Bastille Day: What It Is?

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French National Day

Bastille Day (popularly known as The French National Day) is celebrated on 14th of July, every year. The day signifies the beginning of The French Revolution which eventually led France to republic and thus is of prime importance for the people of France. Despite being a national holiday, this day instills a feeling of nationalism and patriotism among the people of France and they wear tricolor (a mix of blue, white and red) clothes and sing the Marseillaise ( the French National Anthem) to welcome this day in their typical style.

Key highlights of this blog are:-

  • Bastille Day: What It Is?
  • A Sneak Peak Into The Past : How It All Started?
  • Efforts Made To End The Crisis and It’s Outcomes
  • The Storming Of Bastille
  • The Aftermath
  • Bastille Day Today : A Quick Look At The Celebrations

Bastille Day: What It Is ?

Bastille Day (also known as The French National Day) marks the event of storming of Bastille (a military fortress and a prison) on 14th of July 1789 and is considered as the beginning of The French Revolution. This is the reason why, Bastille Day (popularly known as le 14 juillet in French) is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm every year.

A Sneak Peak Into The Past : How It All Started ?

Despite having huge debts from his predecessors, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette continued spending extravagantly. Despite of a prevailing grave economic condition, they helped American Colonies win their battle of Independence from British. As a result, the government of France stood on the brink of an economic disaster by late 1780s. Adding to the woes, widespread crop failure in 1788 brought a nationwide famine which resulted in rise in prices and unemployment.

The Efforts Made To End The Crisis & The Outcome

Looking at the intensity of the situation, King Louis XVI ordered the Estates- General to form a national assembly by dividing the social class into three :-

•  The First State which consisted of Clergy

•  The second State which consisted of Nobelty

•  And, The Third State which consisted of Commoners

While the Third State constituted of 98% of the population, they could still be out voted by their counterparts which was so unjust on their part. As a result, it’s deputies started raising voice over this inequality and declared themselves as a new body called The National Assembly.

On June 20, 1789 while they found the doors of the meeting hall closed they gathered and took an oath in a nearby indoor tennis court to go against King Louis XVI, which is popularly known as The Tennis Court Oath.

  • As large number of Nobles and Clergymen wanted to join the assembly, the king reluctantly gave his consent to it. While his consent, acted as a morale booster for the commoners, his decision to move the troops into Paris and it’s surroundings instilled a fear in the mind of Commoners that he may forcibly break up The National Assembly. While all this lingered in the minds of Commoners, the king dismissed Jacques Necker, the only non-noble minister on July 11,1789 which added fuel to fire.
  • As a result, the streets of Paris witnessed violent protests the next day. The mob was so unruly & violent that it harassed the royalist soldiers to such an extent that they withdrew from the city. The crowd also burnt down most of the Paris’ hated custom posts which imposed taxes on goods and a wild search for arms and food began.
  • The unrest continued even on July 14, when the mob seized approximately 32,000 muskets and some canons from the Hôtel des Invalides (a military hospital) before heading to Bastille in search of large quantity of gunpowder.

The Storming Of Bastille

  • On July 14th ,1789 while the unruly, violent and angry mob headed towards Bastille, Bernard-René de Launay (the governor of Bastille) stood helpless as he saw the fortress being surrounded by growing revolutionists who demanded him to surrender. While lacking any direct orders from the King, he invited the revolutionary delegates inside the fortress to negotiate and promised that we would not open fire.
  • While the talks continued, the mob waiting outside grew anxious. They also feared about their delegates being imprisoned inside the fortress. As a result, a group of men climbed the outer wall and lowered the bridge for the mob to swarm inside. On seeing this, de Launay lost his cool and broke his pledge, ordering the troops to open fire. Consequently, nearly 100 attackers died on spot and dozens were wounded.
  • However, the tide turned in the afternoon when a detachment of mutinous French Guards showed up. Posted permanently in Paris, the French Guards were known to be sympathetic to the revolutionaries. As soon as they arrived, they began attacking Bastille with the canons. De Lunay who lacked long term boundaries was forced to surrender and he showed a white flag in the end.

The Aftermath

  • De Lunay was marched to the city hall where the blood thirst that separated him from his escort and murdered him before beheading him. Displaying it on a pike, the crowd paraded around the city. A few of the royalist soldiers were also butchered and the fortress was completely dismantled as such that nothing remained and as the word spread, French Revolution was born.
  • On October,1789 Louis XVI was sent to guillotine and  Marie Antoinette was beheaded shortly thereafter.

Bastille Day Today : A Quick Look At The Celebrations

Considering the importance that this day holds, the people of France celebrate this day with great joy and enthusiasm every year. Upholding the French Flag , singing the French National Anthem and the fireworks in the sky remain the most traditional way of celebrating this day. The Fete de la Federation is the country’s showpiece event. The oldest and the largest military parade of Europe is held in Champs- Elysses and over 4,000 military personnel’s and police take part in this event. The event is also attended by the French President and there seems to be love and happiness spread in the year on this day. Concerts and Ball are organized in different parts of France and the spirit of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity can be clearly seen during the celebrations.

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