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Bastille Day

This article is about the French national holiday. For other uses, see Bastille Day (disambiguation).

Bastille Day
File:2011 Fireworks on Eiffel Tower 01.jpg
Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, Paris, Bastille Day 2011. 240px
The aerobatic team of the French Air Force.
Also called French National Day
(Fête nationale)
The Fourteenth of July
(Quatorze juillet)
Observed by France
Type National Day
Significance Commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789,[1][2] and the unity of the French people at the Fête de la Fédération on 14 July 1790.
Celebrations Military parades, fireworks, concerts, balls
Date 14 July
Next time 14 July 2016 (2016-07-14)
Frequency annual

Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête nationale (Template:IPA-fr; The National Celebration) and commonly Le quatorze juillet (Template:IPA-fr; the fourteenth of July).

The French National Day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789,[1][2] as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. Celebrations are held throughout France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, along with other French officials and foreign guests.[3][4]

Events and traditions of the day

The Champs-Élysées decorated with flags for Bastille Day


The Bastille Day Military Parade opens with cadets from the École polytechnique, Saint-Cyr, École Navale, and so forth, then other infantry troops, then motorized troops; aircraft of the Patrouille de France aerobatics team fly above. In recent times, it has become custom to invite units from France's allies to the parade. In 2004 during the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, British troops (the band of the Royal Marines, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, Grenadier Guards and King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery) led the Bastille Day parade in Paris for the first time, with the Red Arrows flying overhead.[5] In 2007 the German 26th Airborne Brigade led the march followed by British Royal Marines. In 2013, Malian soldiers opened the parade, following the Franco-Malian military Operation Serval. Members of the United Nations' MINUSMA forces also took part in the parade, including soldiers from twelve other African countries, notably Chad. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attended the parade alongside French President François Hollande.[6]


At the municipal level, ceremonies are organized in most French communes, featuring a traditional speech of the mayor, followed by a wreath-laying at the local war memorial, with a French honor guard. In addition, marching bands are a common sight throughout the country, often marching from one village to another with local residents following in their wake.


File:Prise de la Bastille.jpg
Storming of the Bastille, by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel

Storming of the Bastille

On 19 May 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General to hear their grievances. The deputies of the Third Estate, representing the common people (the two others were the Catholic Church and nobility), decided to break away and form a National Assembly. On 20 June the deputies of the Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath, swearing not to separate until a constitution had been established. They were gradually joined by delegates of the other estates; Louis XVI started to recognize their validity on 27 June. The assembly renamed itself the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July, and began to function as a legislature and to draft a constitution.[citation needed]

In the wake of the 11 July dismissal of Jacques Necker (the finance minister, who was sympathetic to the Third Estate), the people of Paris, fearful that they and their representatives would be attacked by the royal army, and seeking to gain ammunition and gunpowder for the general populace, stormed the Bastille, a fortress-prison in Paris which had often held people jailed on the basis of lettres de cachet, arbitrary royal indictments that could not be appealed. Besides holding a large cache of ammunition and gunpowder, the Bastille had been known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government, and was thus a symbol of the absolutism of the monarchy. As it happened, at the time of the attack in July 1789 there were only seven inmates, none of great political significance.[citation needed]

When the crowd—eventually reinforced by mutinous gardes françaises—proved a fair match for the fort's defenders, Governor de Launay, the commander of the Bastille, capitulated and opened the gates to avoid a mutual massacre. However, possibly because of a misunderstanding, fighting resumed. Ninety-eight attackers and just one defender died in the actual fighting, but in the aftermath, de Launay and seven other defenders were killed, as was the 'prévôt des marchands' (roughly, mayor) Jacques de Flesselles.[citation needed]

Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on 4 August, feudalism was abolished. On 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was proclaimed.[citation needed]

Claude Monet, Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878.

Fête de la Fédération

The Fête de la Fédération on the 14 July 1790 was a celebration the unity of the French Nation during the French Revolution.The aim of this Celebration was to symbolize Peace one year after the Storming of the Bastille. The event took place on the Champ de Mars, which was at the time far outside Paris. The place had been transformed on a voluntary basis by the population of Paris itself, in what was recalled as the Journée des brouettes ("Wheelbarrow Day").

A mass was celebrated by Talleyrand, bishop of Autun. The popular General Lafayette, as captain of the National Guard of Paris and confidant of the king, took his oath to the constitution, followed by King Louis XVI. After the end of the official celebration, the day ended in a huge four-day popular feast and people celebrated with fireworks, as well as fine wine and running naked through the streets in order to display their great freedom.

Origin of the present celebration

On 30 June 1878, a feast had been arranged in Paris by official decision to honour the French Republic (the event was commemorated in a painting by Claude Monet).[7] On 14 July 1879, another feast took place, with a semi-official aspect; the events of the day included a reception in the Chamber of Deputies, organised and presided over by Léon Gambetta,[8] a military review in Longchamp, and a Republican Feast in the Pré Catelan.[9] All through France, Le Figaro wrote, "people feasted much to honour the storming of the Bastille".[10]

On 21 May 1880, Benjamin Raspail proposed a law to have "the Republic choose the 14 July as a yearly national holiday". The Assembly voted in favour of the proposal on 21 May and 8 June.[11] The Senate approved on it 27 and 29 June, favouring 14 July against 4 August (honouring the end of the feudal system on 4 August 1789). The law was made official on 6 July 1880, and the Ministry of the Interior recommended to Prefects that the day should be "celebrated with all the brilliance that the local resources allow".[this quote needs a citation] Indeed, the celebrations of the new holiday in 1880 were particularly magnificent.

