Bastille Day: What is it?

First, if you decide to go to France on the 14th of July, it is important to know one thing: the name “Bastille Day” does not exist! We call it “Fête Nationale” (National Day) or just “Le 14 Juillet” (The 14th of July). With that said, let’s see now what happened that day in French History.

The Context

France was particularly unstable in 1789. Torn apart between the end of the Monarchy and an attempt at Democracy, the People are divided between former privileged persons and new revolutionists. An event that will literally set things off is the dismissal of Necker, a politician on the side of the people. Also, Paris is surrounded by the Royal Army… That is too much to the Parisians, the revolt breaks out on July 12th 1789.

Painting of the Tennis Court Oath, France History

The Storming of the Bastille

For this revolt, the People need guns. Starting with inefficient negotiations, 2 strongholds will be, in the end, taken over. Les Invalides, first, which provides the revolutions with 40 thousand rifles and a few cannons. Then, after new tense negotiations, la Bastille, a political prison and great fortress, is within reach. When the Head of the Prison breaks down and opens fire on the crowd, he marks the start of the Revolution.

Painting of the Storming of the Bastille

The Consequences

The revolutionists have now guns, artillery and a hold on the main strongholds of Paris. Prisoners are freed  and the former heads of the royal administration beheaded. It is the beginning of the end for the reign of King Louis XVI. He is forced to call Necker back in office, accepts to wear the tricolor roundel and make an oath to the Nation and to the law the following days.

That day, the storming of the Bastille is quickly seen as the beginning of the Revolution. One year later on that same day, is marked the Day of the Federation, which will officially be observed on July 6th, 1880, la Fete Nationale (Bastille Day), on a proposal from Raspail.

Painting of the Federation party of 1790

Today, “Le 14 Juillet” is celebrated everywhere in France with huge fireworks in the cities and towns of the country.

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