July 14th 1789, 230 years ago, French revolutionaries stormed King Louis XVI's notorious Paris prison and freed his majesty's less favored guests from its fetid depths. The fall of the prison marked the beginning of the end for the King, whom the revolution would execute within four years.
Louis XVI is the French King whose assistance to the American Revolution was key to its successful overthrow of British rule over 13 colonies in America. Louis XVI had no interest in American ideals but he saw an opportunity to weaken his British rival and perhaps capture a few British colonies elsewhere in the world. His chief representative to the Revolutionary Army was the Marquis de Lafayette, whose name is scattered across the US in memory of the relationship established with George Washington. Lafayette was so inspired by George Washington and America's Revolutionary ideals that he returned to France in 1787 with a Brand New Plan. To be concise Louis XVI would have none of it and eventually Lafayette was a notable member and leader of the moderate faction of France's chaotic revolution. He celebrated the fall of the Bastille by sending one of its keys to his mentor, George Washington, citing the first US President as "The Father of Liberty". By 1792 more radical elements of the revolution ordered Lafayette's arrest and he spent the next 5 years in exile and prison. He returned to France and eventually became involved in France's July Revolution of 1830. At that time he was offered the Dictatorship of France. Like his mentor, George Washington, he declined the opportunity to seize absolute power.
The Key to the Bastille is still on display at Mount Vernon, George Washington's beloved home in Virginia. The Tour Guides like to point it out and mention how Lafayette sent it to Washington as a gift to "The Father of Liberty". The Key also serves another purpose, one the guides don't mention. It is a stark reminder to those considering getting involved in other's wars. The troops Louis sent to interfere in the British Empire's internal conflict learned a few things that eventually came home to cost the King his head.
The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.