Le quatorze juillet

 

The 14th of July marks Bastille Day in France, or as it is formally known as La Fête nationale, and more often referred to by the French as Le quatorze juillet.   Note that only English-speaking countries name it Bastille Day.

This important date in the French calendar commerates two key moments in French history, that happened on the same date one year apart.  226 years ago, on the 14th of July 1789, Paris’ Bastille Sainte-Antoine, a prison used to keep political prisoners, was stormed by a revolutionary crowd made up of working class folk from the nearby area, local traders and mutinous soldiers. Their prize was the gunpowder recently acquired by the Bastille.

The subsequent capture of the Bastille was seen as a symbol of the revolution’s legitimacy and was used as the theme for all that was to follow.  In time, it was shown that much of the rhetoric that came from the revolutionary press was exagerated or falsified to spur on the crowds to continue the revolution.

The second date, the 14th of July 1790 commemorates the unity of the French people during the revolution and the peace found one year after storming Bastille.  The day was celebrated with mass at Champs de Mars, after which followed a 4-day feast celebrated with fireworks, wine and running naked through the streets to show their freedom.

On the morning of the 14th July, the Champs-Élysées in Paris is home to the traditional military parade in front of the President along with other French officials and foreign guests.

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Bastille Day is celebrated around the world. In the UK, London’s French population celebrate the day at various locations, including Camden and Kentish Town, and Edinburgh plays host to a number of events in celebration of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. Over 50 US cities have events commemorating Bastille Day.

Read more about the Bastille Day here

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