Bastille Day, or the French National Day, is celebrated on July 14th every year in France. It is a day to celebrate and remember the beginning of the French Revolution, following the storming of the Bastille in Paris, which was a fortress and prison representing French Royalty in 1789. Following the Storming of the Bastille, Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI fled, leaving the Bastille to be pillaged and burned. The Bastille itself was built in approximately the year 1370 to help defend Paris in the 100 Years War.
Interesting Bastille Day Facts:
- Bastille originates from the French word for stronghold – bastide.
- Beginning in 1417 the Bastille was a prison for those who opposed France’s kings.
- From the period between 1420 and 1436 the English had control of the Bastille.
- King Louis XVI asked, “Is it a revolt?” when he learned of the attack on the Bastille. He was told “No Sire, it is a revolution.”
- The mob that stormed the Bastille also stole all the weapons they could find to use in their revolution against the monarchy.
- After the Storming of the Bastille and prior to the formation of the French Republic in 1792 many aristocrats were executed in France in what is referred to as ‘The Reign of Terror’.
- Although the Bastille had enough space to hold 50 prisoners, when it was stormed there were only seven prisoners, including one deviant aristocrat, two lunatics and four forgers.
- Bastille Day became a national holiday in France in 1880, less than 100 years after the Storming of the Bastille.
- The French celebrate Bastille Day as a way to recognize the significance of the Storming of the Bastille as the end of the royal monarchy and the beginning of its modern republic.
- Bastille Day is celebrated in Paris with a parade on the Champs Elysees called the Bastille Day Military Parade. The Champs-Elysees is decorated with flags for the annual parade.
- The French President usually gives a speech following the Bastille Day Military Parade. This parade is the oldest European military parade.
- The Bastille Day Military Parade ends at the Arc de Triomphe, a large monument that honors those who died while fighting for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.
- The famous writer and philosopher Voltaire was once a prisoner of the Bastille.
- In addition to the Bastille Day Military Parade in Paris, there are fireworks, dances, music, food and street celebrations in Paris and across the rest of the country.
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