Day of the Tiles

Coordinates: 45°11′21″N 5°43′48″E / 45.1893°N 5.7299°E / 45.1893; 5.7299
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La Journée des tuiles en 1788 à Grenoble, 1890 painting by Alexandre Debelle (Musée de la Révolution française)

The Day of the Tiles (French: Journée des Tuiles) was an event that took place in the French town of Grenoble on 7 June in 1788. It was one of the first disturbances which preceded the French Revolution, and is credited by a few historians as its start.


Grenoble was the scene of popular unrest due to financial hardship from the economic crises. The causes of the French Revolution affected all of France, but matters came to a head first in Grenoble. Affected by depressed demand for luxury gloves (at the time one of Grenoble's major industries), Grenoble was heavily dependent on its status as seat of the regional parlement for status and prosperity. However, Cardinal Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne, the Archbishop of Toulouse and Controller-General of Louis XVI, was attempting to abolish the Parlements to work around their refusal to enact a new tax to deal with France's unmanageable public debt. [1]

Tensions that had been rising in urban populations, due to poor harvests and the high cost of bread, were exacerbated by the refusal of the privileged classes — the Church, and the aristocracy, who insisted on retaining the right to collect feudal and seignorial royalties from their peasants and landholders — to relinquish any of their fiscal privileges. This blocked the reforms of the king's minister Charles Alexandre de Calonne and the Assembly of Notables of January 1787. Added to this, Brienne, appointed as the king's Controller-General of Finance on 8 April 1787, was widely regarded as being a manager without experience or imagination.[2]

Shortly before 7 June 1788, in a large meeting at Grenoble those who attended the meeting decided to call together the old Estates of the province of Dauphiné. The government responded by sending troops to the area to put down the movement.[3]


At roughly 10 in the morning of Saturday, 7 June, merchants closed down their shops as groups of 300 to 400 men and women formed, armed with stones, sticks, axes, and bars.[4] They rushed to the city gates to prevent the departure of judges who took part in the Grenoble meeting.[5] Some rioters attempted to cross the Isère but faced a picket of 50 soldiers at the St. Lawrence bridge, while others headed to the Rue Neuve.[6]

Map of Grenoble in 1788: The six red dots show the riots in the city. The black squares show the dwellings of the parliamentarians.

The cathedral's bells were seized by French peasants at noon.[4] The crowd swiftly grew, as the bells provoked the influx of neighbouring peasants to creep in the city, climbing the walls, using boats on the Isère and for some, pushing open the city gates.[citation needed]

Other insurgents boarded the ramparts and rushed to the hotel (L'hôtel de la Première présidence) the Duke of Clermont-Tonnerre was staying in at the time. The Duke had two elite regiments in Grenoble,[7] the Regiment of the Royal Navy (Régiment Royal-La-Marine) whose colonel was Marquis d'Ambert and the regiment of Austrasia (Régiment d'Austrasie) which was commanded by Colonel Count Chabord. The Royal Navy was the first to respond to the growing crowds and was given the order to quell the rioting without the use of arms. However, as the mob stormed the hotel entrance, the situation escalated. Soldiers sent to quell the disturbances forced the townspeople off the streets. Some sources say that the soldiers were sent to disperse parliamentarians who were attempting to assemble a parliament.[2] During an attack, Royal Navy soldiers injured a 75-year-old man with a bayonet. At the sight of blood, the people became angry and started to tear up the streets. Townspeople climbed onto the roofs of buildings around the Jesuit College[8] to hurl down a rain of roof-tiles on the soldiers in the streets below, hence the episode's name. Many soldiers took refuge in a building to shoot through the windows, while the crowd continued to rush inside and ravage everything.[citation needed]

A noncommissioned officer of the Royal Navy, commanding a patrol of four soldiers, gave the order to open fire into the mob. One civilian was killed and a boy of 12 wounded.[9] To the east of the city, the Royal Navy soldiers were forced to open fire in order to protect the city's arsenal, fearing that the rioters would seize the weapons and ammunition. Meanwhile, Colonel Count Chabord began deploying the regiment of Austrasia to aid and relieve the Royal Navy soldiers.[citation needed]

Three of the city's four consuls[6] gathered at the City Hall and attempted to reason with the crowd. However, their words were silenced amidst the clamour of the mob. Through great difficulty, the consuls made their way through the crowds and eventually took refuge with the officers of the local garrison. Later that evening, the Duke of Clermont-Tonnerre withdrew his troops from the streets and hotel to prevent further violence from escalating the situation. The Duke managed to narrowly escape the hotel before the crowd completely looted the inside. With control of the hotel lost, the Royal Navy troops were ordered to return to their quarters.[citation needed]

At six, a crowd estimated at ten thousand people shouting "Long live the parliament" forced the judges to return to the Palace of the Parliament of Dauphiné (Palais du Parlement du Dauphiné) by flooding them with flowers.[10] Throughout the night, carillons sounded triumphantly, a large bonfire crackled on Saint-André square surrounded by a crowd that danced and sang "Long live forever our parliament! May God preserve the King and the devil take Brienne and Lamoignon."[citation needed]

