|The Day of the Tiles by Alexandre Debelle, 1889|
By the late 1780s, France was mired in debt; with food prices soaring and the ruling classes enjoying a life of privilege and splendour, the people of France were horrified to hear of yet higher taxes were on the horizon. In Grenoble, already reeling from poor harvests and with both food and money is short supply, furious citizens gathered together to call for a meeting that would force the powers that be to listen to their concerns.
The bells of the town churches rang out and hundreds of people took to the streets as soldiers assembled, called in to quell the disturbance before it got out of hand. When they fired on the crowd, killing one person and wounding others, the furious citizens scrambled up onto the rooftops, crying out in protest. From this vantage point they began hurling heavy tiles down onto the troops who were so outnumbered and assailed that their commander withdrew, fearing for the safety of his men. Eventually it was agreed that the meeting of the people would be permitted to go ahead, on condition that it do so at a later date and away from the centre of the town.
The Day of the Tiles has become recognised as a pivotal moment in the birth of the French Revolution. Although the King rejected the reforms suggested by the meeting that was eventually held on 21st July, the events of 7th June marked the first time that the people of France rose up against government forces and were victorious. In Grenoble, La Journée des Tuiles stood as a challenge to royal authority; it would not, of course, be the last.