Taking place every July 14th is Bastille Day, one
of Frances most widely-celebrated national holidays, looking back on one of
the most important days of the countrys history. Known by the French as la
fête du 14 Juillet or la fête nationale, the holiday is celebrated all over
France as well as in other areas of the world where there is a French
population. If youre staying at one of our holiday cottages in France this
Bastille Day, youll find it impossible to escape the celebrations!
In summary, Bastille Day is held in remembrance of the
beginning of the French Revolution, which meant France finally became a
republic, and took place more than 200 years ago. Several events led to the
change to a republic, though it was all triggered by the storming of the
Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789.
The events of that day were highly significant as they
helped the ordinary people take back the power from the elite and the
out-of-touch Bourbon monarchy. Beginning as a medieval Parisian fortress in
around 1370, the Bastille Saint-Antoine later became a prison, and under the
rule of King Louis XVI, kept those who opposed the monarchy there, often
without trial. Tensions were beginning to rise among the people as the monarchy
continued to fail them, raising both taxes and food prices.
By 1789, many were starving as a result of poverty, and
enough had been enough, with rebels deciding to show their anger by storming
the prison, which was a prominent symbol of royal rule. On July 14, more than
300 revolutionaries set out on their attack, resulting in a battle where the
governor was killed and the walls were torn down.
Within weeks, much more action was taken to give the power
of the country back to its people. The National Assembly had abolished
feudalism, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen had been
adopted. The end of Frances ruling royalty was marked by the execution of
Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette in 1792. A long period of political
instability followed, including the establishment of Napoleon as the Emperor of
France, until the country became the established republic ruled by an elected
government that we know today.
Since the end of the revolution, Bastille Day has been
celebrated every year. Villages, towns and cities across the country hold
celebrations both large and small featuring dances and firework displays, while
the capital, Paris, is home to the largest celebrations of them all. More than
4000 soldiers, emergency service workers, military academy members and
politicians assemble for a tremendous military parade on the famous
Champs-Élysées, with fireworks lighting up the evening sky to the backdrop of
the Eiffel Tower.
Image: Yann Caradec,
available under Creative Commons
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