Everything you need to know about Bastille Day

Today all eyes are looking at France. July, 14th is the most important day of the year for the country, but do you know what Bastille Day is?

History

The French National Day celebrates the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a turning point of the French Revolution, as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790.

The medieval fortress, armory, and political prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the center of Paris. The prison contained just seven inmates at the time of its storming but was a symbol of abuses by the monarchy; its fall was the flashpoint of the French Revolution.

Storming of The Bastile by Jean-Pierre Houël

The Fête de la Fédération was a massive holiday festival held throughout France in honour of the French Revolution. First celebrated in 1790, it commemorated the events of 1789 which had culminated in a new form of national government, a constitutional monarchy led by a representative Assembly.

The inaugural fête of 1790 was set for 14 July, the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. At this relatively calm stage of the Revolution, many people considered the country’s period of political struggle to be over. This thinking was encouraged by counter-revolutionary monarchiens, and the first fête was designed with a role for King Louis XVI that would respect and maintain his royal status. The occasion passed peacefully and provided a powerful, but illusory, image of national unity after the divisive events of 1789–1790.

After the end of the official celebration, the day ended in a huge popular feast. It was also a symbol of the reunification of the Three Estates, after the heated Estates-General of 1789, with the Bishop (First Estate) and the King (Second Estate) blessing the people (Third Estate). In the gardens of the Château de La Muette, a meal was offered to more than 20,000 participants, followed by much singing, dancing, and drinking. The feast ended on the 18 July.

Claude Monet, Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878

On 30 June 1878, a feast was officially arranged in Paris to honour the French Republic (the event was commemorated in a painting by Claude Monet). On 14 July 1879, there was another feast, with a semi-official aspect. The day’s events included a reception in the Chamber of Deputies, organised and presided over by Léon Gambetta, a military review at Longchamp, and a Republican Feast in the Pré Catelan. All through France, Le Figaro wrote, “people feasted much to honour the storming of the Bastille”.

On 21 May 1880, Benjamin Raspail proposed a law to have “the Republic choose the 14 July as a yearly national holiday”. The Assembly voted in favour of the proposal on 21 May and 8 June. The Senate approved it on 27 and 29 June, favouring 14 July against 4 August (which would have commemorated the end of the feudal system on 4 August 1789). The law was made official on 6 July 1880, and the Ministry of the Interior recommended to Prefects that the day should be “celebrated with all the brilliance that the local resources allow”.

Military Parade

While previously held elsewhere within or near the capital city, since 1918 it has been held on the Champs-Élysées, with the participation of the Allies as represented in the Versailles Peace Conference, and with the exception of the period of German occupation from 1940 to 1944 (when the ceremony took place in London under the command of General Charles de Gaulle). The parade passes down the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, where the President of the French Republic, his government and foreign ambassadors to France stand. This is a popular event in France, broadcast on French TV, and is the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe. In some years, invited detachments of foreign troops take part in the parade and foreign statesmen attend as guests.

Smaller military parades are held in French garrison towns, including Toulon and Belfort, with local troops.

Together with the parade, the Patrouille de France (PAF, French Acrobatic Patrol) makes a demonstration through the Champs, with the national colors.

PAF in one of the Bastille Day presentations

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, will be at the cerimony with Macron and they’ll have diner at the Jules Verne Restaurant, inside the Tour Eiffel.

The Trumps will leave after that, missing the sound and light show that takes place at the Eiffel Tower.

A White House statement said the visit would reaffirm the powerful links between the two nations:

“President Trump looks forward to reaffirming America’s strong ties of friendship with France, to celebrating this important day with the French people, and to commemorating the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I,” it said.

Le Jules Verne, at the Tour Eiffel, in Paris, Fr

Security

This year more officials will be at the celebrations to try and ensure safety for those attending. One year ago, 86 people lost their lives and other 458 got injured due to a terrorist attack in Nice, at the Promenade des Anglais.

That’s it for today’s post. I hope you have enjoyed it. If you’re attending the event, share in the comments bellow. Have a great Bastille Day. Thanks for reading.

See you in the next post.

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