Bastille Day & The French Revolution 101

Bastille Day & The French Revolution 101
July 14, 2011 Leslie Juvin-Acker

Monet's depiction of Bastille Day celebrations

Eh, bah oui! C’est La Fête Nationale!

Here are interesting facts about celebrating France’s La Fête Nationale, or famously known by anglophones as Bastille Day, and the French Revolution.

1. English speaking people call France’s national independence day “Bastille Day”, but it’s really called “La Fête Nationale” or translated as the National Celebration and it’s been celebrated on July 14th each year since 1880.

2. The French were revolting against their Monarchy and the royal family and took cues after the successful American Revolution.

3. The storming of the Bastille in 1789 is considered a representation of the rise of a modern nation and republic government and this day marks the official beginning of the French Revolution which continued until 1799.

4. The Bastille, more accurately know as the Bastille of Saint Antoine, was a fortress and prison. It was totally destroyed during the French Revolution.

5. The Bastille was stormed by angry Parisians in order to steal ammunition. They weren’t actually trying to free any prisoners and there were only about six or seven prisoners detained on premises, but they ended up freeing them anyway.

6. The human cost of  storming of the Bastille  took about 100 lives. 98 citizens and 2 of the King’s soldiers.

7. This wasn’t just a revolution of the poor against their king. The nobility felt ignored by the King, the middle class wanted voting rights, and the poor and the Catholic church wanted more money.

8. The French Revolution wasn’t only about creating a new nation, but also helped  exact new laws in human rights or better known as “rights of man”. Some ideas were amongst popular discussion and theorizing by great Enlightenment thinkers of the time concerning the rights of free blacks and slaves, women, poor and non-property holding individuals, the rights of Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, and even those of actors and executioners.^1

9. Every year since 1880 (except during World War II), on the morning of the holiday, the country’s oldest and largest military parade is help on the famous avenue Champs-Elysees in Paris. The French president, dignitaries, and whose-who of French government are in attendance.

10. La Fête Nationale is often celebrated around the same time as the famous bike race Tour De France.

1. The French Revolution and Human Rights by Lynn Hunt




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