In the debate leading up to the adoption of the holiday, Henri Martin, chairman of the French Senate, addressed that chamber on 29 June 1880:

Do not forget that behind this 14 July, where victory of the new era over the ancien régime was bought by fighting, do not forget that after the day of 14 July 1789, there was the day of 14 July 1790.... This [latter] day cannot be blamed for having shed a drop of blood, for having divided the country. It was the consecration of the unity of France.... If some of you might have scruples against the first 14 July, they certainly hold none against the second. Whatever difference which might part us, something hovers over them, it is the great images of national unity, which we all desire, for which we would all stand, willing to die if necessary.
Henri Martin, Chairman of the Sénat, 1880 [12]

Bastille Day Military Parade

The Bastille Day Military Parade is the French military parade that has been held on the morning of 14 July each year in Paris since 1880. While previously held elsewhere within or near the capital city, since 1918 it has been held on the Champs-Élysées, with the participation of the Allies as represented in the Versailles Peace Conference, and with the exception of the period of German occupation from 1940 to 1944 (when the ceremony took place in London under the command of General de Gaulle).[13] The parade passes down the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, where the President of the French Republic, his government and foreign ambassadors to France stand. This is a popular event in France, broadcast on French TV, and is the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe.[3][4] In some years, invited detachments of foreign troops take part in the parade and foreign statesmen attend as guests.

Smaller military parades are held in French garrison towns, including Toulon and Belfort, with local troops.

Bastille Day celebrations in other countries

  • India
    • Bastille Day is celebrated with great festivity in Pondicherry every year.[15] Being an important French colony, Pondicherry celebrates this day with great honor and pride. On the eve of the Bastille Day, retired soldiers engage themselves in parade and celebrate the day with Indian and French National Anthems. On the day, uniformed war soldiers march through the street to honor the French soldiers who were killed in the battles. One can perceive French and the Indian flag flying alongside that project the mishmash of cultures and heritages.
File:Bastille Day, 14 July 1880 (Monument to the Republic) 2010-03-23 02.jpg
Bronze relief of a memorial dedicated to Bastille Day

One-time celebrations

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Bastille Day – 14th July". Official Website of France. A national celebration, a re-enactment of the storming of the Bastille [...] Commemorating the storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789, Bastille Day takes place on the same date each year. The main event is a grand military parade along the Champs-Élysées, attended by the President of the Republic and other political leaders. It is accompanied by fireworks and publics dances in towns throughout the whole of France. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "La fête nationale du 14 juillet". Official Website of Elysée. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Champs-Élysées city visit in Paris, France — Recommended city visit of Champs-Élysées in Paris". Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Celebrate Bastille Day in Paris This Year". Paris Attractions. 2011-05-03. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  5. [1][dead link]
  6. "14-Juillet : les troupes africaines à l'honneur sur les Champs-Elysées". Le (in français). 14 July 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  7. Adamson, Natalie (2009-08-15). Painting, politics and the struggle for the École de Paris, 1944-1964. Ashgate. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7546-5928-0. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  8. Nord, Philip G. (2000). Impressionists and politics: art and democracy in the nineteenth century. Psychology Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-415-20695-2. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  9. Nord, Philip G. (1995). The republican moment: struggles for democracy in nineteenth-century France. Harvard University Press. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-674-76271-8. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  10. "Paris Au Jour Le Jour". Le Figaro. 16 July 1879. p. 4. Retrieved 15 January 2013. On a beaucoup banqueté avant-hier, en mémoire de la prise de la Bastille, et comme tout banquet suppose un ou plusieurs discours, on a aussi beaucoup parlé. 
  11. Lüsebrink, Hans-Jürgen; Reichardt, Rolf (1997). The Bastille: a history of a symbol of despotism and freedom. Duke University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-8223-1894-1. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  12. Le Quatorze Juillet at the Greeting Card Universe Blog
  13. Défilé du 14 juillet, des origines à nos jours (14 July Parade, from its origins to the present)
  14. "Bastille Day 2007 - Budapest | Budapest Resources...the ORIGINAL Expat Service Center". 2011-07-14. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  15. "Puducherry Culture". Government of Puducherry. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  16. "Remuera Business Association – Bastille Day Street Festival". 
  17. "Bastille Day Festival at Franschhoek". Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  18. "Bastille Day London – Bastille Day Events in London, Bastille Day 2011". Archived from the original on 17 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  19. Bastille Day Map. Interactive Map Bastille Day Locations in the U.S.
  20. "Texan French Alliance for the Arts - 2011 Bastille Day". Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  21. "Bastille Days | East Town Association | Milwaukee, WI". 2014-07-12. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  22. "2009 Bastille Day Celebration - Alliance Française, Minneapolis". Yelp. 11 July 2009. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  23. "Bastille Day celebrations, 2011". Consulat Général de France à Chicago. 14 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  24. Martha Carr, The Times-Picayune (2009-07-13). "Only in New Orleans: Watch locals celebrate Bastille Day in the French Quarter". Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  25. "Bastille Day on 60th Street, New York City | Sunday, July 15, 2012 | 12–5pm | Fifth Avenue to Lexington Avenue". 2011-07-10. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  26. ESP :: Eastern State Penitentiary Website[dead link]

External links