Sunday, July 14, 2013

La Fête Nationale - Vive le 14 Juillet!

Le Régiment de Cavalerie de la Garde Républicaine
On May 19, 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 June 20 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. 
In the wake of the July 11th dismissal of Jacques Necker, the people of Paris, fearful that they and their representatives would be attacked by the royal military, 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 siege in July 1789 there were only seven inmates, none of great political significance. 
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.
Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on 4 August feudalism was abolished and on 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was proclaimed.
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 and commonly Le quatorze juillet. While the date is the same as that of the storming of the Bastille, July 14 was instead chosen to commemorate the 1790 Fête de la Fédération. It is a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution. Celebrations are held all over France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests.
The Fête de la Fédération on the 14 July 1790 was a huge feast and official event to celebrate the uprising of the short-lived constitutional monarchy in France and what people considered the happy conclusion of the French Revolution. 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.*

Okay, so that's the official/formal explanation of Bastille Day. Which is celebrated today in la belle France. Much as we celebrate our own Independence Day, I note that some will get carried away:
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
I admit, I have been to a few Fourth of July parties like that...

Just not four days long!

Le Patrouille de France
The Parade Down the Champs-Élysées
Fireworks at La Tour Eiffel
And what's a parade without a flyover?

Oh, and what's anything without a haka? No, seriously, this is from Bastille Day, 2011.

At church today the organist selected La Marseillaise for the postlude. I stayed to listen to all of it, of course. When she concluded, I must admit, I got a bit carried away, for I bellowed out (truly, I did):

Vive la France!

The Missus Herself started to give me "the look", then she noticed that there were not a few folks standing who had also lingered and apparently appreciated my (ahem) foreign bellowing. Oh well. Enjoy the day!

Vive le 14 Juillet!


What Google looks like in France today-

C'est bon!


  1. In re: la Garde Républicaine. I had one of their casques as a child and the tail that comes out of the top piece is (was) a real horse's tail. I sure as Hell wish I still had that thing today and I have NO ideer what happened to it.

    We... the fambly... went to the parade down the Champs every year we were in Paris. The parades in the mid-'50s were pretty extravagant.

    1. You had one of their casques? Awesome. Very similar to the helmets worn by cuirassiers and dragoons in the First and Second Empires. Amazing how stuff gets lost when you move a lot innit?

      That's one parade I would like to go to someday.

  2. I'm having a very difficult time resisting using the term frog march
    I apologize

    1. I fully understand your need to go there. And deeply appreciate your restraint. Such as it is...


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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