A Bastille Day symbol of friendship

Composite with portrait paintings of Marquis de Lafayette (courtesy of Museums at Washington and Lee University) and George Washington and key in glass box (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)
Center: The key to the Bastille prison hangs in the central hall of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. Left: Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette from 1779. Right: Portrait of George Washington from 1783. (Left image: Courtesy of Museums at Washington and Lee University; right images: Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)

Bastille Day, July 14, marks the day at the start of the French Revolution in 1789 when the French people stormed the Bastille, a Parisian prison that embodied the injustice of the Bourbon monarchy.

Soon after, the French people gave the Marquis de Lafayette, who had helped the United States gain independence from Great Britain, the key to the Bastille as a gesture of good faith, entrusting him to protect France’s newly won liberties.

Lafayette, a good friend of George Washington, sent Washington the key in 1790 on behalf of the French people, to solidify the two countries’ friendship.

To this day, the key hangs in Washington’s Virginia home, Mount Vernon, where visitors can see this symbol of friendship, freedom and democracy.

This article was previously published July 9, 2020.