What is the Bastille Day celebration that the Prime minister of India attended as a guest of honor recently? While July 14 is popularly associated with the storming of the Bastille in 1789, the day holds another national importance for France. Read here to learn more.
The Prime minister of India is the guest of honor for the 2023 Bastille Day celebrations in France.
Bastille Day is the common name used in English-speaking countries for the French national day celebration.
Bastille Day, also known as French National Day or La Fête Nationale, is a holiday celebrated in France on July 14th each year.
It commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, a significant event during the French Revolution and a symbol of the struggle for liberty and independence.
- On July 14, 1789, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille, a fortress prison that represented the oppressive monarchy and its abuses.
- The event marked a turning point in the French Revolution and is considered a pivotal moment in the fight against the monarchy and the beginning of the modern French nation.
It is also the anniversary of Fête de la Fédération, an event held in 1790 to celebrate the unity of the French people. Also, while Bastille Day is often seen as the symbol of the end of monarchy, kings, and queens continued in France till long after that.
Bastille Day is celebrated throughout France with various activities and festivities.
The day typically begins with a military parade on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, showcasing the French Armed Forces.
The parade is followed by concerts, street parties, fireworks, and public gatherings across the country. Many people attend communal meals known as “firemen’s balls” organized by local fire departments.
The Story of Bastille Day
The French Revolution, which lasted for ten years and fundamentally altered French political and social life, can be said to have begun on Bastille Day.
- The French Revolution popularised phrases like “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity), and it also influenced the foundational ideas of democracy around the world.
On this day, commoners seized the Bastille, a 14th-century fortress prison in Paris that housed political prisoners (the notorious Marquis de Sade and well-known philosopher Voltaire having both been detained there at various points in their lives).
Both social and economic tensions had been brewing in Paris for a while before the Bastille Day uprising.
- The French economy was in shambles in the 1780s, and King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette did not make matters any better with their reputation as careless, extravagant spenders.
- Famine and poor harvests brought additional blows, and by 1788, even bread had become out of reach for the great majority of people.
- Under duress, Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates-General, a body that had been in existence for over 400 years at that point but that the King may call, hear, or disregard.
- The clergy (First Estate), the nobles (Second Estate), and the ordinary people (Third Estate) made up this body.
- Commoners predominated the body at Louis XVI’s summons, but not in terms of influence.
- One party split out and created a brand-new organization called the National Assembly when their requests for more influence for commoners were disregarded.
- This group swore the Tennis Court Oath on June 20, 1789, promising to stick together until they had written a new Constitution for France.
- Louis XVI, meanwhile, began bringing in additional troops, heightening the unrest and tensions in Paris.
- He fired Jacques Necker, his sole non-high-born minister, on July 11. When protests started, they quickly became violent.
Storming of Bastille
A massive, armed mob then started moving towards the Bastille on July 14.
Although on July 14, 1989, the jail only had seven convicts, of no great concern, the crowd selected the Bastille because individuals imprisoned only because the King ordered so, without trial and publicly stated motives, were frequently confined here.
- The governor of the Bastille, Bernard-René de Launay, first sought to negotiate and assured the mob that he would not open fire.
- The mob, however, became agitated as the discussions went on and no news was released. The drawbridge was dropped, and the crowd started to march in. De Launay, seeing this, gave the order to fire.
- Although the Bastille defenders could stop the demonstrators, the armed and trained French Guards quickly joined them.
- The Bastille fell, and the public showed what commoners were capable of.
The storming of the Bastille signaled the first victory of the people of Paris against a symbol of the “Ancien Régime” (Old Regime). Indeed, the association was razed to the ground in the months that followed.
The tremendous political turbulence in France after the Revolution caused Bastille Day celebrations to fizzle away. But by the 1870s, a national holiday honoring France and the French was believed to be necessary.
Although July 14, 1789, was a solid candidate for the date to mark the event, the day also saw acts of violence and death. As a result, it was decided that the nation would observe July 14 as National Day.
Former French colonies also celebrate the day around the world. In India, Pondicherry, a former French colony celebrates the day.
-Article by Swathi Satish