On 10 June, the local commander attempted to appease the spirits of the crowd, with no success.[11] Under the orders of exile pronounced against them by the King, the parliamentarians were forced to flee from Grenoble in the morning of 12 June. It wasn't until the 14th of July that order was fully restored in the city by Marshal Vaux, who replaced the Duke of Clermont-Tonnerre.[12]

The commander of the troops found the situation so alarming that he agreed to allow the meeting of the Estates to proceed, but not in the capital.[13] A meeting was therefore arranged for the 21 July 1788 at the nearby village of Vizille.[3] This meeting became known as the Assembly of Vizille.

In all, six outbreaks of rioting have been identified in the city on 7 June.[14]

The event was commemorated by Alexandre Debelle's The Day of the Tiles, 13 July 1788, painted in 1889.[15] He painted it a century after the event and got the date wrong, but it undoubtedly attempts to depict the events described by the title.[citation needed]

Later events[edit]

The meeting of the three Estates which had been agreed to took place at Vizille on 21 July. Several hundred people assembled, representing the three Estates, the nobility, the clergy and the middle class (the bourgeoisie), who were granted double representation. The meeting was led by a moderate reformist lawyer, Jean Joseph Mounier, and passed resolutions:

  • convoking the States-General of France;
  • pledging the province to refuse to pay all taxes not voted by the Estates-General; and
  • calling for the abolition of arbitrary imprisonment on the King's order by the warrant known as the lettre de cachet.[3]

These demands were accepted by the King. Brienne left office during August 1788, but before doing so issued a decree convoking the Estates-General for 1 May 1789.[3] It is not clear whether this decree was prompted by the demands from the Assembly of Vizille or the Day of the Tiles, because at least one source puts the date of the decree at 7 July 1788 after the Day of the Tiles, but two weeks before the Assembly of Vizille.[16]

Since 1984, the Château de Vizille houses the Musée de la Révolution française.[citation needed]


Some historians, such as Jonathan Sperber,[citation needed] have used the Day of the Tiles to demonstrate the worsening situation in France in the buildup to the French Revolution of 1789. Others have even credited it with being the beginning of the revolution itself.[2][16] The events as related by R. M. Johnston[3] provide an apparently clear link between the Day of the Tiles, the Assembly of Vizille and the start of the revolution proper.


  1. ^ Duncan, Mike (7 September 2014). "3.8 The Day of the Tiles". Revolutions (Podcast). Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b c La «Journée des tuiles» à Grenoble,, Retrieved on 4 November 2006
  3. ^ a b c d e Johnston, R. M. (Robert Matteson) (2006) [1909]. The French Revolution A Short History (Project Gutenberg ed.). Henry Holt and Company. p. 279. Retrieved 6 November 2006.
  4. ^ a b Coulomb, Clarisse (12 December 2016). "Héritages familiaux, solidarités professionnelles et théâtre politique". Histoire urbaine (in French) (5): 5–25. ISSN 1628-0482.
  5. ^ "7 juin 1788 - La "Journée des tuiles" à Grenoble -". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b texte, Académie delphinale Auteur du (1 January 1935). "Bulletin de l'Académie delphinale". Gallica. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  7. ^ Jean Sgard, Les trente récits de la Journée des Tuiles.
  8. ^ Today the Lycée Stendhal in rue Raoul Blanchard
  9. ^ Claude Muller, Heurs et malheurs du Dauphiné, pp. 112–114.
  10. ^ Paul Dreyfus, Histoire du Dauphiné , p. 191.
  11. ^ Chronique, Éditions (14 June 2013). Chronique de la Révolution française (in French). Éditions Chronique. ISBN 9782366020328.
  12. ^ Eugène Chaper, La Journée des Tuiles à Grenoble (7 juin 1788) : Documents contemporains en grande partie inédits recueillis et publiés par un vieux bibliophile Dauphinois.
  13. ^ Catherine Curzon. "A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life - The Day of the Tiles".
  14. ^ "La journée des Tuiles (Grenoble, 7 juin 1788)". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  15. ^ The Day of the Tiles, 13 July 1788
  16. ^ a b From Failed Reforms to Revolutionary Crisis[permanent dead link],A Short History of the French Revolution, Jeremy D. Popkin, Prentice-Hall, 14 July 2005, Retrieved on 3 November 2006

Further reading[edit]

  • Simon Schama (1989). Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. New York: Knopf, pp. 272–283. Shama presents the events in a different light. He shows that the insurrection was a reaction against changes in the tax system and sought to protect the Grenoble magistrates that were exiled by Brienne. See Citizens pages 228-238

45°11′21″N 5°43′48″E / 45.1893°N 5.7299°E / 45.1893; 5.7299