|There are other questions that come about from the movie, of course. Like, why is anyone surprised to hear about the castle? Didn't they know it was there? Hadn't it once been the #1 employer in the area? Didn't they wonder what happened to the mean prince?|
All of these questions are answered if we assume that the revolution came between the time that the mysterious old woman turned the prince into a beast and the events of the movie. In fact, this attack on the prince could have been the first major attack of the revolution. It probably pre-dated the storming of the Bastille in 1789. By the time Belle and her father go to the castle, six or seven years have passed, and France is being controlled by the Directory (as it will be for a couple more years before the rise of Napoleon).
Perhaps when they stormed the castle before, the Beast was hiding out in the West Wing. The townspeople had arrived expecting a big fight with the mean prince and his armies, but found the place deserted ("nobody here but us furniture!") So they figured that some other angry mob had gotten there first, patted themselves on the back, considered it a job well done, and went home. Being a Beast didn't just save that prince's heart - it saved his neck, too!