50 state prisoners in solitary cells.
When a greater number were placed within its walls, they were confined in cells opening on the ditches which carried off the ordure and sewerage of the prison, amid odors insufferable They were miserably fed, but this was owing rather to the abuses of the governor than to the government, which paid enormous sums for the maintenance of the state prisoners. Benneville asserts that in his time Bernaville, who was then governor, had a great number of prisoners at all prices, up to 25 francs a head per diem, and that their daily subsistence did not cost him on an average 20 sous. There was a regular tariff of expenses for the table, lights, and washing of all prisoners, according to their rank. Thus a prince of the blood was allowed 50 francs a day; a considerable burgher, or an advocate, 3 francs; and the members of all the inferior classes, 2 francs and 10 sous, the same being the rate allowed for the guards, wardens, and servants of the prison. The inhuman treatment to which prisoners in the Bastile were subjected has few parallels in the history of penal cruelty.
Put there without accusation or trial, on a simple lettre de cachet, allowed no communication with friends, their final fate was dependent upon the caprice of despotism and unknown to the world. - Up to the date of the accession of Charles VII. the Bastile continued to be merely a royal fortress, when it became a state prison, under the government of Thomas Beaumont, who was in command when in 1418 the populace broke into its precincts and massacred the princes of the house of Armagnac. Within the walls of this prison died Charles de Gontaut, sieur de Biron, marshal of France, for treason against Henry IV. Here also were imprisoned Bas-sompierre, Marshal Richelieu, Voltaire, Latude, who in vain made an extraordinary escape, and that victim of Louis XIV. known as the Man in the Iron Mask, whose identity has never been absolutely established. (See Iron Mask.) After the death of Louis XIV. the Bastile degenerated from being a place of incarceration for suspected princes, pretenders to the throne, and subjects too powerful for the state, into a common jail. The imprisonment of Blaizot, the king's librarian, by the minister De Bre-teuil, nominally at the king's order, brought to light the whole system of iniquity. Blaizot was delivered, but De Breteuil was not punished.
On July 14, 1789, after a brief defence by Delaunay, then governor, and the guard consisting of 82 invalids and 32 Swiss, the Bastile was captured by the people, ransacked, and on the following day its towers were razed and its dungeons filled with the copings of its battlements. Seven persons were found in its cells and dungeons: one, the count de Solage, a prisoner since his 11th year; another, Tavernier, who, after 10 years at the Marguerite islands, had passed 30 years in the Bastile, and who reappeared on his liberation bewildered, with a broken intellect, like a man awaked from a sleep. Records of horrors even worse than this were found inscribed on the registers of the prison. On its site now stands the column of July, which was erected in memory of the patriots of 1789 and 1830.